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Matt Younglove

Evaluating a DH Project

Project for Evaluation:
Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM)

Projects used for comparison:
Vincent van Gogh – The Letters

The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (ORBIS)

One of my primary reasons for taking this class is that frequently the arts are on the cutting edge of rethinking the usage of technology, yet the scholarship pertaining to the arts is often sadly behind the times. I’m curious to find ways to use modern technology to aid artistic scholarship. For this reason I’m evaluating the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM) in comparison to one arts based projects and one non-arts based project (listed above)
The DIAMM project’s primary function in creation was preservation of centuries old documents – specifically music from the Medieval time period. Images are taken at 144 megapixels (high resolution is necessary for digital restoration). The DIAMM was conceived as a DH project, but it inherently answers no questions. It serves as a hybrid DH project-tool. As a database, it enables easier access to the metadata of thousands of musical scores for scholarship. The search feature for this database allows scholars to search for musical works based on their languages, number of voices, clef, composer, text-source, musical function, and a number of other parameters, which makes comparing a large body of work that is disseminated across numerous libraries much easier.
But similar to what Daniel observed about the DH project he evaluated, this project is more of a tool than a project. Albeit conceived as a project as the creation of this tool, the end result is a tool. This leads me to speculate that DH projects often end with the creation of tools rather than the conclusion of answers. This may contrast what we have discussed in class, and makes the means of evaluation even more difficult in this field.
This project is similar to another DH project in the arts – the Vincent van Gogh – The Letters project. This project, operated by the Van Gogh Museum, assembled and scanned all of the known and existing letters that Van Gogh wrote as correspondences. It gives art scholars a context with which his art was created, an autobiography of sorts. Many of the letters contain sketches, which have artistic value and merit in and of themselves. It allows people to sort them by period, correspondent, place, and those with sketches. Again, it is another art-based DH project that is more of a tool than a project, but a very specific tool. This very similar to the idea I have for my project relating to the World Saxophone Congress programs.
To contrast, I decided to look at a DH project not associated with the arts. I looked at the Orbis project, a pseudonym for The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, which is basically Google Maps for the Ancient Roman Empire. It traces routes from this time and calculates both their time and cost depending on method of travel and season. It allows for fact checking and dot connecting from various stories and testaments from that time. It’s a frame through which we can better understand Ancient Roman travel and it can aid in the expeditious answering of questions where travel was a factor.
Upon evaluating these three tools, it seems like most of these projects evolved out of numerous questions seeking a tool to aid/assist in the time consumption aspect of the research. Compared to the text analysis of British Novels project we evaluated earlier in the semester, it doesn’t seem that most of these projects are about answering specific questions. They seem to be about using the tools of DH to develop even more specific tools that facilitate faster research when one approaches these projects with specific questions.