Upcoming Panel Discussion: Information in Motion

This session will examine how animation and motion graphics can be used to visualize and explain data. Our speakers come from different backgrounds in animation, as well as journalism, science, and graphic design. See how the worlds of science and art collide when it comes to how we absorb data.

Our panelists will be:

Whitney Beer-Kerr, science producer at Pixeldust Studios. Whitney is a producer who specializes in science, education, and natural history. With a strong science and medical academic background, Whitney excels at communicating dense technical information to audiences at every level. At Pixeldust, Whitney manages a team of editors, writers, animators, and production coordinators. She writes, produces, develops, and directs visual effects for a wide range of non-profit, corporate, and scholarly projects. Her work for PBS, NOVA, and National Geographic has taken her from the tribal villages of Papua New Guinea to the bow of an Inuit whaling boat off the north coast of Alaska. Recent projects include Ancient Earth, a 3-part fully animated series about evolution and mass extinction from the Permian through the Cretaceous, and an animated video about what happens inside the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease using the latest research from the NIH.

Donna Desmet, medical illustrator & animator at the Mayo Clinic. As a part of the Medical Illustration and Animation division of the Creative Media department, she collaborates with physicians, researchers, or other internal staff to create educational visuals for a variety of initiatives in service of the entire enterprise. Working independently or as a part of a team, Donna participates in all aspects of animation development: collaborating with clients, researching content, conceptualizing, script writing, and storyboard development, as well as animating. Before the Mayo, Donna spent 17 years developing visual medical content in New York, where she helped establish Jane Hurd Studios, which delivered educational and promotional medical animations for clients such as Novartis, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and Genentech.

Donna is a Professional Member of the Association of Medical Illustrators. She received her MA in Medical and Biological Illustration from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Josh Gunn, the founder of Planet Nutshell, a design studio that does animation for nonprofits, business, healthcare, and education. Some notable examples include shorts teaching kids about physics and Math for PBS Learning Media, a narrative for McLean Hospital to help people understand the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, and an explanation of the “The Connected Economy” for the Harvard Business Review.

Josh began his career teaching creative writing at The University of Washington. He then worked at Amazon.com as a content producer, editor, and writer. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from The University of Washington and he received his BA in English from the Colorado College. In his spare time, he works as a journalist, short story writer, and essayist. His work has appeared in leading publications, including The Atlantic and Vox.com. He has also lectured at MIT on digital storytelling.

Please join us on March 30, 2017 from 12:00 noon to 1:30 PM in the James Branch Cabell Library Lecture Hall (Room 303). The event is free and open to the public, but please register. If you are a student interested in learning about the details of a career in animation – from collaborating with clients, researching content, conceptualizing, script writing, storyboard development, and animating production – stay for an informal session with our panelists for their insider insight at 2:00 PM in Room 205.

Parking is available for a fee in the West Broad StreetWest Main Street and West Cary Street parking decks. If special accommodations are needed or to register by phone, please call Gregory Kimbrell, events and programs coordinator, at (804) 828-0593 prior to March 30.

Upcoming panel discussion: Print+Web 1: Illustration, Typography, Graphic Design

At this latest installment of the Digital Pragmata series, panelists discuss the design and visual aspects of online publishing. What best practices are designers and artists establishing? What tensions exist between good graphic design and good web design?

Please join us on January 27 from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM in the James Branch Cabell Library, Multipurpose Room (Room 250). The event is free and open to the public, but please register. Space is limited. Lunch will be provided. Parking is available for a fee in the West Broad StreetWest Main Street and West Cary Street parking decks. If special accommodations are needed or to register by phone, please call Gregory Kimbrell, events and programs coordinator, at (804) 828-0593 prior to January 25.

The Moderator:

Woolman_Matt_croppedMatt Woolman has developed a unique set of skills that combine creative thinking with a comprehensive understanding of entrepreneurship and enterprise across a range of disciplines. Currently, Matt is the Executive Director of Entrepreneurship in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, where he operates the Center for the Creative Economy, a transformative model for higher education that prepares art and design students to lead their own careers and lives in innovative, entrepreneurial ways. As an independent producer, Matt has authored and co-authored ten books on such defining topics as motion design, music and the visual arts/design, and information visualization, including the internationally best-selling Type in Motion: Innovations in Digital Graphics. Matt also is a partner in CrossThink, LLC, which delivers programs in cross-disciplinary thinking to boost innovation performance. He has MFA and MBA degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a BA degree from Oberlin College.

The Panelists:

LFranz_pict_croppedLaura Franz teaches a wide range of typographic content at UMass Dartmouth, from The Structure and History of Letterforms to Web Typography. Inspired by the intersection of tradition and technology, Laura shares her carefully tested web font recommendations on goodwebfonts.com. She also shares her typography knowledge via the book Typographic Web Design: How to Think Like a Typographer in HTML and CSS (Wiley); the online video course Typography for Web Designers (lynda.com); and the online video course Choosing and Using Web Fonts (lynda.com). A presenter at the 2012 HOW Magazine Interactive Design Conferences, she writes for SmashingMagazine.com and contributes to practice.Typekit.com. Laura holds an MDes in Communication Planning and Design from Carnegie Mellon University, and a BFA in Graphic Design from Western Michigan University.

mhuff-headshot_croppedMorgan Huff is a Senior Lead Developer at VCU University Relations. Since 1997, Morgan has worked at the intersection of design, development and strategy on dozens of digital projects. With a passion for psychology and human-computer interaction, he promotes solving customer needs through research and design thinking methods. Beyond VCU, Morgan is a co-organizer with Richmond UX, a 400+ member volunteer organization providing educational and social opportunities for professionals in Central Virginia to engage in the field of User Experience.

robm_croppedRobert Meganck is Professor of illustration, graphic design and digital imaging, Chair of the Department of Communication Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Robert has received over 300 regional, national and international awards for illustration and graphic design work, and been recognized for excellence by such organizations as The Society of Illustrators New York, The Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, American Illustration and The Illustrators Club of Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. His work has been included in a variety of national reviews including Communication Arts Magazine’s Illustration and Design Annuals, American Illustration Annuals, Print Magazine’s Regional Design Annuals, The Society of Illustrators Annuals, and 3×3 The Magazine of Contemporary Illustration. Matthew Porter of Communication Arts Magazine called Robert “A delightfully fuzzy-headed raconteur”. Style Weekly (September 5, 2007) named Robert Meganck one of Richmond’s top 25 most influential artists.

Upcoming panel discussion: Scholar, Maker, Creator: New Humanities Conversations

Digital pragmata flourish at the nexus of research, teaching, and creativity. They can be textual databases, creative visualizations of information, multimedia explorations, collaboratively annotated maps, and a thousand other projects.

How do they fit into a world built on books and scholarly journals?

Will these new ways of communicating displace a world made on paper, or will they blend into new forms of scholarly expression that grow from the best of the past?

What is truly novel and significant about recent developments in the digital humanities and what are the implications for the humanities in general?

Please join us April 8 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts for an engaging conversation about these and many other questions about the future of scholarly communication in the humanities. We will be joined by a panel of humanities scholars from across North America.

The event is free and open to the public, but please register. Parking is available for a fee in the West Broad Street, West Main Street and West Cary Street parking decks. If special accommodations are needed, or to register offline, please call (804) 828-0593 prior to April 4.

The moderator:

IMG_0016Richard Godbeer has a B.A. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. He specializes in the history of colonial and revolutionary America, with an emphasis on religious culture, witchcraft studies, gender studies, and the history of sexuality. Professor Godbeer is author of The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England (1992), Sexual Revolution in Early America (2002), Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692 (2005), The Overflowing of Friendship: Love Between Men and the Creation of the American Republic (2009) and The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief History with Documents (2011). He is currently working on a joint biography of Elizabeth and Henry Drinker, a Quaker couple who lived in Philadelphia during the second half of the eighteenth century. Professor Godbeer has received awards and fellowships from a range of institutions, including the American Historical Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Mellon Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

The panelists:

Summer_2013Susan Brown has her Ph.D. in English from the University of Alberta. She specializes in Victorian writing, feminist theory, digital humanities and interdisciplinary research. She has an extensive list of publications and received the Society for Digital Humanities Outstanding Achievement Award in 2006 for digital scholarship. She currently leads the Orlando Project, which uses digital tools to literary and historical research, and the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory, an infrastructure project. She is English President of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities/Société canadienne des humanités numériques.

revised.McColloughPhoto copy - CopyAaron McCollough is the Editorial Director of Michigan Publishing at the University of Michigan. Prior to his current position, McCollough has served as the Project Outreach Librarian for the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership and as the Subject Specialist for English Literature and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. He has an MFA in creative writing from the Iowa Writers Workshop and a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. He has published multiple books of poetry and is an editor for Coming Through: Voices of a South Carolina Gullah Community from WPA Oral Histories.

SHW_0188 20090830  copyStephen Robertson is the Director at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University. He holds a B.A. in history and English from the University of Otago in New Zealand and a Ph.D. from Rutgers University. He is the author of Crimes against Children: Sexual Violence and Legal Culture in New York City, 1880-1960 (University of North Carolina Press, 2005) and the co-author of Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem Between the Wars (Harvard University Press, 2010). His current research examines private detectives and the practice of undercover surveillance in the United States between 1865 and 1941. He is one of the creators of Digital Harlem, which he and his collaborators are currently developing to offer a spatial perspective on the 1935 Harlem riot.

Upcoming Brown Bag Talk: Hollywood Meets Digital Pragmata


You are most cordially invited to the next Digital Pragmata brown bag talk on Monday, February 24.  We’ll be hearing from new VCU Communication Arts professor TyRuben Ellingson talking about, among other things, his career in Hollywood doing concept design. His work can be seen in such movies as AvatarPacific RimElysiumJurassic ParkHellboyMen in Black, and Star Wars.

Date: Monday, February 24
Time: 12pm – 1pm
Location: Academic Learning Commons Room 4100

Bring your lunch; cookies and drinks will be provided.  And please feel free to spread the word to anybody who you think might be interested–all are welcome!


Upcoming panel discussion: Curating Digital Objects

Should archives keep every single scrap of digital output that comes their way?

Who has authority to say what a digital collection is “about” in a world of easy audience participation and feedback?

What new demands do researchers put on collections now that many objects–but not all of them–are available digitally?

Next week, please join us for an engaging conversation about these and many other questions related to the collection and curation of digital objects.  We will be joined by a panel of distinguished professionals from Richmond-based cultural heritage institutions.  The moderated discussion will be held on Thursday, November 21, from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. in Cabell Library Room 250 with an opportunity to continue the conversation informally over snacks afterward.

The event is free and open to all but seating is limited: you are invited to register, which will give you seating priority but can not guarantee you a seat.

The panelists:

Crista Lembeck LaPradeCrista Lembeck LaPrade is the Digital Projects & Preservation Coordinator at Boatwright Library at the University of Richmond. In this position she is responsible for managing many of the library’s digital projects. Prior to joining the University of Richmond, Ms. LaPrade was a Library Assistant at The Virginia Historical Society. She earned her BA in American Culture from Vassar College and MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. Additionally, she has earned more than 3/4 of an MLIS from Catholic University.

Meg EastmanMeg M. Eastman is the digital collections manager at the Virginia Historical Society. She holds a BA in Studio Art and Art History from the University of Richmond. Before joining the VHS in 2006, Ms. Eastman worked in art conservation at the National Gallery of Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. At the society she serves as photographer of museum collection pieces, archives items, and library books and maintains the society’s archive of digital images, distributes images to staff and the public, and works to increase accessibility to the VHS collections.

Renee SavitsRenee M. Savits is the coordinator of the Civil War 150 Legacy Project at the Library of Virginia. The CW150 Legacy Project is a joint effort of the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. Ms. Savits received her B.A. in History from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and her M.A. in History from Duquesne University. She has worked at the Library of Virginia since 1999 as an archivist and then manager of the private papers section of the archives. She previously worked at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Wesley ChenaultWesley Chenault is Head, Special Collections and Archives, at James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is an alumnus of the Archives Leadership Institute and an active member the Academy of Certified Archivists, Society of American Archivists, and Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.  He is co-author of Gay and Lesbian Atlanta and a contributor to the recently published book Queer South Rising: Voices of a Contested Place. Dr. Chenault has a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of New Mexico, an M.A. in women’s studies from Georgia State University, and a B.A. in psychology from Auburn University.



Upcoming Brown-Bag Talk: All About British Virginia

Next week is our second brown-bag talk of the year, on Wednesday, October 30th, at 12:00 p.m. in Cabell 250. Come listen to a panel discuss the development of British Virginia, VCU’s pioneering digital publishing project. Bring your lunch, and have some snacks and beverages on us. On the 30th you will hear from…

Joshua Eckhardt is an Associate Professor and the Director of the MA program in English at VCU; the author of Manuscript Verse Collectors and the Politics of Anti-Courtly Love Poetry (Oxford, 2009); an assistant textual editor for The Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne (Indiana); and a founding, general co-editor of British Virginia, VCU’s pilot program in digital publishing.

Sam Byrd, Assistant Professor, is the Digital Collections Systems Librarian at VCU Libraries, where he plays a lead role in the creation and development of digitization projects and policies and open access initiatives (http://dig.library.vcu.edu/ and https://digarchive.library.vcu.edu/). He previously held librarian positions at the Library of Virginia and M.I.T.

Kevin Farley is Humanities Collections Librarian for VCU Libraries. His doctorate, in English Renaissance literature, focused on the mutability of textual subjectivity in the late Elizabethan period brought about by intensifying print censorship. This research grew from his lifelong interest in the cultural role of libraries to widen the circulation of ideas, despite constricting historical pressures. This has led him to explore the seismic shift from print to digital and how libraries are rapidly changing both in what they are and what they do—a mirror for our own changing digital selves.

Neal Wyatt is a doctoral candidate in the MATX program at VCU. She worked as a graduate assistant to the British Virginia project and as a senior media features editor for Blackbird: An Online Journal for Literature and the Arts. She has also created a number of digital projects including a reading map on Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and hypertexts on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

Funding Innovation: Avenues, Resources, and Support for Projects


  • What is digital scholarship?
  • What does the funding landscape for digital scholarship look like?
  • How do you navigate the funding landscape?
  • How do you find a fit within the funding landscape?

Find out the answers to these questions, and specific information on funding opportunities to support activities in digital humanities and digital arts by viewing the attached presentation from the final installment of the Digital Pragmata series on May 2, 2013.

Holland_Venable_Funding innovation_5.2.13

CFP: Big Data & the Humanities

Here’s a call for papers some might find of interest.

A workshop on Big Data and the Humanities will be held in conjunction with the IEEE International Conference on Big Data (IEEE BigData 2013), which takes place between 6-9 October 2013 in Silicon Valley, California, USA.

The workshop will address applications of “big data” in the humanities, arts and culture, the challenges and possibilities that such increased scale brings for scholarship in these areas, and interpretative issues raised by applying such “hard” methods for answering subjective questions in the humanities.

Full papers, of up to 9 pages, should be submitted via the conference online submission system. The submission deadline is 30 July 2013. All papers accepted will be included in the proceedings published by the IEEE Computer Society Press, which will be made available at the conference. 

For more information, see the workshop website at http://bighumanities.net/, and the main conference website at http://www.ischool.drexel.edu/bigdata/bigdata2013/.


Virtual Artifact Curation and the Digital Humanities

by Dr. Bernard K. Means, Director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory

I was speaking with a friend of mine on a recent weekend while in Washington, D.C. about the potential of digital humanities. He’s a scholar of pre-modern Chinese environmental history, among other things, and goes back and forth to China every year or so. His research is greatly aided by the fact that he can take key aspects of his library back and forth with him—safely existing and readily available in a digital format on his computer’s hard drive. And, if he does not have a piece of recent scholarship while in China, he can often access it from cyberspace through an electronically archived version of a print journal.

And, for many, I think the image of digital humanities is equated to scanned text and images from media that were created to have–and perhaps best be enjoyed—in a tactile form.  While certainly very valuable, and I rely on these resources considerably in my own research, the electronic versions of text and images available in journal archives still all too often represent the most basic potential of digital humanities.  These electronic journal archives can certainly foster scholarship and lead to significant new insights, but the relationship between this type of media and the observer is usually fairly passive.

There are forms of media created wholly in an electronic form—and these have strong potential for incorporating not just passive text and images, but rather as motion in the form of animations or video, and motion that can be accompanied by recorded spoken audio and dynamic soundtracks.  At least in anthropology, these forms of enhanced visualization are generally seen still as novelties that are not as valued academically as more traditional print media. And, this is a shame.  Enhanced visualization holds the power to considerably expand our appreciation and understanding of cultures across the world today—and as they existed into the deepest reaches of the past.

My niche in digital humanities has focused on three-dimensional (3D) digital models created from artifacts recovered from archaeological sites dating from over a million years ago until World War II—and skeletal remains of more recently deceased animals.  I direct the Virtual Curation Laboratory, which is housed in the School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). In the Virtual Curation Laboratory, I work closely with VCU student interns, independent study students, and volunteers to use a NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner to create our 3D digital models.  We do sometimes go on the road with the scanner, as it is portable, and have scanned prehistoric and historic artifacts at Colonial Williamsburg, George Washington’s Ferry Farm, Jamestown, Montpelier, Mount Vernon, and The State Museum of Pennsylvania, among other places.  The creation of 3D digital models can tremendously expand researcher’s access to collections, especially for rare and fragile objects.  The digital models themselves expand greatly on the potential for archaeological visualization to generate new knowledge and new insights, especially over more traditional photographs or illustrations.  The relationship between the scholar and a photograph or illustration of an artifact is static, as the scholar is limited to how others have chosen to depict the artifact.  Digital models are dynamic and can be manipulated, measured, and observed in motion, allowing for multiple perspectives that can vary from researcher to researcher.

Digital model of a Susquehannock smoking pipe from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The actual pipe is in The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg.

Digital model of a Susquehannock smoking pipe from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The actual pipe is in The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg.

One recent example highlights one way that digital models can expand on static depictions. At the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference in early March 2013, VCU student Rachael Hulvey presented a paper on historic-era artifacts associated with the Susquehannock Indians of eastern Pennsylvania. One of the objects she showed as a dynamic animation was an animal effigy smoking pipe.  This is indicated in a published photograph as representing “bear,” but the elongated tail visible on the actual artifact (but not in the photograph) alone indicates that this identification is likely incorrect.  However, a member of the audience watching Rachael’s presentation and the dynamic model of the pipe recognized that the animal was a fisher (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9357.html)–a member of the weasel family that is adept at eating porcupines.

Our research efforts, and our use of 3D models for teaching on the K-12 and undergraduate level, are regularly documented at: http://vcuarchaeology3d.wordpress.com/