Rome Research Project: Students and Digital Faculty Research

By John Muccigrosso

Two liberal-arts-college faculty working on Rome, but from different disciplinary perspectives and in different periods, have both settled on an approach to their research material that involves the creation of a database including geographic information as an important component. Both treat the architectural manifestation of religious practice in the past: in one case, the temples of ancient Rome, in the other street shrines from the medieval to the modern.

Students were involved in the creation of the databases as part of standard courses on the historical cultures as well as special courses that focused on the database, including one three-week study-abroad course in Rome. In the summer of 2016 both projects were involved in a special “institute” on the digital humanities which intentionally involved students in faculty-led research projects. Participants, faculty and student, meet for weekly updates in an effort to share both methods and results and to strengthen intra-institutional ties among faculty doing Digital Humanities (DH).

The institute also led to increased collaboration within the institution in the form of both presenters being included as “clients” for a Computer-Science colleague’s advanced computer-programming course. These CSCI class projects were tied to the main projects being presented here, but also with some other research interests.

The presentation will include a discussion of how the databases were constructed and are currently being expanded. The interactive mapping component of each project will be demonstrated with an explanation of the digital tools that were used for both the database and the mapping elements. The challenges of working with students on humanities and DH research projects will be discussed, including some preliminary thoughts on the collaboration with Computer Science.

The audience will (hopefully) learn something about the particular challenges of DH work at small schools, some of the available (free!) tools that even humanists can use, and the opportunities for collaboration between colleagues in the humanities and the STEM disciplines. Not everything worked well, so we plan to offer some cautionary tales as well as success stories.

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