DML Blog

Sorting & Presenting: Digital Tools for academic research

posted on 22 Jan 2013 17:39 by Nynne Christoffersen

Last summer I was interning at a textile archive in Connecticut where I conducted research for my forthcoming project on the American silk industry. I am specifically looking at the Cheney Brothers Silk Company that became the number one producer of silk fabrics in the US by 1923. The Cheney Brothers Silk Corporation, built an entire ‘silk city’ in Manchester CT, complete with the first privately owned railroad. The silk mill had its heyday before the recession and a general decrease in demand for luxury textiles as well as the arrival of modern synthetic fibers slowly forced the company to scale down its production.

Working with the Cheney archive, I was struck by the sheer volume of research material. I found myself facing a couple of thousand scraps of textiles from the company’s sample books, an abundance of original watercolor artworks for textile designs, as well as hundreds of books and documents attesting to the company history. How does a scholar of material culture deal with such a quantity of material? What to do if a majority of the material is visual data? By building my own wiki, I was able to handle and organize the vast material in the simplest possible way. With the Wiki I created especially for my project I have started to compile many different types of sources in one place: links, photographs, videos and texts are all conveniently made accessible via my wiki site.


Organizing and sharing digital content is one thing I am learning how to question, challenge and optimize in the DML. A related discipline is the challenge of presenting research. A tool that I found helpful when creating presentations is the Prezi. This integrated tool allows its users to give a multimedia-presentation using a non-linear, visually oriented, and easy to learn platform. Personally I find that one of the biggest challenges when considering technology in academic practice is the difficult of fusing or bridging the various technologies I want to use. It was therefore a revelation the first time I saw a Prezi presentation that had links, video and audio integrated with the more familiar jpg’s, and which allowed the presenter to choose her sequence of slides as she went along. Such classroom use of integrated multimedia platforms, is just one of the ways in which the BGC is prepping me for my professional future.

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Digitizing Material Culture: Reflections on my first year at the BGC

posted on 07 Jan 2013 13:33 by Nynne Christoffersen

Over the course of my first year as a student at the Bard Graduate Center, I have had the pleasure of being introduced to a number of digital tools that have challenged my idea of what academic research and presentation entails. The study of decorative arts design history and material culture necessarily concerns itself with visual communication. Scholars are faced with a broader selection of media to convey their research than ever before. Nonetheless, I found myself deeply impressed with the level of dedication towards digitalization at the BGC.

One of the first tools that I was presented with is the Wikidot-system, currently used in all of my classes. Wikis are class-integrated interactive platforms that allow both faculty and students to share content in the most intuitive and simple way. One of the most user-friendly platform I have worked with in an academic setting, the wikis invite its users to interact regardless of what prior experience they have with blogs or website-development. For me, the wiki system immediately appealed as both an interactive tool in class and a platform in which I can create my own sites.
Bradley Voytek’s interactive map is a visually compelling analysis of the frequency of rides between various neighborhoods in San Francisco. For this study, Voytek used a template form the the D3.js which is a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. D3 helps you bring data to life using HTML, SVG and CSS. D3’s emphasis on web standards gives you the full capabilities of modern browsers without tying yourself to a proprietary framework, combining powerful visualization components and a data-driven approach to DOM manipulation. (

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