College of Liberal Arts unveils Humanities Visualization Space

The College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University unveiled the new Humanities Visualization Space today, the first research laboratory of its kind in Texas. Located in the new Liberal Arts and Humanities Building, the laboratory is dedicated exclusively to humanities research. 

The project was launched by the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture (IDHMC) at Texas A&M, an organization dedicated to promoting the use of technology in humanities research.

"The Humanities Visualization space will make possible researching the archive of our cultural heritage in ways that haven’t been possible until now,” said Professor Laura Mandell, director of the IDHMC.  “We are digitizing 45 million page images of books published between 1473 and 1800: after they have been digitized, searching them will be possible.”

The information cataloged in the lab includes texts, recordings, maps and photographs, which can be viewed and interacted with on a high-definition display wall that is five times larger than the average television screen. 

“But what does someone do with 500,000 or a million search returns? You have to use techniques from the field of information visualization in order to arrange the returns so that you can decipher trends and figure out what particular documents are worth reading in detail,” said Mandell. “Visualization ‘amplifies cognition,’ and visualizing on a big screen allows for visualizing huge amounts of data, which the Humanities disciplines are just beginning to accrue.”

Tim Duguid, also of the IDHMC, said that one of the benefits that the lab will have for students and researchers is “the ability to think and work outside of the limitations of books, canvases, 15-inch monitors, and mobile devices.”

 “Whether viewing a large amount of data or a large collection of cultural artifacts, users can recognize and evaluate large, overarching trends or drill-down to the specifics and minutiae of individual artifacts that contribute to those larger trends.”

Duguid included that, in addition to being able to “sort and visualize over 1.6 million” sources, the visualization space will also allow users to “simulate historical events and interact with historical artifacts.”

More photos are available here.