The National Endowment for the Humanities is awarding the University of Chicago nearly $1 million to transform UChicago’s creation, stewardship, and delivery of digital collections and research data.
Working together, the University of Chicago Library and Division of the Humanities will use the grant to build a new digital structure, UChicagoNode—the core of what will eventually be a network extending and enhancing the practice of digital research at UChicago and around the world. The University is committed to raising $4 million more to fulfill the vision for this project.
Treasure troves of more than 200 digital collections exist across the University, but they are found in a wide range of unconnected systems, including several hundred terabytes of digital content held at the Library. UChicagoNode will give researchers a single place to go to discover available digital collections through a unified, open access platform. It will provide a long-term home for content created as part of research and teaching at UChicago, contributed by partners from outside the University, and digitized by the Library.
Future scholars will also benefit from UChicagoNode because it will provide an established infrastructure for a diverse range of digital collections and will break down barriers between traditionally siloed datasets. The collections will exist as datasets that can be used with machine analysis, natural language processing, spatial mapping, and other AI-based explorations.
Non-specialists often find it difficult to discover and locate such widely distributed information, and UChicagoNode will provide more intuitive ways to find and engage across these different digital collections. The easier access it will offer to UChicago resources will also strengthen the University’s community engagement and partnerships.
The wealth of legacy collections at UChicago will be available in modern sustainable and accessible interfaces. Researchers new to the digital humanities will have guides and tools to help them begin.
Once this integrated infrastructure is in place, scholars researching the history of housing on the South Side of Chicago, for instance, could easily discover videos from the Guerrilla TV project on the demolition of Cabrini Green, digitized documents from the Ida B. Wells archival collection on the Chicago Housing Authority’s Ida B. Wells Homes, and historically relevant georeferenced maps from the NEH-funded Mapping Chicagoland project, which they could use to build data layers from their research in order to visualize urban change.
Similarly, linguists could access UChicagoNode, for example, to investigate and analyze the use of verbs in a chosen semantic domain from a range of texts, such as Sumerian myths to the Middle English narrative poem “Piers Plowman” to 19th-century French philosophical treatises.