Digital Humanities Sites Worth a Visit

How much humanities can a Professor of Humanities chuck and still have a solid humanities course?

Quite a bit as it turns out.  This semester, my Introduction to Humanities course had units on philosophy, art, music, and literature—enough, I tell myself, to produce the bare beginnings of foundational knowledge.  But what about other humanities disciplines such as history, archaeology, religion, and (at least some flavors of) geography?  With three weeks left in the term, I figured I could at least give name to these other disciplines through the handy productions of the digital humanities.  Why?  Because the digital humanities so often take an interdisciplinary approach, allowing us to consider multiple stars in the vast constellation of human experience disciplines.

Of course, there is so much content out there that it takes considerable time to find good exhibits and experiences that can be enjoyed immediately and without paying a penny.  Ultimately, I boiled it down to seven items.  I don’t consider them to be representative of anything except my own inclinations, but I think they do suggest how variable the possibilities can be.  I share them here for others who may be interested.

 

1. Geographical Context for The Epic of Gilgamesh

I confess that this was a little experiment of my own creation. It uses Google Earth to unite the humanities disciplines of

  • literature (The Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient epic poem);
  • geography (concerning the region of Mesopotamia);
  • archaeology (as shown through photographic evidence); and
  • art (as shown through a number of images).

Make sure you view this resource on a computer.

2. The MET 360 Project: The Temple of Dendur

This 360° video allows you to explore the architecture of The Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET).  It combines the humanities disciplines of

  • architecture;
  • archaeology;
  • (modern) history;
  • religion;
  • art; and
  • music.

According to the MET, the temple was “built around 15 B.C. when the Roman Emperor Augustus ruled Egypt.” In 1968, it was given as a “gift from Egypt to the United States in recognition of support given to save its monuments threatened by the Nile.  The temple’s setting . . . was designed to approximate the light and surroundings of its original location in Nubia, including a reflecting pool that evokes the Nile.

The museum explains that this video can be appreciated in multiple ways. It writes

    • On your smartphone: Move your phone up, down, and behind you to see all directions.  [Note, however, you must use the YouTube app, not a browser app for this experience to work. —JW]
    • On your desktop computer: Use the mouse to scroll in all directions. (Note: For an optimal user experience, use Chrome or Firefox as your browser.)
    • On Google Cardboard or a VR headset

Be sure to turn up the volume to hear the music, too.

Personally, I like watching the video on my smartphone best.  It’s a stunning experience.

3. The Southern Literary Trail

This interactive presentation is a storymap, a format that has enjoyed enormous popularity over the past several years.  This particular storymap combines the humanities disciplines of

  • geography;
  • literature; and
  • history.

It provides copious details about a wide range of writers who lived in the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.  Be sure to follow some of the hyperlinks within the textual parts of this exhibit.

4. Game of Thrones: Arya’s Journey

This is another storymap.  I include it here simply because of the popularity of Game of Thrones and thought you might enjoy it. One feature that distinguishes this storymap from The Southern Literary Trail above is that the map is a fantasy creation.  Thus, we may say that the humanities disciplines of this presentation include not only literature but art in two forms: the fantasy map and film.  Note that, unfortunately, the videos in this presentation were listed as private and will not be playable.

5. The Belvedere Museum: Augmented Reality

This fascinating exhibit allows us to use our smartphones to see below the surface of several works by the painter Egon Schiele.  While each of the paintings will have some information that helps us understand this artist’s creative process, I think you will find that the paintings “Die Umarmung” (“The Embrace”) and “Mother with Two Children III” will be the most interesting.  This exhibit blends the humanities disciplines of

  • art; and
  • history.

Note, you will need to install the Artvive mobile app on your smartphone to access this exhibit.

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6. Browse the British Museum

There is so much here that you will never see it all.  This interior Google Street View allows you to move throughout most of the the British Museum without even thinking of flying to London.  The particular landing page linked to above is within the Joseph E. Hotung Gallery of Oriental Antiquities.  I chose this gallery as a starting point to give you exposure to east Asian arts and culture.  The humanities disciplines you will encounter here include, of course, art, but also

  • religion;
  • geography; and
  • archaeology.

7. Voyant Analysis of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

This amazing set of literary data analysis tools may be especially appealing to those whose aptitudes and interests are centered in science, computer science, and math.  The Voyant tools tell us things about works of literature that we might never have guessed simply by reading them, shedding light on what appear to be a writer’s interests (or even obsessions) and a great deal about the connections they make between ideas, characters, etc.  The link above is to the analysis of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.  Who would have guessed that the one word that shows up most often in the novel is “man”?  When you get to the site, play around with some of the settings to see how the analysis changes.  You can also create your analysis by pasting in text or simply adding URLs to online works of literature.

 

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