Necropolis group update

This weekend, despite Conn’s friendly but urgent request, we did not have an opportunity to go through the archival material the synagogue was going to provide us. It’s likely that these documents are still in a Newark storage facility. Hopefully they will be brought back soon.

We are also waiting to get the conservator’s data on the site, but they must either have permission from the synagogue or, more likely, will only provide it to the sexton, who can then give it to us.  We will continue to send reminders on both of these things, but in the mean time there is a lot of other work to be done. All of these records will provide very helpful and (we hope) fascinating information, but it isn’t necessary to wait for them.

Our immediate need is to build a solid, clean database of names, dates, locations, and personal information, and this naturally has to begin with ensuring we have as many names we can verify.

At the New York Historical Society on Saturday Conn and I went through city directories for years spanning from 1786-1830. In addition to providing some of the information we need, this process also revealed how much the city changed in this period of time. The size of the directories expanded, and the number of Jewish names also increased substantially. As families grew, there were many more of the same names too. (This is true for everyone in the directory, of course.) They were increasingly fewer Sephardic names as well, which makes sense, since Ashkenazi Jews were beginning to arrive in greater numbers.

Once the database is put in shape, we can move on to searching death records in FamilySearch database. Since I have a (free) account, this won’t be difficult. An initial foray into these records provided a great deal of information – perhaps more than we can probably get from our archival sources: names, birth and death dates, birth location, death location, spouse/status, occupation, and cemetery. In this last piece of data, that usually reads “Hebrews.” This is extremely helpful: I came across a couple of people who died during our target time frame with the same or similar names as those on our list, only they were buried in Trinity or another Christian cemetery — or Potter’s field. Definitely not the same people!  It’s very unlikely that any Jews would have gone to Potter’s field because the congregation generally took responsibility for burying people who were indigent, whether or not they were active members. According to the sexton, it still does this on occasion.

In the later stages of the database construction (which is soon), we will begin doing more background reading to help us with the narrative components of the site. Most of these secondary sources include information about the congregation and  especially prominent individuals in the congregation, a number of whom on our list.

I got in touch with Rachel Frankel, who did the initial transcription of the burial ledger we saw. (At this point, we’ve seen more documents than she did last summer when she worked with the conservators.)  She’s interested in our project and will be giving us the transcriptions she made of still-legible headstones in the cemetery.

We are also rethinking our initial direction in terms of the platform and tools we’ll use for the website. Now that hosting is an option, this creates many more possibilities for the kind of visualization and content we can feature.  Although we’re still quite a way off, it’s exciting to imagine what we might be able to include.

SKINDEEP Group Report

The main goal for this week was to complete the data collection. It’s important for us to do that in order to move forward in the creation of the actual graph and website. We are going to meet Tuesday before class with Matt Daniels, creator of Polygraph. He offered to help us in the creation of the graph that will show the diversity we have been studying.

We managed to contact all the modeling agencies we needed and they started responding. It’s going to be a slower process, but some of them as already responded with interest in the project and some informations about the models.

We completed our images database, with the images from the runway shows that will appear moving on the website. We are now designing some possible structures, colors and the logo will be ready soon. As already said the WordPress website is ready and the Twitter account is active.

We are in this moment in which we really have to wait agencies’ responses to complete our data collection.

Nicola Certo

S. Newman personal update

After days of playing the waiting game, we only heard back from one of the casting agencies. Our deadline is Tuesday, so at this point, I doubt we’ll hear back from the rest. The next class period will have to be focused on the re-routing of the project that we discussed a couple of weeks ago. Right before class, we have a meeting with Matthew Daniels at Polygraph in hopes that he’ll be able to give us some technical guidance. His site has amazing visuals, and it’s extremely dynamic and user friendly. Outside of the technical work, we are still tweeting and we’ve also been designing logos for the site. A lot of what I’m doing now is reading up on the theory of our subject so we can come up with a thesis that’s clear and concise.



Civil War Sound-Group Update

The Civil War Sound group had a few tasks this week. One was to finally finish putting together the sound corpus into a single column list as well as the many derivations of each word already on the list. We need to finish this part of project as soon as possible because it is crucial to another part of the project, using text scraping to mine American Civil War Letters and Diaries database. Which leads to another task, finishing up and test running out scripts. We need to see what the script will give us and how we are going to have to clean the results. Outreach has been fruitful and we have set up several meetings with experts in Civil War history and mapping to guide our work.

Nicola Certo – personal update

This week, we continued with the data collection, trying to complete our models roster. The goal of course was to begin the question of ethnicity. doesn’t really give this kind of information.
I used Fashion Monitor, a fundamental platform for the fashion business. Since it’s not free you have the access to many fashion contacts that can be useful for out research. Through that I found models agencies contacts that we can use for the ethnicity issue. We started contacting them and we’ll continue during this week.
We decided the name, so we were able to create a Twitter account that will help to promote our project.

This data collection will finish soon, and hopefully I can concentrate better in the aesthetic of the website we are going to create.

Nicola Certo

Civil War Sound Group UPDATE

This was a busy week for the group. We explored what type of map we wanted to use for the project and how we would get it. The group considered more carefully the connection between 19th century language and locating place and time at the Battle of Gettysburg.  We crafted a letter to the moderators and archivist of the database we are using to make it easier for us to navigate and organize the search results. Myrna, as the outreach coordinator has reached out to the Brooklyn Historical Society, Professor Ari Kelman of Battle Lines, and an expert with ArcGIS. She also looked into getting in touch with historians at Fort Wardsworth. Anastasiya began to seek out larger connections to other DH projects dealing with sound and listening. Other tasks included to continue to work on and complete the sound corpus for use in scraping the database and smoothing out larger outreach efforts, including building a website, clearing up issues with twitter and Github.

Necropolis- group update

Friday morning Conn, Davide, and I spent time in a basement room of Shearith Israel’s amazing synagogue on 70th Street and Central Park West. Our tasks were to verfiy the information we had from several secondary sources and to determine which volumes from the synagogue’s offsite archives should be retrieved for further investigation. All this thanks to Conn’s diligence (and temporarily flexible schedule)!

Thankfully Conn was able to devote a significant part of the day to this work, and when he was finished he had a list of 95 members of the congregation who died between 1805 and 1830, the period the 11th Street cemetery was active. Once the archive volumes arrive, we will be able to dig deeper, as it were, to learn (we hope) who was definitely buried there, where they lived, when they were born, and other information we can glean about their lives.

Before Davide and I left, the sexton Zach Edinger gave us a tour of the synagogue’s two amazing sanctuaries, and some of its “relics” (including two millstones that are among the oldest colonial-era objects in the city). The current building dates from 1897, but most of the furnishings in the “little sanctuary” were taken from the original 18th century synagogue on (then) Mill Street.  The main space is not so little: it includes what looked to be a 60-foot ceiling, with three walls of Tiffany windows that are themselves about 25 feet tall.  Zach invited us up to the ark, where the Torahs are stored, and took one out and unwrapped it so we could examine it closely. I asked him how old their oldest Torah is. The answer: very old! It was a gift from the synagogue in Amsterdam to the first congregants in the 17th century, and was then considered to be an antique. So it’s at least 500 years old, but possibly dates from pre-expulsion Spain (i.e., before1492).

It was interesting to note the numerous resemblances – both physical and ritual – to Catholic churches. Zach pointed out that until they left Spain – and later, Portugal – most of the Jewish refugees in Amsterdam and Brazil had been forced Catholic converts, also known as “crypto-Jews.”

Taylor is jumping into the tech side of things with apparent gusto, which I am grateful for. When we started, we had all more or less expressed interest in learning more DH technologies and being involved with the design, rather than keeping to discrete roles that wouldn’t leave much room or time for learning or doing new things. I’m hoping we can build in a little overlap once things are set up, so that everyone gets to experience  something besides the main thing each of us are doing.

Personal Update!

This week I continued to work on outreach for the group. Luckily, Matt Daniels, one of the co-creators of POLY-GRAPH agreed to meet with us sometime this week to give us some guidance on the digital aspect of our project. He, like most of the fellows, warned us how contentious our project is & how difficult it is to qualify people of color. We knew this going into the project, and the purpose is not to come up with our own qualifications, it’s to observe how the industry does and does not qualify them. I don’t have high hopes about getting model statistics from agencies or casting directors, but I’m going to try up until the deadline we set for ourselves. At this point I’m banking on the fact that we might have to re-route our project.

I also set up the twitter account @skindeepNYFW for the group. I think it’s important that we have a social media presence to share thoughts, articles and updates centered around our project. We’ll be tweeting with the official hashtag for the class, but I think it’ll be cool to come up with a hashtag of our own for people outside of the classroom to be able to engage with the project.

Skin Deep at NYFW (FKA Charting Diversity at NYFW, GP #5)

ETA: We also have a temporary landing page up on WordPress:

Skin Deep at NYFW

We are happy to announce a group name and the creation of our Twitter! Please follow us at:


Last week, we were able to attend the “People Centered Digital Research at the GC” workshop hosted by GC Digital Fellows Jennifer Tang and Patrick Sweeney, who spoke about how using digital tools or digital methods either enhances meanings or changes the way we make meanings in our collection of data.

Discussions with the GC Fellows have helped us work through conceptualizing our project as well as navigate issues of race using available readings.  From one such reading, “Managing the Semiotics of Skin Tone: Race and Aesthetic Labor in the Fashion Modeling Industry” by Elizabeth Wissinger, the author indicates that existing public data on models is few and far between and what has been made available by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information on race or gender.  This is one obstacle our group faces and we’ve set ourselves a project deadline in the event that we’ll need to switch gears.  Still, there are many avenues to explore regarding the presentation and performance of race on the runway at NYFW and we are prepared to do what we can in order to tell this story.

CFP: Digital Humanities and Listening

Hi all! I’ve been eagerly following along with your progress on your projects. I wanted to share a CFP that seemed appropriate for the Civil War Sound group:

For this year’s annual “World Listening Month” Forum, we are interested in posts considering the role of “listening” in the digital humanities. How have particular digital studies, projects, apps, and online archives addressed, challenged, expanded, played with, sharpened, questioned, and/or shifted “listening”? What happens to digital humanities when we use “listening” as a keyword rather than (or alongside) “sound”?