I have spent the last couple weeks at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Along with 5 other students, I have been part of a humanities lab exploring classical mythology through maps using digital tools called Omeka and Neatline. First we found artifacts and entered them into a database with Omeka. We then made Neatline maps incorporating many of these images and exploring the lives of specific heroes (I worked on Herakles, also known as Hercules).
I have taken many classics courses, but I’m a computer science major and have focused on math and computer science for most of my time in college. When I arrived at this program, I felt a little out of place. What’s a computer science major doing at a humanities lab? Everybody was excited about the opportunity to work on a hands-on project, because in the humanities that opportunity doesn’t come up very often. I was pretty open to whatever our time together would bring, and I didn’t necessarily know what I was expecting to get out of the experience.
One of the things I have really appreciated about this lab is the potential for people from very different backgrounds to learn something. My favorite part of our project was working on the technological side: thinking about user interface and map design. However, we also learned how to search for ancient artifacts in art databases and wrote up exhibits exploring interesting things about our heroes. Everybody had their own preferences about different phases of the process. There was little background knowledge expected coming in, which made collaborating much easier. We were all starting from scratch on our projects. It also meant that students from many different backgrounds ended up coming, which ultimately made our final projects richer.
I guess from this experience I gained an appreciation for how technology and the humanities can work together in valuable ways. I have never really had the opportunity to explore that before, because most college courses focus exclusively on one or the other. As a computer science person with an interest in classics, this program was a great opportunity for me to explore how the two can work together.
It was also really fun to come out of the program with a completed project – here is our website if you would like to explore: Mapping Mythology