Data Visualizations and Jane Addams

Last spring I had the pleasure of working with two undergraduate students, Taylor Lundeen and  Catie Olson, enrolled in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. They worked on a capstone project on data visualization, using our Jane Addams digital edition databases.  Anneliese Dehner, our web developer, helped out with the some technical aspects of the collaboration.

One of the many great things about digital publication is that the information we create can be reused and repurposed in ways that we might not have thought of. Making our data available to researchers to explore has been one of our goals from the start of our work on Jane Addams, and with this investigation we have learned what we can do fairly easily, and what is more complex.

 Accessing the Data

Our first step was to get a copy of our data exported out so that Taylor and Catie could work on it. What they found worked the best was an Omeka plugin (Omeka Rest API) that allowed them to export data in a format that worked well with data manipulation software.

Our ultimate goal is to have a utility on the digital edition that will enable users to download all or parts of the data for investigation.

One problem that reared its head immediately is that we have a very large dataset, and it is growing larger every day. This made it difficult, using the tools they had available to work with the whole set.

Natural Language Processing

One of the approaches, which Catie worked on, was seeing what we could learn from analyzing the “Text” field in our database, where transcriptions are stored. This kind of analysis can track the frequency of words, or compare word usage over time. Eventually it could be used for topic modeling, where a digital tool tries to make sense of words that appear together. These groupings can uncover connections that we sometimes don’t expect.

An important step in working with our texts was data cleaning, the process by which HTML and special characters were cleaned out and text was split word by word. Then Catie built bar charts that displayed the most common words. She built a separate chart for each year to allow us to compare years to see what Addams was thinking and writing about.

The most obvious finding to me, was that we needed to think about stop words — words that are excluded in the results because they are too common or have no analytical meaning. Articles, like “a” and “the” are common stop words– we also had to consider “page” which we use to signify the next page in our transcriptions, and, gulp, even “Hull House” because we transcribed the letterhead that Jane Addams used. Other words like “Mrs,” “Mr.” and “Miss” and salutations like “Dear” are candidates for being pulled from the analysis.

We also got to see the frequency of that nemesis of editors – “illegible.” This comes up far more frequently than I would like, but I was gratified to see that in the years where we have proofread the texts, the frequency is much lower.

It will surprise no one that “peace” and “war” shot to the top in 1915.

Frequency of words in 1915.

In 1905, the most frequent words deal more with the plight of children and represent Addams’ work on child labor and welfare in Chicago.

Frequency of words in 1905.

Catie also worked on another way to show the content of Addams’ writings, plotting the frequency of a word over time. Similar to the Google n-gram viewer that can compare the frequency of words in Google Books over time, this gives you a sense of the chronology.  We did not have the capacity at this point to allow users to type the words they want, but were able to produce n-grams for some of the most popular words.

Seen together, it is a little frightening, but on the live version on the site, you can select a single word to analyze.

The Top 50 Words, all in one place!
Tracking “peace” from 1901-1917.

The n-gram for “Illegible” shows the power of proofreading! When the data was downloaded for use, we had just finished proofreading 1915!

An n-gram of words we could not read.

Social Network Analysis

Another approach was to see what we could learn from social network analysis. Using Omeka’s Item Relations plugin, we have been tracking relationships — mostly between documents and the people, organizations, and events that are mentioned in them. We also are building connections between people and organizations, tracking which people were members of which organizations, for example, or who participated in a specific event.  We wondered whether the relationships between people and organizations might yield some interesting insights, or whether we could find other connections between people and the metadata gathered about them. Taylor was responsible for this project.

Our large dataset proved to be problematic for developing a meaningful social network based on shared connections. We think there is promise for this in future by controlling which people are included in the network, but the sheer number of people and the amount of common tags produced a daunting graph.

This plot includes only 270 Addams connections associated with Chicago. The full data on 8,000 names was too complex to load.

Instead, Taylor created a geographical visualization of Addams’s social networks related to several topics. We used our tags for movements like “Woman Suffrage,” “Child Labor,” and “Peace” and plotted their geographic locations.  Compare Addams’ Settlement Movement network and her Peace network below to see the expansion of her work internationally.

On the live version of these maps, you can zoom in and out and mouse over each dot to reveal the name of the activist.

Going Forward

It was amazing to see what two talented students could do in such a short period of time!  The experience has helped us think more about how we want to make our data accessible, and has uncovered challenges that we need to think about. Our database is large and complex and developing means to limit the queries is going to be important.

We are looking forward to working with other UMSI students and any digital humanists interested in advancing this work.

Addams Papers Joins SNAC

I am pleased to announce that the Jane Addams Papers will be joining the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Cooperative in its final phase of work. SNAC has been hosted by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and the University Library and funded by the National  Endowment for the Humanities (2010-2012) and the Andrew Mellon Foundation (2012-2017). The Cooperative seeks to improve the economy and quality of archival processing and description, and build a global social-document network using both computational methods and human curation.

I first came across the SNAC web portal when doing research for biographies for our digital edition. SNAC provides biographical information, links to archival collections, and to related people, families and organizations.

I decided that we would make SNAC one of our go-to resources for our biographies. We link all our biographies to the SNAC record to enable our researchers to locate an ever expanding list of resources on that person. SNAC imports data from finding aids, Wikipedia entries, and other sources. As we made links between our biographies and theirs, I started to wonder whether we might be able to contribute materials as well. I reached out to Daniel Pitti, the project director.

The Jane Addams Papers is not an archive, but an edition, and I wasn’t exactly certain how what we we would interact with SNAC. With only two years of work under our belts, we have identified over 4,500 individuals, who wrote letters to Jane Addams, received letters from her, or were mentioned in the documents. Our individuals range from historical figures, like Plato and Wat Tyler, to Chicago police George Shippy and John McWeeny. We have over 100 suffrage activists, including Catherine Karaveloff, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Zofia Golińska-Daszyńska. There are philosophers, criminals, homemakers, and union leaders, and over 200 social workers and welfare activists. About 60% of the names we have linked thus far are men and 40% are women.

The people who come up in Addams’  documents are primarily American, but we have increasing numbers associated with Europe and Asia as Addams broadened her reach and networks. The screen shot below of our map view of individuals will change as we deal with more of Addams’s international peace work.

 

We are looking forward to seeing how SNAC can work with data coming from our Omeka-based digital edition.  We will not be the only editing project joining at this time, the Walt Whitman Archive is also coming on board.

I will keep you posted as the work begins.

 

The Addams Papers Goes International!

Connemara, Ireland.

The Third Women’s History in the Digital World conference was held on July 6-7, 2017 at Maynooth University in Ireland and the Jane Addams Papers presented a panel on our digital edition. Editor Cathy Moran Hajo, Assistant Editor Victoria Sciancalepore, and our web developer Anneliese Dehner combined to present three aspects of “Editing Jane Addams.”

Cathy led off the panel talking about the “Big Picture: Conceiving a Digital Edition of  Jane Addams’ Papers,” providing a short history of the Addams Papers microfilm and book projects, and the process that went into deciding to digitize the microfilm edition. The decisions to be made involved thinking through the audience for the edition and what kinds of tools and resources they needed. In addition, Cathy discussed the decision to use the Omeka database-driven platform for the digital edition rather than using text encoding using XML. Going with a web-publishing friendly system allowed the Addams Papers to design a site that not only provides deep metadata, but also manages the project’s internal workflow, tracking information on each document as it passes through our permissions and copyright checks, metadata and transcription, and proofreading. Cathy also talked about her desire to see the Addams Papers edition be flexible enough that scholars and students can use its materials to build their own research projects.

Cathy talking about biographical resources.

Tori’s talk, “The Nuts and Bolts: How an Omeka-based Digital Edition Works,” brought us into the back end of the project, showing how we defined the metadata and relations between the 21,000 eventual documents, and the entries on people, organizations, publications, and events that are discussed in them. She described the use of the Items Relations Omeka plugin, which we tweaked some, to build an edition that lets users move flexibly between drafts and final versions, letters written by and to a person, and individuals who were members of an organization, or participated in an event.  She also talked about how we decided on a transcription policy.  Because we make the images of the documents available on the site, we wanted our transcriptions to be more useful as a search mechanism. We decided to standardize our transcriptions  (converting British spellings, archaic spellings, and misspellings) as long as we used brackets to signal that the editors had changed the text. Readers who want to see the original need only click to see the manuscript image. She also discussed our student workers at the Addams Papers–the engine that keeps the project moving. With editors focused on training and quality control, it is a cadre of 10-15 Ramapo College undergraduates that are entering and transcribing documents and researching and writing identifications.

Anneliese, Cathy, and Tori after the session at Kilmainham Gaol Museum

Anneliese discussed “Designing a User Interface for a Digital Edition.” Coming from the perspective of a digital library developer, Anneliese talked about her experiences working on the Jane Addams Papers and the Kentucky Civil War Governors Papers, also an Omeka site. Discussing the different values that the project had, she walked through the way that developers work with editors to configure their sites, looking at who the intended users of the site will be, the kinds of searching they will need, and how much metadata should be used for site navigation. Anneliese noted that the Addams site was interested in exposing metadata, developing spatiotemporal context for documents, and creating branching paths through the edition. The Kentucky Governors project looked to create a more linear path through documents, but were more interested in presenting transcriptions alongside images of documents.

Liz Stanley gave a keynote talk on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online

In addition to our panel session, we were able to learn about some extremely interesting projects in women’s history, both here in the U.S. and abroad. Rachel Love Monroy, Lauren N. Haumesser and Melissa Gismondi discussed the Founding Women project that seeks to build a federated documentary edition of a variety of women’s papers. Eric Pumroy spoke about Collegewomen.org, which seeks to build an inclusive resource about late 19th and early 20th century college experiences for women. Cécile Gotdon spoke about Ireland’s Military Pension Project, a fascinating look at detailed records of men and women involved in the Irish military between 1916-1923.  And Alvean E. Jones’ work to provide access of the history of St. Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in a way that makes it accessible to deaf scholars, by translating digitized material into Irish Sign Language videos. Helena Byrne discussed a project to gather a digital history of Irish women’s indoor football leagues in the 1960s. And Liz Stanley gave a wonderful presentation on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online and the difficulty of representing a person from the things left behind.

Thanks to all who attended for a fascinating time!