DM Tools For Digital Annotation and Linking

The DM project is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant for 2013-14 by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will fund our current developmental goals (listed below), help continue our work with our partner projects, and launch the Virtual Mappa project with the British Library.


DM is an environment for the study and annotation of images and texts. It is a suite of tools, enabling scholars to gather and organize the evidence necessary to support arguments based in digitized resources. DM enables users to mark fragments of interest in manuscripts, print materials, photographs, etc. and provide commentary on these resources and the relationships among them. A principle objective in this project is to continue to develop our understanding of scholarly work processes in order to effectively support research as it is practiced now, while opening the door for new methods of scholarship to emerge.

In this phase of development, we are collaborating with several use cases in the humanities. These projects are directed by scholars from a range of fields including: English literature, art history, French literature, and musicology. Resources of interest in these projects include digitized versions of Old English, Latin, and French manuscripts and medieval maps and scrolls.

DM at its most basic is a tool for linking media. There are four types of resources with which DM permits the user to work: images, texts, and fragments of images or texts as marked out by a user. A user may create links between any combination of resources. The most common is a link from a textual annotation to the image, text, or fragment it describes. In many projects, a single annotation will reference (e.g., for comparison) fragments from several images. DM is designed to enable scholars to easily create these and other types of relationships among resources.

DM also allows users to export the linked data they create for database use. Data may be exported in a standard RDF3 (XML, TTL) format that complies with current Open Annotation Collaboration protocol.

Current Developmental Goals: In the next phase of DM development, we will be focusing primarily on the ability to: A) create and manage collections of images and texts; B) add the ability for users and groups in order to create, track and organize work by different collaborators within a working group; and C) easily "roll out" the linked and annotated data created within the DM enviroment for publishing or other interoperability. DM will use its current NEH Digital Humanities Implementation Grant to realize these goals.

For a view of new DM features in development for working with multiple manuscript repositories in the same workspace, watch this:

The video below showcases DM's core functionality for creating targeted annotations and links. Note, however, that the functional interface shown in the video has been replaced by one that allows for multi-up viewing of documents and replaces the radial menu of features with rollovers. See this screenshot for an example.

Use Cases

See the second video (the last few minutes) and images below for examples of the DM in several use cases. Projects that have used DM include:

  • Parker's Scribes: Scholars at the University of Toronto and the University of Oxford used DM to distinguish and characterize the scribes of Archbishop Matthew Parker's manuscript collection. Their approach is based on the handwriting in scribal notations appearing throughout the more than 500 manuscripts in this collection.

  • Pelagios: (various projects and institutions) Pelagios are a collective of projects connected by a shared vision of a world in which the geography of the past is every bit as interconnected, interactive and interesting as the present. Each project represents a different perspective on Antiquity, whether map, text or archaeological record, and is committed to open access and a pragmatic lightweight approach that encourages putting the Ancient World online. Pelagios is currently partnering with DM and other projects to develop rich data on medieval maps to add to an integrated database.

  • Dictionary of Old English (DOE): Using DM, scholars at the Dictionary of Old English used DM to annotate examples of textual cruxes found in manuscripts in the Parker collection. Thumbnail images and annotation text will be included in DOE entries referencing cruxes.

  • Virtual Mappa Project (Martin Foys, Drew University; Peter Barber, Kimberly Kowal, British Library; Asa Mittman, California State University-Chico): the original research initiative that led to the development of the DM Toolset. VMP is a case study in how medieval maps of the world and related geographic texts may be collected, annotated and networked, and plans to include maps from the British Library, the Parker Library (Corpus Christie College, Cambridge) and the Bodleian Library (Oxford). VMP is the beginning of a substantial project to develop a truly interoperable resource that virtually collects and displays content hosted across several digital repositories.

  • The Pompeii Quadriporticus Project (Eric Poehler, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Steven Ellis, University of Cincinnati) is using DM on iPads in the field at Pompeii to compare, mark-up, and annotate archival images of one of Pompeii's largest and longest known monumental structures. The archival record of images - paintings, drawings, lithographs, and photographs - stretches over 250 years and documents that rich history of changes to the building between its discovery and today.

  • La Chronique Anonyme Universelle jusques'à la mort de Charles VII (a translation, critical edition and detailed study of a fifteenth-century French world chronicle, to be published by Brepols Publishers in 2013) by Lisa Fagin-Davis. Dr. Fagin-Davis used DM to create an interactive digital edition of this scroll to accompany her book.

  • Insular and Anglo-Saxon Illuminated Manuscripts: An Iconographic Database, by Asa Simon Mittman (California State University, Chico). Dr. Mittman is using DM to develop a new digital edition of Thomas Ohlgren's Insular and Anglo-Saxon Illuminated Manuscripts: An Iconographic Catalogue, to expand access to, streamline the use of, and augment with digital images the original content of this invaluable print resource for medieval art historical study.

  • Scholars at Stanford University and the University of Virginia used DM to explore several research questions focused on the work of the fourteenth-century composer Guillaume de Machaut.


In addition to our use case partners, we are collaborating with the DMSTech project based at Stanford and including partners at the University of Toronto, Johns Hopkins University, St. Louis University, and Los Alamos National Lab.



DM grew out of the Digital Mappaemundi project, originally conceived by Martin Foys, first in partnership Asa Mittman and, as the project developed, Shannon Bradshaw. Digital Mappaemundi is a project exploring annotation of medieval maps and geographic texts (now the Virtual Mappa project). Through that work we realized that the tools we were building were more broadly applicable to humanities resources (and resources in other areas of study). We have since expanded the project to become the DM Resource, looking at scholarly activity across the humanities.

For a detailed overview of the first two phases of DM development, please see Bradshaw, S. and Foys, M. "Developing Digital Mappaemundi: An Agile Mode for Annotating Medieval Maps." Digital Medievalist 7 (2011).


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