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Fostering Humanistic Tools for Digital Mapping

Maps, mapping, and spatial understanding are central to many current projects in the humanities. Too often, however, the tools and approaches that facilitate spatial knowledge are limited to GIS and data analysis most useful to scientists and social scientists. Humanists bring a range of other concerns to spatial data: humanities researchers and teachers need to be able to work smoothly with historical maps from other spatial traditions, to work in languages other than English, and to incorporate a range of media, just to name a few issues.

This project is dedicated helping spatially-minded humanities scholars at ACM schools (and other small colleges without major Digital Humanities programs) produce maximal research insight, pedagogical utility and suitability for public outreach.

Note: Content adapted from original proposal

Humanists who specialize in all geographical regions and all historical periods should be able to draw upon digital tools, and especially mapping tools, to further their research agendas. This project will generate resources for humanities scholars to leverage existing mapping tools, including:

  • Meetings with digital humanities experts and spatial historians to inform digital mapping platform conversations.
  • A hands-on training workshop for faculty and staff.
  • A “cookbook” of flexible, resource-laden “recipes” for adapting existing tools to meet the needs of the humanities.
  • A website geared toward humanities scholars that empowers participants to advocate for digital humanities work on their home campuses.


Summer 2019 Workshop

Aims to create a support network with other ACM schools, each providing their own expertise and resources to facilitate ongoing and future DH mapping projects and foster collaboration among faculty with similar spatial interests.

Technical “Cookbook”

Workshop participants will produce an open-access “cookbook” that supports DH mapping work with step-by-step “recipes” for creating specific outcomes. Participants will share proven methods of navigating obstacles within existing mapping tools to produce effective humanities-based digital maps.

Expanding Humanistic Research through Digital Scholarship

With better digital resources at our disposal, faculty will find it easier to engage students in ongoing faculty research, training them to work in interdisciplinary ways with digital tools, and asking hard questions about how they might limit and enhance what we can know.


December 2018 | Carto Annual Conference, New York

Organizers will meet with Carto designers and programmers and Fordham University humanists to prepare the proposed workshop.

July 2019 | Summer Workshop

  • Explore open-source tools (like Omeka’s Neatline, StorymapJS, and Carto)
  • Explore how digital media help and hinder spatial literacy
  • Discuss best practices, workarounds, and ambitions
  • Hands-on sessions (Technical “Cookbook”)
  • Potential inclusion of student participants for their insight into student needs and for their professional development

August 2019 | First Edition of the “Cookbook”

This technical cookbook will be created by the organizers and workshop participants.

2019-2020 | Follow Up Meetings

Organizers will schedule two virtual follow up meeting with workshop participants to discuss the effectiveness of the cookbook.

May 2020 | Final Report

Final grant report for this project due.

Dissemination Strategies

  1. The Carto Annual Conference will raise awareness of our work among national practitioners.
  2. Summer workshop will launch the building of an ACM network of faculty and staff with spatial humanities interests.
  3. The cookbook will be an ongoing tool for reaching audiences and encouraging experimentation and sharing of ideas.

Outcomes and Significance

This project seeks to further the understanding of spatial competencies in humanities work by:

  • Clarifying mapping-related needs of ACM faculty and staff during the summer workshop.
  • Producing a technical cookbook of solutions and best practices maintained by its users and the Carleton College Digital Humanities Associates.
  • Providing opportunities for collaboration among spatially-minded humanists from various disciplines and institutions.
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