A research project From the U. of Virgina (Where IATH is Based):
To demonstrate the capabilities of a new digital humanities tool that maps the records and social networks of important historical figures, Daniel Pitti of the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities likes to start with Vannevar Bush, a forefather of the digital age.
“He was a prominent scientist in the United States who did a lot of things during World War II,” Pitti said. “And he was connected to all kinds of people. He’s a hero of the Web, in particular to the Web 2.0 crowd.”
From his desk in IATH offices in Alderman Library, Pitti pulls up the prototype homepage of the Social Networks and Archival Context Project – or SNAC – and navigates to Bush’s profile page. It includes a brief biography of Bush and lists the libraries and archives that hold material related to him.
In addition to Bush’s own papers, which are housed at the Library of Congress, eight other archival records in the SNAC database reference him. The profile page lists where these records are kept and includes a description of the collections, a list of Bush’s correspondents and colleagues, and a list of the organizations with which he was affiliated.
The idea isn’t just to aggregate where the records of important historical figures are kept, though that’s part of it. Pitti also wants to show how these people were situated in their own professional networks.
The profile page disappears, replaced by a spider-web of names. In the center is “Vannevar Bush,” with lines radiating out to the names of different correspondents or people with whom he is connected in archival records.
“This is very early stages of this,” Pitti said. “We’re trying to figure out how to display all of the data. These are all of the people and institutions with whom Vannevar Bush is linked in the archival records we’ve collected.”