Digital Research & Publishing Category


Contributing in code

University of Iowa Libraries at

University of Iowa Libraries at

For librarians, particularly those in academic settings, an important part of the job is contributing to the development of the profession; traditionally, this has included tasks such as giving presentations at conferences and publishing articles in scholarly journals. But thanks to the evolving nature of our work and to innovations on the part of our developers, the University of Iowa Libraries has become active in a new area of professional development: sharing code for re-use and adaptation by other institutions.

When George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media launched Scripto, an NEH-funded open-source tool for transcription crowdsourcing projects, we were eager to adopt it for DIY History to replace our existing makeshift and labor-intensive system. Once it was installed, we became even more eager to make extensive changes to Scripto. While the tool was designed to treat transcription as an add-in activity for digital exhibits, we needed it front and center for DIY History.

DRP’s developers, Shawn Averkamp (now at New York Public Library) and Matthew Butler, solved this problem by adding new features to Scripto and creating a simple-to-use theme that focuses exclusively on the act of transcription. Other enhancements included a progress system for tracking completion status, as well as various scripts for migrating mass quantities of objects and metadata from our digital library to DIY History and back again. As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones looking for these functionalities. In the open source spirit of sharing work for the good of the community, Shawn and Matthew made their enhancements and related code available online, where it’s been reused by a number of other institutions [see below].

As we prepare to launch a redesigned and streamlined DIY History soon, we’re grateful for the open source tools that have allowed us to make progress on our own project, and thrilled to have contributed to the development of crowdsourcing sites at other libraries and museums.

“DIY History and similar projects are about community” says Matthew Butler, the Libraries’ Multimedia Consultant. “They succeed because of the collaborative efforts of transcribers, developers, librarians, and curators to make the content and tools as accessible as possible.”

DIY History | University of Iowa Libraries

DIY History | University of Iowa Libraries

The Civil War in Letters | The Newberry Library

The Civil War in Letters | The Newberry Library

Making History | Library of Virginia

Making History | Library of Virginia

Jones' Icones Online | University of Oxford

Jones’ Icones Online | University of Oxford

Virtual Volunteering | Carnamah Historical Society & Museum

Virtual Volunteering | Carnamah Historical Society & Museum


Historically mustachioed

In celebration of Movember and of Digital Research & Publishing’s sometimes very hirsute new department head, we’re reprising a few of last year’s Great Mustaches of the Iowa Digital Library:

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893 | University of Iowa Yearbooks

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893 | University of Iowa Yearbooks

J.L. Small, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

J.L. Small, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

L.K. Fullerton, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

L.K. Fullerton, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

Find your own favorites! Probably here:


Tom Keegan named Head of Digital Research & Publishing

The University of Iowa Libraries has hired Tom Keegan as Head of Digital Research & Publishing. A Rhetoric faculty member and co-director of the IDEAL (Iowa Digital Engagement & Learning) initiative, Keegan has a partial appointment with the Libraries until January, when he will assume full-time duties leading DRP.

In this position Keegan will build on the Libraries’ work leveraging digital collections, resources, and expertise to support faculty and student Tom Keeganscholars. Founded in 2006, Digital Research & Publishing coordinates and maintains the Iowa Digital Library, a million-object database of digitized special collections and archival materials, plus digital content from campus and community partners such as the UI Museum of Art, the Office of the State Archaeologist, and the Writing University. DRP also offers hosting and management of the University’s scholarly output via its institutional repository, Iowa Research Online, and journal publishing services for the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and other titles. Additional projects include DIY History, a participatory archives initiative, and University of Iowa Press Digital Editions, a collaboration between the Libraries and the Press to provide free online access to select UIP books.

Before joining the Libraries, Keegan taught at the University beginning in 2003, most recently as a lecturer for the Department of Rhetoric. His teaching and research address the use of digital humanities and publicly engaged pedagogies across a variety of curriculums. With Matt Gilchrist, he co-directs IDEAL, which encourages assignment innovation and fosters expanded access to TILE learning spaces. One such assignment, Archives Alive!, incorporates DIY History to engage undergraduate students with digital scholarship practices in learning research, writing, and presentation skills. Keegan received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Iowa, and his undergraduate degrees in English Literature and Bioethics from the University of Virginia.

The new position in the Libraries allows Keegan to remain connected to the innovative teaching and curriculum projects he’s developed in partnership with the Rhetoric Department, Tippie College of Business, the UI Honors Program, the College of Education, the UI Graduate School, ITS and SITA, the Studio, the Center for Teaching, the English Department, Hancher, the Iowa City Downtown District, Public Space One, and a variety of other people and units within the UI and Iowa City communities. He is also continuing his humanities scholarship by collaborating with Libraries’ staff to develop a digital project based on spatial rhetoric in the works of James Joyce.

“I’m thrilled to be working with such innovative and talented people,” says Keegan. “Digital Research & Publishing plays a crucial role in bringing together a variety of audiences for research and learning in the 21st century.”


Transcription addiction

We’ve been in touch with one of our most faithful DIY History transcribers, Roger. He didn’t intend to get so drawn into the project when he first visited our site, but now he admits that “things like eating and mowing get in the way but I’ve managed to blow off most other things cause I’m addicted to this.” Besides transcribing the manuscript pages, at which he has become expert, he likes to monitor the “Recent changes” log, which records all the work done by various contributors, and is accessible to anyone who creates a DIY History account. Like other frequent transcribers, he has an eerie sense of entering the private thoughts of writers long ago: “I keep thinking we’re almost invading something private these people from 200 years ago never expected anyone, but maybe a daughter or grand daughter would ever see their writings. It’s a great look into the “olden” times.” Roger has spent a lot of time transcribing recipes in the Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbook collection, and has come across some really harrowing dishes, which make full use of body parts. He knows someone who worked at a meat locker for years, and even she “has no interest at all in the tongue, feet, head or any other questionable parts of meat, like udder. She hated to handle a tongue, no way is she going to eat it.” Ah, how times and palates change. Roger has found a way to multi-task his hobbies: “I use my 46 ” flat screen as my monitor so I can kick back in the lazy boy and start typing and deciphering. I finally decided Sunday I wasn’t able to watch TV and type at the same time and a Nascar race was on. So I did a bit of rearranging so I could watch on the older 27 ” TV while online and if something interesting came up I could jump back on the flat screen to see wrecks or whatever.”

Another of our best transcribers is British; his hobbies include deciphering Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, gardening, and fine cooking. He has dedicated himself to transcribing and proofreading the Civil War Diaries and Letters, and sometimes reports to us his discoveries about old American slang and expressions, such as “wooden nutmegs and flannel sausages.”

We love to hear the transcribers’ stories, as they help us share the stories of these old manuscripts.

English Cookbook, 1700 | Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbooks

English cookbook, 1700 | Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbooks


Food for body and spirit

James Doak's The Art of Cookery

James Doak’s The Art of Cookery

On the last page of James Doak’s 1760s Art of cookery, following recipes for ketchup and pickled mushrooms, we find what appears to be a catalog of his library, an impressive collection for the time. He lists the classics: Shakespeare, Pope, Cato, Milton, the Bible, as well as some intriguing titles: Whytt on Lyme water, and A Conversation on the Plurality of Worlds, a French Enlightenment discourse on the Copernican world view. Doak’s book is one of the manuscript cookbooks waiting to be transcribed on our DIY History website:

Please delve in and discover what other gems lie between the interestingly stained pages!


Deadline near for UI public digital humanities grants

The deadline for the new Digital Studio for Public Humanities (DSPH) grant is next week. Launched in August 2011 by the Office of the Provost, the Digital Studio for the Public Humanities  encourages and supports public digital humanities research, scholarship and learning.

All proposals must be submitted electronically to the Office of the Vice President for Research via the UIRIS website. Applicants are advised to submit applications a few business days in advance of the Monday, February 6, 2012, due date, as problems can arise in the electronic submission process.  OVPR staff is available between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily to assist with submissions, according to the grant guidelines.

DSPH projects must be designed to result in the applicant developing research that will result in a digital project with a public dimension. Projects should make a significant contribution to the field, and enhance the applicant’s scholarly reputation among their peers.

The funds are for research conducted June 1, 2012 – September 1, 2013. If you have questions, please direct them to Cheryl Ridgeway (384-3332;


Digital Library Services has new staff, new name

untitled by Sarah Townsend | Collaged catalog card with stitching and ink wash.

The new year brings new changes to the digital library program at Iowa. Our department, formerly known as Digital Library Services (DLS), is now Digital Research & Publishing (DRP). The title change is an outgrowth of a larger Libraries reorganization and reflects a renewed emphasis on aiding scholars at work on digital research and publishing. The move away from Digital Library Services reflects the fact that these days “digital library services” could describe any number of things the Libraries provide.

Digital Research & Publishing will still administer the Iowa Digital Library, a collection of roughly a half-million digital objects, and Iowa Research Online, the campus institutional repository. With even broader library production support from Preservation and the newly named Cataloging-Metadata department, the Libraries is able to grow its capacity to reformat and process digital objects and generate metadata.

Since the beginning of fall semester, DRP has been co-located with the new Digital Studio for Public Humanities. This synergistic arrangement is aimed at creating deepened support for digital humanities research. We are also working with our library colleagues and other campus partners to identify larger infrastructure and service needs in support of geospatial and numeric data research, data management planning, and emerging forms of web publishing.

One of the best bits of news is the arrival of new DRP staff.

Shawn Averkamp is our new Data Services Librarian. She specializes in transforming source data and metadata for online use and reuse. She will also assist researchers in a variety of digital projects. Since 2009, Shawn worked as a metadata librarian at the University of Alabama Libraries, Tuscaloosa. There she collaborated with staff and researchers on metadata planning, creation, maintenance, and migration. Prior to her stint in Alabama, Shawn was a digital librarianship fellow at Iowa and served as a temporary librarian in DLS where she worked on projects involving metadata reuse, digital humanities, and institutional repository management. We are pleased to welcome her back to the UI Libraries and to the Midwest.

Christine Tade joins DRP after leading metadata production coordination in what was the rapid-cataloging department. Her efforts to train and manage catalogers handling digital library metadata production were instrumental in helping grow the Iowa Digital Library. A 27-year veteran of the Libraries, Christine will be doing a variety of digital libraries work, including managing a growing number of crowdsourcing projects in addition to the current Civil War Diaries & Letters transcription project. She has long been a close collaborator on digital library projects and we’re very happy to have her expertise in DRP.

Matthew Butler, the new multimedia consultant in the Library Information Technology unit, is a regular contributor to DRP initiatives. He assists with projects that involve audio and video, as well as 3D imaging and web delivery of streaming media. For the past 6-plus years, Matthew was the AV Specialist at the Iowa City Public Library where he produced video, did web development, and taught classes on the use of technology in libraries. We’re excited to have his expertise on a variety of research and teaching initiatives at the Libraries.

—Nicole Saylor
Head, Digital Research & Publishing


THATCamp Iowa City registration now open

Registration is now open for THATCamp Iowa City!  THATCamp Iowa City will run from Friday, March 30 to Sunday, April 1 at the University of Iowa. Conference sessions will be held Saturday and Sunday, with workshops on that Friday. THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is an unconference: an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot.

The UI Libraries is a proud sponsor of THATCamp Iowa City.

—Nicole Saylor
Head, Digital Library Services


Student contest: Iowa City Then & Now

Get to Know Iowa City, Flex Your Creative Muscles, Win Fame and Prizes!

As you’re getting to know Iowa City, you’re finding new places and people. What did those places look like in the past? Who were the people? Now it’s your turn to make your mark on the Iowa City landscape.

  1. Choose a historical image of Iowa City or the University from the Iowa Digital Library (
  2. Re-create that image. You can either do a straight re-creation or a mashup of the two images. Check this Flickr site for several examples (

  3. Submit your information and upload your photo.
    Deadline is October 1, 2010 at 5 p.m. Winners will be announced on October 8.

Our criteria for judging the winners: accuracy to the original photo and creativity in interpreting the original photo.

Contest Rules and Eligibility Requirements

Iowa City Then & Now photo contest is open to all undergraduate and graduate University of Iowa students. University of Iowa staff may also participate, but are not eligible for any prizes. Participants must complete all of the required tasks and answer the related questions on the entry form. Each student can enter only once, duplicates will be discarded. No entries will be accepted after 5 p.m. on Friday, October 1, 2010. The decision of the judges is final.

For questions about the contest, please contact Kristi Bontrager, Coordinator, Public Relations, University of Iowa Libraries.


The Libraries announce the 2010 Creative Scholarship Innovation Award winners

The University of Iowa Libraries is pleased to announce the two winners of Creative Scholarship Innovation Awards, aimed at supporting significant digital humanities projects with the potential for national recognition. The award will fund hardware, software, and personnel; additionally, awardees will be paired with a team of librarians and technologists who will work as collaborators to develop the projects. Winners are:

  • Julie Hochstrasser, School of Art & Art History—$8,585 toward hiring a graduate assistant with subject matter expertise to work on a collection of documentary text, bibliography, photographs, and video accumulated during research, including travel to key sites of 17th century global Dutch trade and colonization.
  • William Davies, Linguistics –$2,080 to supplement other award monies toward hiring a graduate assistant with subject matter expertise to caption videos of Madurese storytellers and create a digital collection that includes Davies’ transcription of Madurese with interlinear English and Indonesian translations.

“University of Iowa librarians have a long history of close collaboration to support faculty who incorporate technology into their teaching and research, reaching as far back as the 1992 launch of the Information Arcade®,” said Library Director Nancy Baker. “This award is a continuation of our commitment to supporting digital scholarship.”

In late 2008, the Council on Library and Information Resources released “No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century.”  In this report, Rick Luce, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries at Emory University, notes that the e-research developments initially seen in the science, engineering, technology, and medicine disciplines are now penetrating the social sciences and the humanities.  Luce describes how e-research will profoundly shape the research libraries of tomorrow:  “Instead of simply storing objects of assorted types, researchers need libraries that reflect a Web 2.0 service environment in which communication is continuous and synchronous. This reality introduces significantly greater complexity to digital capture, curation, and preservation.”

To align with emerging e-research trends and the Libraries’ current strategic goals, the Libraries is transforming the Information Arcade space to reflect a renewed focus on faculty support for e-research, including but not limited to support for new forms of scholarly publishing, digital humanities, data curation, and open/linked data. Toward that end, Digital Library Services (DLS), in collaboration with ITS and the VPR’s office, hosted a series of AHI grant preparation workshops in January. DLS has also begun new collaborations with humanists and social scientists on projects ranging from capturing Twitter feeds in support of political science research to hosting peer-reviewed online journals such as the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.

For more information, please contact Digital Library Services at or call (319) 335-9275.