My LEADS fellowship placement is with the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Digital Research Services. The project this year aims to visualize a digitized collection of book of hours manuscripts produced in middle ages Europe. The major idea behind the project is to better introduce and communicate this specific genre of book production to the audience, using visual forms and languages.
During the Drexel University boot camp between June 6-8, I took the best use of the time to visit the UPenn Library and had a meeting with my project mentor Ms. Dot Porter. We discussed the project goals and the major tasks to successfully deliver the project. We identified two possible ways to present and share our major project outcomes, one as a research paper and the other as an interactive website displaying and communicating the visualizations.
I spent the first week of LEADS project to get familiar with the “book of hours” as a genre and an artifact, reading secondary sources recommended by my mentor. By reading those materials I developed a better understanding of the book of hours in terms of its history, major characteristics, and uniqueness in the religious life of the middle ages, which has been helpful for me to think of ways to visualize the manuscript data. Week 2 was mostly utilized to browse the dataset and propose visualization strategies. The book of hours initial dataset contains information of 185 digitized manuscripts, including their dates of production, the provenance of production and circulation, the contents (i.e., passages of prayer), and the decorations. Thinking about the visualization strategies, my mentor and I had a Skype check-in and discussed issues regarding which types of visualizations and graphs to create and some potential problems involved in the visualization processes. I also reflected on the ideas and theories communicated in the information visualization session at the boot camp when trying to identify the most effective visualization strategies for the manuscript data. Following the discussion with my mentor, I started actually working with the initial dataset — the provenance data of manuscript productions in particular. As visualization goes on, I feel that each graph tends to be more complex than it appears and manuscripts data visualization is quite a craft.