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Projects

Settler Colonialism Uncovered

The majority of present-day states are former colonies or colonial metropoles, a number of which were or still are settler colonies. Consequently, it is essential to know where and how such colonies formed to understand current geopolitics and to raise
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Campus Archaeology Online Exhibit

The Campus Archaeology program works to mitigate and protect archaeological resources on the MSU campus. Due to the rich history of the campus and its prehistoric beginnings, there is a high archaeological and academic value to the area.

Campus Archaeology works with multiple departments across the University to make sure that this cultural heritage is protected. Each construction project on campus that disturbs the earth is properly mitigated by CAP. Almost the entire process of completing an excavation project, from design to historical research to excavation to reporting to outreach is completed by MSU undergraduate and graduate students, advancing their education in unique ways. CAP also works to contribute to the public understanding of MSU’s cultural heritage, through contributions to academic journals, giving talks and presentations on campus, and developing outreach opportunities throughout the community. Over the past years, Campus Archaeology has done all

excavation on campus prior to any construction in order to prevent loss of MSU’s past. These digs have revealed a high number of artifacts and even old campus buildings. The Saint’s Rest excavation stands as the exemplar of the work being done through the program. Saint’s Rest excavation was a dig of the first dorm building ever created on campus in the mid-19th century.

However, the problem is that the majority of information gleaned from our continuing work across campus is in site reports or spread across a number of campus websites, none of which are easy to find. Created by Katy Meyers (PhD Student, Anthropology), the goal of the Campus Unearthed project is to unite the archaeological research papers with the images of the artifacts to create an online museum of sorts that properly highlights the work being done by the Campus Archaeology Program. The site, which is built using the Omeka platform (http://www.omeka.org) has a number of exhibits sections exploring the various excavations that have taken place, showing the impressive history of MSU from an archaeological perspective.

Visit Campus Archaeology Online Exhibit »

DHShare: A Collaborative Bibliographic Repository

At its core, the DHShare project, created by Jennifer Sano-Franchini (PhD Candidate, WRAC) is a website of thematically-organized link sources pertaining to contemporary cultural issues to serve as a resource for college-level writing students and instructors. This project draws on the layouts of existing websites like Wikipedia and delicious in that its content is driven primarily by user-contribution of links to news articles, scholarly articles, blogs, and other online media, which are arranged by individual pages pertaining to specific topics, to which users can follow, or subscribe. Unlike Wikipedia, however, the site does not include a narrative accompanying the citations; the primary resource that this website provides are the links to sources aggregated around specific issues, encouraging students and other users to formulate their own narratives from the media sources provided. In this way, individual pages put links to articles, blogs, and other kinds of pieces of a larger conversation into dialogue with one another. The content focus of the project is intellectual property – which includes history of intellectual property, copyright/copyleft, remix, read-write culture, plagiarism, fair use, torrent communities, piracy, authorship/ownership, design imitation in fashion, and intellectual property across cultures.

The rationales for this project are: 1) that huge changes in information accessibility warrant changes in the way we teach students to do research; and 2) that shifts in the broader Academy about the way we understand knowledge-production should come with some reconsiderations about what we teach students about knowledge-production. Many have written about the ways digital technology and the internet impact the way students think and process information on

fundamental levels, and a major point of discussion in education is how students today “pay attention” differently from students of the past. Writing instructors have seen some of the consequences of this shift, as many students seem to be finding it more difficult to deal with the legwork of sifting through information in the digital age.

Secondly, this project engages ongoing debates in the academy with regards to changing models of knowledge production that have come about with widespread access to the internet and other technological developments. “Old models” of knowledge production, generally consisting of single-authors doing research individually, using alphabetic text in print journals or books with slow turnover, contrast markedly from more recent developments in academia including online, open-access journals, un-conferences, and collaborative research, which are characterized by use of a range of digital media, widespread collaboration, greater access, and rapid circulation of knowledge. This shift in the broader Academy should come with some reconsiderations about the way we teach students to do research.

Therefore, while the primary goal of the project is to serve as a resource to facilitate student research as well as writing instruction in college-level composition courses, the larger purpose of the project is to facilitate more collaborative understandings of writing, research, and knowledge-making. This project does this through an interface that enables user-contributed links and user participation across institutional and geographical boundaries, accompanied by a space for users to contribute discussion questions along with separate discussion boards for instructors and students where instructors can share lesson plans and other teaching ideas and students can discuss pertinent issues across institutions. Through this project, users are encouraged to freely draw from others’ work (while, of course, citing their sources), work together to build bodies of knowledge, and add to larger ongoing conversations by discussing debatable issues pertinent to those bodies of knowledge.

Visit DHShare Website »

“Sixteen Tons”: A U.S. and South African Mineworkers’ Archive

Unfortunately, the world tends to forget the story of the working class and labor history – especially in the domain of the mining industry. This is particularly evident at many industrial museums, such as the De Beers Mining Museum in Kimberly, South African. The story of the mineworkers, their families, and their communities is hidden behind the celebrated legacy of a successful company and its founder Cecil Rhodes, whose “ambition, enterprise, and vision” helped to tame the “madness and mayhem” of the frontier. The mining museum does little to inform visitors of the dangerous and often deadly conditions that thousands of men partook in

on a daily basis, and there is no tribute from De Beers honoring the countless workers lost while in the mines.

Created by Micallee Sullivan (PhD Candidate, History) as a complement to her dissertation work, the Sixteen Tons digital archive tells the story of these workers, their families, and their communities by creating a public archive and online exhibit that documents the history of two mining towns. In Clifton-Morenci, Arizona, the copper company, Phelps Dodge created an economic and political stronghold over the community and workers that paralleled the strength of the De Beers company in South Africa. Yet, mineworkers, their families, and the communities in each of these areas modified, shaped, contested, and sometimes resisted this economic and political control. This digital archive will focus on the rank and file workers of these two mining districts both in and out of the workplace and draw attention to how workers created their own identities, communities, and forms of resistance to counter the economic and political control of two powerful mining companies.

The ultimate goal of the Sixteen Tons digital archive is to provide an educational tool for teachers and students who are interested in studying a range of topics in history including labor, migration, community, gender, citizenship, colonialism, and comparative history. Each topic that archive explores contains a written overview, photographs and primary sources, and recommended teaching topics. The project also is designed to provide accessible information on mining and labor history to a broader public audience outside of academia.

Visit Sixteen Tons online exhibit »

Oman Digital Archaeology Archive

An archaeology of the past cannot ignore the present, nor the ever-growing history between. It can, however, lose track of the historically situated twists and turns that lead to the present, and it can be lost in the development of the present – particularly when it ignores the people of the present – to the impoverishment of the past and the present. Since opening its borders to westerners in the early 1970s the Sultanate of Oman has concentrated on modernization of its infrastructure while maintaining a distinct cultural identity. Archaeological exploration is most frequently undertaken by foreign researchers, but always under the auspices and supervision of

a government body (such as the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism, or the Royal Court). At the same time that some national ministries are exploring Omani cultural heritage, others (such as the Ministry of Transportation or the Ministry of Housing) are making important decisions about how to accommodate a growing population and all-new formal health, education, and transportation systems. In a context in which archaeological sites are being destroyed faster than they are discovered, management of cultural resources – through documentation and dissemination – takes on above-average urgency.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bat, Khutm, and al-Ayn is an excellent case in point. Although it is known to have extensive archaeological remains in and beyond the site boundaries, there has been little coordination of information about the site and its surroundings, and attempts to monitor archaeological remains have been scattered, sporadic, and rarely successful.

The core content and purpose of the Oman Digital Archaeology Archive (ODAA) is the establishment of a repository for survey data collected in and around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bat in north-central Oman. In addition, the OA is built to make room for two broader levels of access and analysis: first, for the inclusion and analysis of further archaeological data (from excavation, survey, and other prospection techniques) conducted in Bat and elsewhere in the Sultanate; and second, to facilitate the development needs of an ever- growing modern population with a strong sense of history and identity. Ultimately,

Created by Charlotte Marie Cable (PhD Candidate, Anthropology), Oman Digital Archaeology Archive (ODAA) project combines the documentation of archaeological features, sites, and artifacts with an eye to cultural resource management over time. Materials included in the ODAA are raw data, field and laboratory forms, photographs and drawings, maps, published and unpublished literature and related citations, and government and UNESCO documents. To monitor change over time this digital repository is organized by “Event” (e.g., a site visit, a laboratory analysis, a monograph publication). KORA, an open source digital repository at MATRIX, is the platform upon which the repository was built and houses the ODAA. The ODAA preserves, stores, and manages archaeological data for the analysis and management of sites within a development framework.

Constructing the Ciudad Deportiva

The Ciudad Deportiva was a mix between a stadium complex and amusement park built by the Argentine soccer club Boca Júniors Fútbol Club. The project was built over seven artificial islands on sixty hectares of land filled in Buenos Aires’s Rio de la Plata. Besides an enormous 140,000-seat stadium and various athletic facilities, the project was to include an aquarium, mini-golf, mechanical rides for children, and a drive-in movie theater for 500 cars. This project combined public and private funds, embodying a new vision of middle-class consumption that fit into city planner’s designs for a modern city with ample leisure space. Yet, a combination of poor engineering, financial mismanagement, and political disputes ensured that the ambitious plans started in 1965 would be largely abandoned by the 1978 World Cup deadline. This episode is an illuminating historical case study that reveals the wider relationship between civic associations and mass consumer culture during a time of political and economic upheaval in Argentina. By studying the relationship between the state, urban citizens, and members of Boca Júniors, this project advances our understanding of the relationship between soccer and society in mid-twentieth century Argentina.

The digital repository and exhibit for this project, Constructing the Ciudad Deportiva, is developed be Alex Galarza, an History PhD candidate, and will also serve as a prototype repository and exhibit for his larger digital dissertation. Built with KORA, Constructing the Ciudad Deportiva builds from other MATRIX projects, including David Robinson’s Failed Islamic States and soviethistory.org. Constructing the Ciudad Deportiva uses images, short descriptions, and media such as oral interviews and videos to engage people with a piece of soccer’s cultural heritage in Buenos Aires and wider arguments about the role of soccer in Argentine society.

The project aims to engage fans of soccer and members of the communities in Argentina as well as historians and anthropologists interested in questions of culture and politics. Such a wide audience presents challenges a website’s ability to capture varied interests, but it also presents an opportunity to develop a model of popular and public history that can preserve a long-form argument closer to a monograph or dissertation in an online platform.

Visit Constructing the Ciudad Deportiva website »

Corridor

Twitter is an invaluable tool for scholars in the fields of cultural heritage informatics and digital humanities. It enables a network of scholarly communication fueled by an enthusiasm for inquiry, sharing, and discussion that spans geographic distance and crosses the disciplines. Twitter demonstrates incredible potential as a tool for scholarly communication within the context of academic conferences. “Livetweeting” conference sessions – sharing quotations, links, and commentary in real-time using Twitter – has become a common practice at academic conferences. Twitter users who livetweet during the conference use hashtags, keywords denoted with a “#” symbol, to categorize their tweets and link them to a common stream of information. Conference hashtags are sometimes predetermined by the organizers or developed ad hoc by the users themselves. This stream of categorized conference tweets comprises the conference backchannel. Backchannels on Twitter are utilized by conference attendees to discuss, comment, and inquire about conference talks; as well as to address

practical needs like location of food, coffee, and electrical outlets. Conference backchannels are also utilized by outside observers who could not travel to the conference and Twitter users who discover the backchannel through one of the Twitter users they follow.

Although conference backchannels can be a rich resource for attendees and observers alike, they can inhibit discourse in two ways. First, conference backchannels can become fractured when people utilize different hashtags to categorize their conference tweets. This results in the presence of discursive silos, or disunited, forked backchannels for the same conference. Second, though Twitter hashtags are used to mediate and aggregate conference tweets for scholars attending or following the event, such tweets can be inaccessible to outsiders, even if the conversation is one that interests them, because conference hashtags often look like complete nonsense (e.g. #cccc11, #cw2012, #ir11, #HASTAC2011). These two inhibitors limit the potential for productive scholarly discourse to take place in a conference backchannel.

Created by Rachael Hodder (MA candidate, Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing), the web application Corridor addresses the problems associated with Twitter backchannel communication at academic conferences by collecting and collating metadata for hashtags. Corridor serves as a reference tool for conference and social media newcomers alike by contextualizing conference hashtags and displaying user-curated metadata about specific conferences in an easy-to-use web interface. Conference metadata includes the title of the conference, location, dates, session information, disciplinary affiliations, and relevant links.

Corridor solves the problem of redundant conference hashtags. Relying on user-submitted data, the application tracks relations or connections between other hashtags used at one conference as a means of resolving redundant hashtags. For instance, conference attendees tweeted during the Conference on College Composition and Communication in 2011 using several different hashtags: the organization-approved #cccc2011, as well as ad-hoc hashtags like #cccc11 and #cccc. Redundant conference hashtags contribute to a fractured conference backchannel comprised of multiple discursive silos. The effect of these silos for conference attendees who are trying to engage via Twitter is akin to being marooned on an island alone or only a few others while the rest of the population resides on another island. Though Twitter poses great potentiality for increasing the scope of scholarly communication, discursive silos significantly complicate communications between scholars across distance and the disciplines.

Backchannels are an important discursive space for scholarly communication in the domains of cultural heritage informatics and digital humanities. Desktop and mobile applications, such as Twitter for Mac/Windows, Tweetdeck, and Tweetbot for iOS, include features that allow users to follow single hashtags, however they do not offer the tools for users to contextualize conference hashtags and coallate redundant hashtags into a single stream. The current ecology of Twitter applications and third-party tools does not fulfill the needs of academic audiences and instead,

teachers, researchers, students, and professionals are tasked with finding the right mix of tools to help them follow and participate in the conference backchannel discourse.

Corridor also includes features that enable Twitter authentication for user accounts and social or crowd-sourced moderation as a means to maintaining the metadata ecosystem. Future iterations include tools for sorting tweets by time, user, and location; metrics for measuring the rhetorical velocity of individual tweets or Twitter users; conference tag clouds based on keywords from tweets; and conference-specific density maps that demonstrate the locations of conference tweets.

QUALANTH

For qualitative researchers working with living populations, one of the most pressing issues revolves around privacy and the protection of human subjects. With recent discussions of open access, data sharing, and open data circulating within the anthropological discipline, qualitative anthropologists have often submitted IRB forms, which require explicit explanations for limiting access to their data. Outside of confidentiality concerns, data generated by qualitative anthropologists tend to come in the form of interviews with a single document reaching close to 80 pages. For example, if a research project has 65 participants, the number of pages produced would be massive and reach the thousands. This has remained one of the obstacles anthropologists interested in digitizing long form documents with useful search mechanisms have faced. Other questions include: Which identifiers with the interviews need to be removed without significantly changing the presented material? How do medical anthropologists deal with the collection of sensitive medical information and how much of this should be included? The QUALANTH (qualitative anthropology) project seeks to address these issues through the construction of a digital repository that will attempt to embody these concerns.

Created by Fayana Richards (Graduate Student, Anthropology), the QUALANTH digital repository project involves the collection, digitization, and organization of materials such as interview transcripts and field notes. The repository will also host multimedia content such as photos, audio and video. Another important aspect of the repository will be the inclusion of supplementary material, such as project bios, interview guides, consent forms and code books, which will help contextual the primary materials (e.g. interviews). Built using KORA, an open source digital repository platform, QUALANTH will incorporate the conservation of materials with digitization while promoting scholarly collaboration and accessibility. While the primary goal is to have submitted data as open as possible, QUALANTH will be constructed with different levels of access depending on the permissions granted by the contributing authors of the submitted documents.

Outside of the construction of a digital repository, a supplemental white paper was written that discusses methods and best practices for constructing a data repository for qualitative data. Using QUALANTH as a model, the white paper includes discussions about confidentiality and intellectual property. Ultimately, the main purpose of the white paper is to encourage conversations about these issues within the anthropological discipline.

The purpose of QUALATH is to stimulate conversations about open access among anthropologists as well as to facilitate submissions of material to platforms, such as digital platforms, in an effort to increase data sharing among researchers at all levels.

Talus

Forensic anthropologists work with human skeletal remains to determine identity of unknown individuals and recognize evidence relating to the circumstances of death. They use of a variety of methods to determine aspects of an individual’s biological profile such as sex, age, stature, and ancestry. The methods most commonly used have been peer-reviewed and independently tested; practitioners are confident in and familiar with the established methods. The peer- reviewed and empirically tested methods are also the only ones accepted in court under the Daubert standard for scientific evidence. For ethical and legal reasons, forensic casework involving active investigations (e.g., homicide or positive identification of a John/Jane Doe) cannot be discussed. Forensic anthropologists, unsurprisingly, remain internally focused rather than open to sharing.

The commonly used analytical tools in biological profiling methods include regression equations, component analysis, and phase analysis. Such methods are published in scholarly journals, but each article contains the necessary information (e.g., what measurements to take, what equations to plug them into, and the accuracy and error of resulting estimates) spread throughout an extensive report. Buikstra and Ubelaker’s Standards for data collection from human skeletal remains, the acknowledged comprehensive guide in the field, is almost 20 years old and is not absolute.

However, the integration of the traditions of human osteology with contemporary user-friendly, readily accessible platforms is critical to the growth of forensic anthropology as a field. As some researchers in forensic anthropology trend towards the use of three-dimensional imagers, Elliptical Fourier Analysis, and other new, statistically complex techniques, the path is open to bring older, trusted methods into the twenty-first century. Talus also broadly appeals to

bioarchaeologists and paleoanthropologists hoping to determine biological profile on skeletal remains. Talus is the first mobile application for forensic anthropology that aids in the development of the biological profile of an unidentified individual.

Created by Emily Niespodziewanski (PhD Student, Anthropology), Talus compiles dozens of the most commonly used bioprofiling methodologies into one easy-to-navigate application, allowing forensic anthropologists to analyze a skeleton without the usual assortment of hard copies of articles and books. All sources are cited – Talus is a reorganization and new presentation of trusted material, not the creation of untested information or methods.

Visit Talus mobile website »

Composing In/With/Through Archives: An Open Access, Born Digital Edited Collection

In 2008, Kate Eichorn wrote: “To write in a digital age is to write in the archive.” She reflects on how the ubiquitous nature of “the archive” may be “inflected in our writing, especially in emerging genres of writing.” In other words, archives have changed the way we compose – our writing and ourselves – in a digital age. We are composing and being composed by archives. Additionally, while the pervasive nature of archives is generally acknowledged among humanities scholars working in the digital realm, there does not seem to be a general consensus about what digital archives are or how they differ from digital libraries, collections or repositories.

The open access, born digital edited collection Composing In/With/Through Archives explores these issues, contributing to discussions about the archival turn in humanities scholarship

The edited collection is interested (but certainly not limited to) the following questions:

  • How are we theorizing digital archives?
  • How are we drawing from the work of digital archivists as we build our own archives and conduct digital archival research?
  • How do digital archives mediate how we write/compose?
  • How do we differentiate between digital archives/repositories/libraries? Why are these distinctions important?
  • What is the role/function/purpose of archives within the digital humanities?
  • How are digital archives being used for cross/interdisciplinary work?
  • How are digital archival objects material? What is the value in thinking of such objects as material entities with complex histories and identities of their own?
  • How do we build complex digital archives that describe and house objects? How do we provide access to such digital objects?
  • How are scholars decolonizing archives? How can we build more archives along the lines of the Trust and Technology project developed in Australia?
  • How do we build participatory digital archives (such as the project being developed by Liza Potts: http://www2.matrix.msu.edu/2012/09/upcoming-project-in-participatory-memory-will-focus-on-creating-interactive-digital-archives/)?
  • How are digital archives being used by activists for social justice projects?
  • How are digital archives theorized differently from material archives?
  • What opportunities for decolonization do digital archives afford?
  • How can digital archives make the process of selection and display transparent?

This born digital edited collection is published using CommentPress, a WordPress plugin designed to support rich, fine grained, and sustained discussion around scholarly works. The collection includes an editors’ introduction and two sections: The first section –“Theorizing Digital Archives”–  defines what digital archives are and how they have helped shape the humanities in the past few decades. The second section – “Working with Digital Archives” – contains case studies describing authors’ work with particular digital archives and the affordances and challenges of working with such archives.

Visualizing Adderall

From vitamins to painkillers to psychotropic drugs, consuming pills has become a normalized and even expected part of life for many Americans. In 2010, US pharmaceutical sales topped $300 billion dollars and continue to be one of the most profitable industries in the nation. This unprecedented incorporation of prescription drugs into daily life has been referred to by Anthropologists as “pharmaceuticalization” – a complex process that is reshaping the way we think about our health, our bodies, our relationships, and our own identities.

The Visualizing Adderall project is designed to explore and understand the dynamic ways pharmaceuticals are understood and integrated into everyday American culture. As its name suggests, the project is focused specifically on prescription stimulants used to treat the symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This includes brands like Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta, Focalin, etc. which are commonly prescribed to adults who suffer from this condition. While these pharmaceuticals serve as effective medications for many patients, they have also assumed alternative identities as recreational drugs and most notably, as “study aids” for college students. Non-medical users claim that drugs like Adderall provide them the energy, motivation and focus needed to complete academic work. Despite the medical and legal risks involved with unsupervised use of these drugs, prevalence rates have been recorded as high as 35% and continue to grow.

Although Adderall is an inanimate object, it does not exist in a vacuum. It operates in biomedical, social, and academic worlds and as a result, takes on multiple meanings in American Culture.

Pharmaceuticalization, and in particular, the normalization of Adderall use among college students is a topic of significant interest among scholar, educators, scientists, healthcare professionals and the general public. Each stakeholder is interested in a different part of the drug behavior: prevalence rates, impacts on cognitive function, medical side effects, expectations of performance, etc. However in order to truly understand Adderall’s role in the modern society, it is important to consider all of these facets concurrently. Thus, one of the biggest obstacles to understanding the social life is Adderall is being able to capture its complexity through any one set of data.

Additionally, the ways in which Americans understand and exchange information about pharmaceuticals like Adderall are changing rapidly. In particular, students are relying on pharmaceutical advertising, internet forums, discussion boards, and social media as mediums to interpret and share their own pharmaceutical experiences.

To address these issues, Visualizing Adderral’s main foucs is a suite of data visualizations, including interactive maps displaying the geo-location of Adderall-centered tweets, data based timelines of adderall scandals in professional sports, and data driven charts of adderall focused language in social media such as Instagram. Ultimately, the goal of the visualizations are to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the social life of the drug.

Beyond the immediate focus on Adderall, the project is intended to be a platform to explore any number of pharmaceuticals or medical technologies. Once could easily imagine it being applied to anything from birth control pills to marijuana. As a result, Visualizing Adderall has significant potential in helping Americans comprehensively view the social lives of medical objects and access multiple forms of data in one centralized location.

History of Soccer in Zambian Towns

The History of Soccer in Zambian Towns project explores the political and social history of football in Zambia from the 1940s to the present. Drawing on archival and oral sources, the project focuses specifically on ten towns, each of which are connected by the main rail line in
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Digitizing & Localizing Radical History

The Digitizing and Localizing Radical History project is motivated by an interest in researching, investigating, and understanding the dynamics of space as it is shared by individuals and groups who are connected and disconnected in a variety of ways. Further, the project is interested in the

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Tumulus Mapping Project

The tumuli (burial mounds) of northern Albania appeared suddenly on the Shkodër plain around the start of the Bronze Age (ca. 3000 BC). The ongoing Projekti Arkeologjikë i Shkodrës (PASH), which is co-directed by Drs. Michael Galaty (Millsaps College) and Lorenc Bejko (University of  Read More

Shakespeare’s Shadows

In the late 1500’s-early 1600’s, England experienced an explosion of plays written, performed, and attended. Concurrently, England witnessed an influx in the publication of artistic manuals.

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Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative Projects

At the core of the Cultual Heritage Informatics Initiative is a strong ethos of building – the idea that one can acquire a deeper understanding of tools, technologies, platforms, and systems (both in terms of application and broader implications) through development.  Both the CHI Graduate Fellowship Program and Fieldschool are intensely project oriented. Students learn digital cultural heritage methods by building tools, applications, and digital user experiences. The added benefit is that students also have the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the cultural heritage community.