Our trial of Politico Pro is now active. Politico Pro’s reporters cover federal government activity in these areas: Agriculture, Budget & Appropriations, Campaigns, Cybersecurity, Defence, Education, Employment & Immigration, Energy, Financial Services, Health Care, Tax, Trade, Technology, and Transportation with very timely stories and daily newsletters. The Politico Pro trial runs through February 28, 2018.
Today marks the beginning of the Winter Olympics. For this occasion we’ve compiled books and articles from the Library’s holdings and subscriptions on the physics and engineering behind some of the sports of the winter games:
Posted onFebruary 6, 2018byAshley Gosselar at the Special Collection Research Center
Reunion of atomic scientists on the 4th Anniversary (1946) of the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction, December 2, 1942, pictured in front of Bernard A. Eckhart Hall at the University of Chicago. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf3-00232, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Exhibition Dates: February 19 – April 13, 2018 Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL
On December 2, 1942, scientists at the University of Chicago produced the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction beneath the West Stand of Stagg Field, the University’s athletic stadium. This experiment, crucial to the control of nuclear fission, drove a rapid nationwide expansion of the Manhattan Project, the secret federal research and engineering program charged with producing a nuclear bomb.
Chicago’s role in the Manhattan Project did not end with the successful operation the first nuclear reactor. Buildings across the University of Chicago campus were converted for use by the code-named Metallurgical Laboratory. The Met Lab conducted extended research on the structure of uranium, developed the process for separating plutonium from uranium, and investigated nuclear radiation’s biological effects and safety issues. At the end of World War II, the Metallurgical Laboratory was transformed into the first United States federal laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory.
Chicago’s Met Lab also took the lead in organizing scientists’ political response to the devastation caused by atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Concerned about the future development and use of nuclear weapons, Met Lab veterans created the Atomic Scientists of Chicago and began publishing the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. They joined scientists from other Manhattan Project sites across the country and pressed successfully in 1946 for the passage of the Atomic Energy Act (McMahon Act) and creation of the civilian Atomic Energy Commission.
The Met Lab scientists achieved great technical success in their contribution to the creation of a powerful new military weapon. Yet the sobering consequences of their work moved them to enter the political arena and make the first critical arguments to control nuclear weapons and turn nuclear energy toward peaceful ends.
Based on archives and manuscripts in the Special Collections Research Center, Science and Conscience presents unique historical documents and artifacts, many not previously exhibited. Items on display are drawn from records of scientists’ organizations and the papers of those who worked on the Manhattan Project and at Chicago’s Met Lab, including Enrico Fermi, James Franck, Herbert L. Anderson, Samuel K. Allison, Samuel Schwartz, Francis W. Test, Lawrence Lanzl, John H. Balderston, Jr., Albert Wattenberg, Eugene Rabinowitch, Paul Henshaw, William B. Higinbotham, and Donald MacRae, among others.
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., and, when University of Chicago classes are in session, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Free and open to the public.
Use of Images and Media Contact
Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download by members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.
Major General Leslie R. Grooves, director of the Manhattan District, pins a Medal of Merit on physicist Enrico Fermi for his contribution to the success of the Atomic Bomb Project. They are pictured at the University of Chicago with other scientists who also received the award. From left: Major Groves; Harold C. Urey, the Martin A. Ryerson distinguished professor of Chemistry; Dr. Fermi; Samuel K. Allison, director of the university’s Institute for Nuclear Studies; Cyril S. Smith, director of the university’s Institute for the Study of Metals; and Robert S. Stone of the University of California Hospitals. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
Autographed endpapers in Henry DeWolf Smyth’s A General Account of the Development of Methods of Using Atomic Energy for Military Purposes under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945).
The Smyth Report was the first public account providing details of nuclear research conducted by the United States during World War II. This copy of the book, from the library of Metallurgical Lab staff member Melvin Bengston includes signatures of James Franck, Harold Urey, Samuel K. Allison, Eugene P. Wigner, Edward Teller, Herbert L. Anderson, and many other scientists and staff who worked on the Manhattan Project in Chicago.
Gift of Diana King
Rare Book Collection
James Franck, winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics, professor of Physical Chemistry (1938-1947) at the University of Chicago, and director of the Chemistry Division of the university’s Metallurgical Laboratory (World War II). Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
Enrico Fermi, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Physics and professor at the University of Chicago. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
Albert Wattenberg, pile construction, photograph, undated. Wikimedia Commons.
Stagg Field (Old), West Stands Wall 5. Capes Photo. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.
“Kelp are habitat for hundreds—probably thousands of species: fishes, invertebrates, etcetera,” explained Cathy Pfister, Professor in University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution. “They are a natural habitat, just like a coral reef, that is the only place where some animals survive.”
Concerns have been raised about downward trends in kelp’s abundance worldwide. Seeking more information about long-term changes in kelp abundance, Pfister discovered that the University of Chicago Library holds rare World War I-era maps showing the location of kelp forests in the Pacific Northwest. At her request, the Library’s Preservation staff digitized these maps, and Pfister and her collaborators compared the early 20th-century survey findings to aerial censuses of two canopy kelp species in Washington State waters from 1989 to 2015.
Surveying kelp beds in anticipation of World War I
The maps in the UChicago Library’s collection were made in anticipation of international conflict rather than global warming. In the early 1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized a problem. The United States relied heavily on fertilizer to grow crops and support its burgeoning economy, yet a crucial ingredient for fertilizer — potash, a mixture of potassium and salts — was mined almost exclusively in Germany. German mines supplied nearly the entire world’s supply of potash, and at the time the U.S. used about a fifth of its output.
Seeking ways to ease this dependency—and possibly aware that potash is also an ingredient in gunpowder—the USDA commissioned several surveys of an alternative source of potash: kelp beds in the Pacific Northwest. The large, hardy seaweeds are a natural source of potassium, nitrogen, and salts, and kelp worldwide have been used historically as fertilizer. If kelp could be harvested and processed in large enough quantities, it could be a viable source of potash to offset German imports.
So, the USDA sent surveyors — including George Rigg, an ecologist from the University of Washington — to map the kelp beds along the coast of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Rigg set out in a yacht with a 40-horsepower motor and mapped the Washington coastline in 1911-12.
One hundred and five years later, Pfister was made aware of the maps and was surprised to see a folio listed in the University of Chicago Library Catalog. With a few keystrokes, she had them retrieved by the robotic cranes in the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library’s automated storage and retrieval system. Delivered into her hands were large format maps bound inside 27 x 21-inch covers. Recognizing the value and fragility of the material, and wanting to use and archive digital copies of the maps for her analysis, Pfister contacted Preservation Librarian Sherry Byrne for help.
Conservation staff used Japanese paper to stabilize the brittle maps at the folds.
Conserving and digitizing the maps
The Library’s Preservation team was happy to digitize the extensive collection of maps from Alaska to California and had the expertise to do so without causing damage to the brittle, 100-year-old paper they were printed on. Especially large maps that had been folded to fit inside the book’s covers were starting to tear at the folds, so Library staff reinforced those sections of paper with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste to keep the sections of the page from separating during handling. They then built a set-up to support the large volume while opening the folded maps for digitization. Photographer Michael Kenny and Head of Digitization Kathleen Arthur captured high-resolution images and posted PDFs that are now freely available to researchers worldwide through the Library Catalog.
“Library staff members with expertise in conservation and digitization are here to enable research that requires the digitization of print and other non-digital materials,” said Byrne. “We encourage faculty, students, and other researchers to contact us to discuss the possibility of digitizing materials in our collection.”
Professor Cathy Pfister points to a kelp map in the Library’s Digitization Laboratory. Image courtesy of The Forefront.
With digitized copies of the Library’s 1911-12 maps in hand and aerial censuses from the last 26 years, Pfister and colleagues at the Washington Department of Natural Resources were able to determine the persistence of kelp cover over the past century and compared kelp dynamics with likely environmental drivers such as local environmental variables and ocean indices for the region.
What they found is a relatively rare positive story when it comes to ecological studies in a time of accelerating climate change. The abundance of most modern kelp beds along the Washington coast has remained constant over the last century despite a seawater temperature increase of 0.72 degrees Celsius. The few exceptions are kelp beds closest to Puget Sound, Seattle and Tacoma.
“Kelp are a robust and resilient structure. You can see that in the data, as long as they have access to good water quality and waves flush through them, then they persist,” Pfister said.
Pfister and her team also studied the competition among kelp species in the area. While the kelp beds were persistent over the decades, their populations could fluctuate greatly from year to year. There are two dominant species — the annual bull kelp and the perennial giant kelp — and they fluctuated similarly, meaning that if one was abundant in a given year, so was the other. And good years, it turns out, are associated with colder seawater temperatures, an unfortunate preference for kelp as ocean temperatures continue to rise.
The Library and research on climate change and ecological history
“As ecologists, we’re realizing that libraries and museums have incredible archival information about how our ecosystems used to look before we really were recording it very well,” said Pfister. “So instances like this where there was an expedition that really quantified how much kelp was there are incredibly important in helping us to understand where we’ve been in these ecosystems and potentially where we’re going as the climate changes.”
The Library has a wide variety of materials that may be useful to scientists exploring ecological history, including reports, maps, and data on ecological communities and environments that have changed or disappeared due to urbanization, climate change, and other forces. One particularly well-known collection of 4500 American Environmental Photographs was created between 1891 and 1936 by UChicago faculty members and students and is fully digitized and available online. The Library’s extraordinary Map Collection is well described and discoverable in the Library Catalog, and additional maps can be found in books and other materials. For research assistance in this area, contact us at Ask a Science Librarian.
Posted onJanuary 9, 2018byAshley Gosselar at the Special Collection Research Center
The papers of anthropologist, linguist, and University of Chicago professor Norman A. McQuown are now available to researchers at the Special Collections Research Center. A new guide is also available for the records of the Department of Anthropology’s Chiapas Project, which McQuown was heavily involved in.
Norman McQuown was best known for his efforts to document and study indigenous languages in Mexico and Central America and for his work in the field of non-verbal communication. He studied, conducted field and archival research, taught, and wrote on a wide range of languages, including Huastec, Quiche Maya, Yucatec Maya, Nahuatl, Totonac, Turkish, Russian, and Esperanto. He published in English, Spanish, and German, was comfortable writing and conversing in a large number of additional languages, and wrote frequently on the process of language teaching and learning. His papers document his research, writing, teaching, and administrative work.
The Chiapas Project records document the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology’s research projects in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas from 1956-1964. The projects aimed to investigate the language, culture, environment, and history of local Maya communities. The records contain administrative and financial material, project reports, and photographs. The McQuown Papers contain a significant amount of additional material from the Chiapas Project.
Norman A. McQuown was born in Peoria, Illinois on January 30, 1914. He received his AB in 1935 and MA in 1936, both in German, from the University of Illinois. He earned his PhD in linguistics from Yale University in 1940, where he studied under Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield and wrote his thesis on the Totonac language. From 1939-1942 he taught in Mexico and worked on a Turkish Language project for the American Council of Learned Societies. McQuown continued in this area during World War II, where he served as a Turkish specialist and editorial supervisor for the Language Section of the Army Service Forces.
After teaching briefly at Hunter College in New York City from 1945-1946, McQuown came to the University of Chicago in 1946 and remained there for the rest of his career, spending time as chair of both the anthropology and linguistics departments. Throughout his career, teaching and creating resources to help others learn remained important to him, and he edited, compiled, or translated a significant number of instructional texts for language learning.
McQuown was involved in a wide range of research activities. He made numerous trips to Mexico and Guatemala to conduct field work for the Man in Nature project, Chiapas project, and other work. He conducted archival research at libraries in Europe and the Americas and compiled catalogs of sources available on indigenous languages at various institutions. McQuown was also an early user of computers to document and study languages.
In addition to his work on indigenous languages, McQuown was a core contributor to TheNatural History of an Interview, a project in which he and colleagues conducted an in-depth microanalysis of a personal interview and related family interactions, covering both verbal and nonverbal communication. The manuscript was never published in English, but their work in the area of nonverbal communication was considered particularly groundbreaking.
McQuown was dedicated to preserving research and fieldwork, both his own and that of others. He did significant work to organize and provide access to the papers of Manuel Andrade, a professor of anthropology and linguist who passed away unexpectedly shortly before McQuown arrived at Chicago. McQuown was also the Founding Director of the University of Chicago’s Language Laboratory and Archives, now the Digital Media Archive, and established and made numerous contributions to what is now known as the Microfilm Collection of Manuscripts on Cultural Anthropology at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library.
Norman McQuown married Dolores Elrine Milleville on November 7, 1942. They had two daughters, Kathryn Ann and Patricia Ellen. Patricia predeceased him. Norman McQuown died in Chicago on September 7, 2005.
Posted onDecember 15, 2017byAshley Gosselar at the Special Collection Research Center
The personal papers of political theorist, ethicist, author, and professor, Jean Bethke Elshtain are now available for research in the Special Collections Research Center. The papers primarily document Elshtain’s career in academia and her activities as a public intellectual called upon to address issues related to feminism, war, and political ethics. They reveal the remarkable breadth and depth of her work on subjects as wide-ranging as bioethics and Jane Addams.
Jean Bethke Elshtain
Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013) grew up in Tinmath, Colorado, a small farming community outside of Fort Collins. At the age of 10, Jean contracted polio and was moved to Denver for treatment. Her mother obtained a job at the hospital in order to be near to her daughter, and eventually Jean was brought home to recuperate and learn to walk again.
Jean went on to earn an A.B. in history at Colorado State University, an M.A. in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a second M.A. in history at the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in Political Science at Brandeis University. Elshtain held teaching positions at Colorado State University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Chicago where she was the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, Political Science, and the Committee on International Relations for 18 years.
In addition to her active teaching career, Elshtain was a prolific writer and public speaker. She authored more than 500 scholarly articles, occasional and opinion pieces, and reviews in a wide range of publications. Elshtain authored more than a dozen books.
She maintained a rigorous public speaking schedule and was invited to lecture or comment upon topics related to feminism, bioethics, political ethics, the place of religion in modern society and in democracy, and war. A devout Christian, Elshtain was unafraid to incorporate theology and the history of religion into her discussions of contemporary events and politics.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, her writings on St. Augustine and the Just War doctrine prompted the George W. Bush administration to include her among a group of scholars and religious figures invited to the White House to meet with the President. The Just War doctrine was later used to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Elshtain was a public supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, Elshtain was appointed to the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2006-2013) and to the President’s Council on Bioethics (2008). She also served on the board of the National Humanities Center (1996-2013), the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (2003-2011), and the Scholars Council of the Library of Congress (2001-2013).
Elshtain received many prestigious appointments, fellowships, and awards throughout her lifetime, including nine honorary degrees. She co-directed the PEW Forum on Religious and Public Life (2001-2004), and was on the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study (1994-1996) and the Institute for American Values (1994-2008). She was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1996), and a Guggenheim Fellow (1991-1992). She held the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Library of Congress (2003), and was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar (1997-1998). In 2002 Elshtain was given the Frank J. Goodnow Award by the American Political Science Association, the highest honor bestowed by that organization. She delivered the esteemed Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 2005-2006, which led to her final major work, Sovereignty: God, State, and Self.
Jean Bethke Elshtain died in Nashville, Tennessee on August 11, 2013.
The Jean Bethke Elshtain Papers were processed and preserved with generous support from the McDonald Agape Foundation.
Video recordings from the 5th biennial Kathleen A. Zar Symposium, “Open Data: Science, Health, Community” are now available online. The symposium featured speakers from Mozilla, the National Library of Medicine, the City of Chicago and more, who provided insight into open data projects and initiatives which have an impact on science, health, or community.
This project has been funded in part with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Grant Number 1UG4LMO12312346-01 with the University of Iowa.
Which sections of the library do faculty members enjoy the most? The fall issue of Dialogo, the University of Chicago Social Sciences Division magazine, introduced its new faculty members in interviews that included this question. The answers give us some insight into their diverse influences and suggest the vital role that the Library plays in faculty research and teaching.
Joel Isaac, John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, Associate Professor
Joel Isaac is a historian focused on social and political thought in the United States and how the Cold War shaped political ideologies. His current research examines the revival of 18th-century categories of political and moral thought in the 20th century through more modern idioms: neoclassical economics, analytical philosophy, decision theory, and empirical political science. His first book, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (Harvard, 2012), was awarded the Gladstone Prize by the Royal Historical Society in 2012.
Isaac’s favorite section of the Library: “The Special Collections Research Center in the Regenstein Library. Before I came to Chicago, I made some pilgrimages across the Atlantic (from Cambridge, UK) to use the SCRC. Now its riches are on tap whenever I need them. I confess I get a special charge from reading the papers of former UChicago faculty who have deposited their papers in the archives of the SCRC. It’s a thrill to see the University through their eyes.”
Destin Jenkins, Department of History, Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2018), Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of History (7/1/2018-)
Destin Jenkins’s research as a historian centers on the linkages between the American state, capitalism, racial inequality, and the built environment in the 20th century. His forthcoming book, tentatively titled “Bonded Metropolis: Debt, Redevelopment, and Racial Inequality in Postwar San Francisco,” argues that the practices of municipal debt finance redistributed wealth upwards, reinscribed racial inequality, and became a constraint on democratic state power.
Jenkins’s favorite sections of the Library: “Regenstein Library is phenomenal. My favorite section is arranged by call number, E.185. From small pamphlets proposing solutions to the ills of late 1960s ghetto life to thick volumes dealing with black employment, most of the material in this section deals with the political economy of black life. The most interesting book I’ve found is a 1919-1920 report, “Colored Women as Industrial Workers in Philadelphia.” It’s been especially interesting reading the report alongside W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Philadelphia Negro (1899). When Du Bois wrapped up this comprehensive study, at once sociological and a moral and political reflection on race and human civilization, he concluded that Philadelphia’s black women were largely confined to work as domestic workers. As elsewhere, World War I had thoroughly transformed the labor market. In Philadelphia black women arguably helped to facilitate industrial development, and, as track repair workers, inspectors, and porters, helped to maintain the city’s physical infrastructure. The Consumers League of Eastern Pennsylvania saw these opportunities as creating “a new day” for black women. I am looking forward to discussing this pamphlet and exploring the conditions under which black women toiled with students in my fall course, ‘Histories of Racial Capitalism.’”
Ryan Jobson, Department of Anthropology, Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2019), Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology (7/1/2019-)
Ryan Jobson is a social scientist and Caribbean cultural critic. His research and teaching engage issues of energy and extractive resource development, technology and infrastructure, states and sovereignty, and histories of racial capitalism in the colonial and postcolonial Americas. His first book manuscript, “Deepwater Futures: Sovereignty at Risk in a Caribbean Petrostate,” is an ethnographic study of fossil fuel industries and postcolonial state building in Trinidad and Tobago. A second research project will comprise a historical ethnography of oil and bauxite development in Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.
Jobson’s favorite sections of the Library: “As a scholar of the Caribbean, I enjoy exploring texts and materials produced in and about the region. I am particularly fascinated by original documents from the 18th and 19th century that I stumble upon in the stacks. On one of my first trips to the Reg, I was surprised to find a collection of late 19th century photographs of the Pitch Lake in Trinidad—the largest global reserve of natural bitumen asphalt. I later discovered that the photographs were donated to the university by the Barber Asphalt Co. on the occasion of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The gift coincided with efforts to structurally improve the roadways throughout the city, many of which were paved with Trinidad Lake Asphalt including Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. In my courses, I draw on anecdotes like this to demonstrate the enduring connections between places like Chicago and the Caribbean. Evidence of these connections often lurks in corners of the library or on the pavement beneath our feet.”
Alexander Torgovitsky, Department of Economics, Assistant Professor
Alexander Torgovitsky’s research is focused on developing new methods for causal inference and counterfactual analysis with economic data. His recent work has focused on developing tools for detecting and measuring state dependency (“stigma” effects) in unemployment dynamics. Other recent work has provided tools for extrapolating inferences from studies of small research populations to larger groups, with implications for understanding behavior and for policy making.
Torgovitsky’s favorite section of the Library: “I enjoy the student-run coffee shop (Ex Libris). The coffee is great, and I like the way many of the facilities at UChicago are run by students, unlike at many other private universities. It reminds me of my undergraduate institution, and I think it helps foster a strong sense of academic community.”
Alice Goff, Department of History, Assistant Professor
Alice Goff is a historian of modern German cultural and intellectual life. Her work focuses on the relationships between material objects and political thought in the 18th and 19th centuries. Goff’s current research traces the history of artworks caught up in the looting, iconoclasm, and shifting boundaries of German states during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars and the consequences of their displacement for German political, religious, and intellectual practice at the beginning of the 19th century.
Goff’s favorite section of the Library: “For browsing, I most enjoy the folios or oversized sections of the library. No matter the call number, the folio shelves always have something monumental and strange to offer: the most lavish exhibition catalogues, the most beautiful atlases, the most unwieldy information, though unfortunately also the most cumbersome to get back to the office.”
Mikhail Golosov, Department of Economics, Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics and the College
Mikhail Golosov is an economist specializing in macroeconomics, public finance and political economy. His research explores economic theories related to wars over resources, tax systems, and strategic communication. He is an associate editor of Econometrica and the Review of Economic Studies.
Golov’s favorite sections of the Library: “I like to read social science books that are not directly related to economics–sociology, history, philosophy—so I often gravitate towards those sections of the library. Researchers in those disciplines study human society, just like economists do, but often have a very different perspective. I find that I can learn from that a fair bit. Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate was one of the most fascinating books I read recently.”
Peter Hull, Department of Economics, Assistant Professor
Economist Peter Hull develops novel statistical techniques to answer policy questions in education and health care. Currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Microsoft Research, he will come to the University of Chicago campus as a Becker Friedman Institute Research Fellow in 2018, and will join the Department of Economics faculty in the summer of 2019.
Hull’s favorite genres: “Apart from econometrics textbooks (only somewhat kidding), I’m torn between biography and science fiction. At their best, both genres amaze me in their ability to illustrate a set of foreign ideas, places, and times, all through a strong narrative structure; if only more academic papers had that ability! Recently I’ve been addicted to Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and five-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, while every winter am excited to crack open Gardner Dozois’ most recent Year’s Best Science Fiction short story anthology.”
Posted onOctober 26, 2017byBrenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian at the University of Chicago Library
The Changing Nature of Scholarship
The advent of digital technology has opened up new horizons that have inspired scholars to transform the nature of their scholarship. From the rapid analysis of a human genome to the sharing of social science data sets to data mining vast quantities of text—scholars are continually developing new digital approaches to creating, analyzing, and sharing their research.
Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian (Photo by John Zich)
While digital scholarship activity among the University of Chicago faculty is growing, this new kind of scholarship comes with a challenge. Researchers must master a dizzying array of computational tools and techniques, they must think about how to manage their data in ways that can be used by other researchers, and they must find solutions for archiving and sharing their data that meet the increasingly stringent requirements of funding agencies. As faculty and students increasingly incorporate computational and algorithmic methods (e.g., text mining, network analysis, GIS and geo-spatial mapping, image analysis, data analysis) into their research process, they are looking for partners to provide the technical and human resources necessary to support their research activities, foster innovation, and facilitate cross-divisional collaboration.
Digital scholarship encompasses all parts of this new life cycle of digital research, from the changing ways in which scholars collect and analyze data to their increased interest in new techniques for preserving and sharing that data. The Library is a natural hub for the exchange of ideas and the home of a great deal of expertise on archiving and sharing information. Accordingly, we are preparing to enhance our offerings and collaborations with faculty in each segment of this life cycle.
Envisioning a Center for Digital Scholarship at the University of Chicago Library
Faculty tell us that “a substantial barrier to the adoption of computational and digital methods at the University of Chicago has been the isolation of faculty members from colleagues who are experimenting with similar techniques. . . . A physical space designated for such inquiry could help bridge this knowledge gap by providing an environment in which to explore the application of these techniques, receive hands-on training through tutorials or workshops, and benefit from informal collaboration with colleagues in other disciplines.”
To meet this need, I am pleased to announce that we are beginning the work of launching a Center for Digital Scholarship at the Library, which will become a new nexus for intellectual energy and growth, providing a space that will support state-of-the-art technologies and services that facilitate the exploration of new methodologies, the analysis of complex data, the visualization of theoretical relationships, and the sharing of research results.
Establishing such a transformative center at the Library will require identifying high priority needs and thinking creatively about how to resource those needs. Thanks to the generosity of Robert, AM’64, and Carolyn Nelson, AM’64, PhD’67, we will soon be able to hire a Director for the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) who will develop a strategic vision, begin to build services, and coordinate with existing library staff. Our new CDS Director will jumpstart the process and position us to pursue additional funding to support a full suite of services. I am grateful to the Nelsons for their early support of the Library’s digital scholarship initiatives.
We are now beginning a search for this Director and look forward to having this position filled in the coming months. As the Center develops over time, we expect that we will be able to facilitate a wide range of activities. Possibilities fall into three categories.
Scholarly Exploration and Collaboration. A combination of intellectual programming (symposia to host international scholars, tutorials, brown-bag presentations, workshops, faculty lectures), services (project consultation, data archiving), and technology (scanning equipment, workstations equipped with GIS and other specialized software) will make the Center a hub that brings faculty, students, and scholars together in ways that spark interactions and facilitate cross-divisional collaborations.
Graduate and Undergraduate Training. Faculty turn to the Library as a partner to supplement classroom instruction with workshops, targeted training, and onsite training by embedded librarians who can teach the skills necessary for students to succeed. In addition to supporting initiatives across campus to develop courses and programs that integrate new computational methods and theories into a wide range of disciplines, the Library has partnered with UChicagoGrad to provide fundamental digital scholarship skills needed by graduate students to become the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, nonprofits, and government.
The OCHRE database allows users to view photographs of artifacts (here, Ras Shamra tablets) alongside associated machine-readable data such as descriptions, epigraphs, interpretive information, transliterations, and translations.
Project Incubation and Execution. The Center for Digital Scholarship will provide services, such as project consultations, data acquisition and conversion, workshops in tools and techniques, and core technical infrastructure. Researchers would benefit from guidance on strategies for organizing and executing digital project work and from assistance by staff with the experience and networks that can facilitate project components that are new to the researcher. Examples of such projects are the Library’s collaboration with Chicago Booth’s Richard Hornbeck on the location and digitization of 19th-century manufacturing data and with the Oriental Institute’s David Schloen on the OCHRE database system.
I look forward to being joined by the new Director of the Center for Digital Scholarship, who will collaborate with colleagues within the Library and across campus to develop a vision for the Center and plan for the rollout of services critical to digital research and teaching projects of many kinds.