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The Humanities Project

Current Projects

Fall 2017

Machine-Reading and Crowdsourcing Medieval Music Manuscripts

Prompted by recent access to a source of pre-modern Italian convent music made available to me by the Art Institute of Chicago, I propose a half-day symposium and creative production in October 2017 that brings together pursuits in the digital humanities and in medieval music manuscript study, while also offering a rare performance that celebrates late-medieval music-making by women. The mini-conference uses a thirteenth-century manuscript on exhibit at the Art Institute as a window into the state of research in medieval manuscript studies in the digital age. The symposium will provide updates from researchers in machine-reading technology with early music notation and will engage in initiatives for employing collaborative techniques to index manuscripts. The proposed performance will feature music from an all-female roster of Chicago-based singers, who specialize in medieval and early modern music. As part of the performance, the women will read music from the Italian convent manuscript, bringing the sounds of this particular source to an audible reality.

The Future(s) of Microhistory: A Symposium

Since the rise of cultural studies and the ‘anthropological turn’ in the 1970s, microhistorical studies have provided an avenue to examine the human experience through what Edoardo Grendi termed the ‘exceptional normal.’ The emphasis of microhistory on symbolic culture and detailed narrative offered a new style of analysis to the historical profession while challenging long-held assumptions about the role of social scientific approaches that emphasized large-scale studies. Now that scholars accept microhistory as an stablished mode of historical thought, the time is ripe to evaluate new developments and consider the future of microhistory. A generation of historians have read, internalized and used the approach. But, at a time when more and more scholars are interested in global issues, questions have arisen about the relationship between microhistory and “connected” or “big” history. A conference on “The Future(s) of Microhistory” will bring together a relatively small group of established scholars, from a range of specialties. We will discuss the current and prospective relevance of microhistory and microhistorically-inflected work at a time when scholars are turning toward transnational questions while digital history and studies based in big-data continue to grow in influence. The meeting is, to an extent, envisioned as a chance both to engage with possibilities of the kind that Francesca Trivellato raised in her 2011 essay, “Is There a Future for Italian Microhistory in the Age of Global History?,” and to explore the potential of new methodologies and perspectives. As
a host for this discussion, The University of Rochester will be poised to facilitate new lines of inquiry and to help explicate of the future of microhistory.

Spring 2018

Ariane and Bluebeard: From Fairy Tale to Comic Book Opera

The Object of Accumulation: Amassing Photography Before and After the Digital Turn

Throughout its history, photography has been recognized for its speed of production, reproduction, and distribution. The photographic image continues to serve as a key part of the world’s visual economy of accumulation – a gradual and seemingly endless gathering of
images with tremendous influence on the modern consciousness. Where, then, can we locate the objectives for – as well as the actual objects of – the accumulation of photographs in the digital age? The Object of Accumulation is a two-day symposium devoted to exploring how the work of accumulation is understood and approached across various institutions, platforms, and practices that amass photographic images. Taking place in the birthplace of Kodak, and purposely convening a wide range of perspectives – scholars from Harvard University and the University of Rochester, experts from the George Eastman Museum, and contemporary artists – the symposium will approach the issue of accumulation as both an actual and a virtual practice: it will explore the history of photography’s status as a document housed in library collections, an object acquired by museums, and an image shared within databases and across the internet.