New Version of Digital Portobelo Featured in Carolina Arts & Sciences Magazine

Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation” is featured in the latest edition of the Carolina Arts & Sciences Magazine (read the online version of the article). The release of this article comes with the migration of Digital Portobelo to DH Press version 2.0.

gallery viewThe updated version of Digital Portobelo features a new Gallery visualization, build from our Topic Cards entry point. In addition to the familiar conceptual map, the Gallery View features cards for each interview. Each card represents an excerpt of an interview, with a corresponding image. The resulting visualization is a vibrant, dynamic snapshot of the collection. Cards can be sorted by a range of values, which results in a visual rearranging of the gallery. Moreover, cards can be filtered on a number of meaningful categories of analysis, including Interviewee Name, Themes, Time Period, Congo Spaces, and Congo Identity. Selecting aspects for filtering the gallery will narrow the number of cards displayed at a particular moment. Clicking on a card allows you to listen to all of the audio while reading the corresponding English and Spanish transcripts.

The migration of Digital Portobelo highlights some of the robust capacities of DH Press 2.0. Look for the release of version 2.5 — along with many new visualizations — in the coming months!

Special thanks to Charlotte Fryar for her hard work on the project migration.

Preview of DH Press 2.5

With the overhaul of DH Press for its 2.0 release this past summer, subsequent development of our digital humanities visualization toolkit has been speeding up. Later this fall, we’ll release version 2.5. In the meantime, here’s an overview of the new visualizations DH Press 2.5 will support.

In addition to maps and the topic card views that we introduced with v. 2.0, we are in the process of adding 4 new visualizations and some extensions of current functionality.


Pinboard View

Test Pinboard using cover art for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Users will be able to load an image as a background image, and then “pin” content (markers) to the board. This will function similar to the map, which uses latitude/longitude pairs to pin markers to a base map. In this case, markers will be associated with points on the image using X,Y coordinates (which can be determined from MS Paint, Mac Preview, or other tools that enable image editing).

In addition, DH Press 2.5 will support the addition of SVG layers on top of the Pinboard (similar to our map overlays). This can be used to annotate images, create additional visual cues, and give project admins more powerful customization of the visualization.

We are also working to incorporate animation of the SVG layers in the Pinboard view. Associating SVG layers with points in an audio or video file will allow various SVG elements to turn on/off in synchronization with audio. This would allow project admins to provide a more guided tour of the visualization.


Timeline View

Sample timeline view

Many users have been asking for a timeline view for a while now. We are currently testing such an implementation. For this version of DH Press, the timeline will be a standalone visualization, but we hope to someday integrate it with the maps so that we can visualize space and time together. Details about how to configure temporal data will be available along with the 2.5 release.

Basic Networking Visualization

Given the DIL’s work mapping people in the past, we have begun to develop basic visualizations for creating network graphs. For now, we can do a basic flat tree map, similar to a genealogical family tree, as well as a segmented wheel. We are also working on a third visualization for large data sets.

Facet Flow

This visualization allows you to show connections between different facets — or attributes — of your data. In all of our other visualizations, we can only display one aspect of the data (this is the active legend). Facet flows allow you to show two or more dimensions of your data at the same time, by visualizing dynamic connectors between facets. This illustration shows two dimensions of data — type of object, and materials used to create the object. Users can invert the dimensions, and mousing over displays a count of objects, which corresponds to the thickness of the connector. A list of relevant data points are displayed below the visualization when a thread is selected. Clicking on a data point will pull up the global modal lightbox with additional information. This visualization will be particularly helpful for projects with very large data sets.

A facet flow connecting type of object with materials used to create the object.

Audio/Transcript Widget Enhancement

YouTube Widget

Embedded YouTube video using our audio/transcript tool.

Finally, we are working to enhance the audio/transcript widget, which allows us to sync SoundCloud audio files with textual transcripts. We expect that the new release of DH Press will support YouTube video files, synced to textual transcripts.





Look for these and other exciting enhancements in DH Press 2.5,
which should be released by the end of 2014.


Unbuilt Blue Ridge Parkway Featured in New Publication

The Unbuilt Blue Ridge Parkway, a collaborative project between Anne Whisnant’s HIST 671 and the DIL’s Graduate Practicum in Digital Humanities (Fall 2013), is featured in the debut issue of The American Historian, a new publication of the Organization of American Historians. OAH members receive the print publication as part of their membership.

Check out the project here.

Unbuilt Parkway

DH Press 2.0 is Here!

We’ve been hard at work on DH Press since the release of the Beta 1.0 version in April 2013. In the past year, we’ve launched our pilot project, Mapping the Long Women’s Movement, transitioned to a new Lead Developer for the toolkit, and collaborated on six new DH Press projects (in addition to a proof of concept created by the first class of our Graduate Practicum in Digital Humanities), with many more in progress.

Now, I am pleased to announce the release of DH Press 2.0. This latest version includes many enhancements, both to the administrative backend and to the front-end user interface. This blog post outlines the major features of 2.0. For a complete list, please consult the Release Notes on GitHub or our revamped documentation (still a work in progress).

We’ve created a test project to demonstrate all of the features of DH Press 2.0. You can grab the data and play in your own WordPress site.

Improving Visualizations

Broadly speaking, we’ve done a lot to improve on and expand the data visualizations DH Press offers. In the process, we’ve added more customization for our admin users, giving them more control over how they can present their projects to their users.


To begin, we’ve made it easier to customize the look of your DH Press project. Modals (lightbox popups) can be set to five sizes (from Tiny to X-Large). For projects that embed large images, or an audio file and transcript, the modal might be configured on the larger side. Projects containing small amounts of textual data may opt for a smaller modal to cut down on unnecessary white space.

Additionally, user admins may now customize the display name for the green linkout buttons that appear at the bottom of the modal. Users may elect to use one, two, or no linkouts. They can also specify whether links are opened in the current browser tab or in a new one.

Enhancements to the Map Interface

We’ve improved the look and feel of the maps. In addition to streamlining the interface, we’ve added some further functionality to bolster the user experience and, hopefully, make the visualization more intuitive. Our maps now display the project name (top left of screen), and include a map reset button along with our zoom in/out controls (upper right of map). This button resets the original map center and zoom level, which is handy if users get lost while exploring the map.

We’ve also added a customizable map exit button to help users leave the map (the “home” button). Project admins may select the display text for the map exit button, as well as the redirect link.

Help Tips

We’ve also rethought those pesky pre-set map tips that pop up every time the map is launched (we opted not to use cookies to disable the pop up for returning site visitors). We’ve moved from displaying lots of individual pop-ups to a single map tip modal (lightbox). Project admins create a regular WordPress page and then specify that page as the map tips page in the settings. That link shows up in the top right corner of the entry point. When users click on the link, a help lightbox will pop up over the visualization, rather than taking users to a new help page. Not only can admins customize their visualization help tips, but they can provide broader help and contextualization for their site visitors, guiding users through the project in a way that makes sense to the unique and individualized requirements of that particular project.

Two Maps in One Interface

two-map-viewMoreover, we’ve added the capability of comparing two maps side-by-side, as our Lebanese project demonstrates. This is a critical feature that allows users to draw comparisons across maps. In the Lebanese project, users can compare patterns of settlement across time and space. For instance, users can elect to see the 1920 and 1930 maps for Goldsboro to see change over time in one place, or they can look at the 1930 maps for Wilmington and Winston-Salem, to draw comparisons across space. We’ve designed this feature to work with any combination of visualizations; we expect to adapt this feature as more visualizations come online, enabling users to display a map on one side and, say, a timeline on the other side.

To set up a two-map view, simply create a new page and (working in “Text” mode) copy in the following modified HTML code: <iframe style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;bottom:0;height:100%;” src=”INSERT-YOUR-MAP-LINK=-HERE” width=”50%”></iframe><iframe style=”position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;height:100%;” src=”INSERT-YOUR-MAP-LINK-HERE” width=”50%”></iframe>

Map Library and Map Functionality

DH Press 2.0 features several improvements to the Map Library. First, we’ve moved away from OpenLayers and over to Leaflet for basic map functionality.

We’ve added the number of base map layers available. Base maps now include: Google, Open Street Map, two versions of MapQuest, and a blank map layer. Project admins may also set the opacity of a base map to fade it out. Site visitors will still be able to adjust the map layer opacity manually.

Furthermore, we’ve split the Map Library into two different CSV files — base maps and NC overlay maps. All users must install the base maps, but only projects requiring the CDLA’s historic NC maps need install the second map library.

Currently, we cannot yet support TMS maps, but hope to get that online for version 2.5 or 3.0.

Multiple Visualizations

We also have the ability to create multiple visualizations on a single set of data. In previous implementations of DH Press, you could only create a single map per project. So if you wanted a project to have two different maps (each mapping different attributes in your data), you would have two options: either re-load the data twice and create two distinct maps, or segment your data into mini-sets, and import each one into its own project with its own map (which we did in the Lebanese project). Either approach is problematic; the former approach leads to an unnecessary duplication of data; the latter forces the admin to configure multiple projects. And in both cases, it makes bulk editing the data in DH Press more difficult.

With 2.0, you can create multiple visualizations on one set of data – as many maps as you like! Or you can add multiple instantiations of our new topic card visualization. Each visualization will have its own unique sub-URL. Check out our demo project to see how it works.

New Visualization

Topic Card Visualization

Topic Card Visualization

Most importantly, DH Press offers a second type of data visualization (in addition to geo-spatial visualizations — i.e., maps). We now support “Topic Cards” visualization, which is something like Pinterest for Digital Humanities.

Here’s how it works: when users configure their data types (“motes”) they create global legends (assign colors or icons; to use both simply create two versions of the mote). These color assignments are applied globally to all entry point visualizations. Rather than create the legend when setting up an entry point, you create the legend when configuring your motes. Then you simply select whatever legends you want to show up in a given entry point (some or all). The same holds true when configuring your modal lightbox. So, if a particular value for a given category is represented by a green map marker, the topic card will likewise appear in the same shade of green. And, when a user clicks on either a map marker or a topic card, he/she will see the same custom fields (“motes”) in the “modal” (information pop-up window).

Admin users can specify what motes show up in the topic card (before opening the modal). The cards tilt slightly when they a mouse hovers over them. We’ve also incorporated handy sort/filter operations for the topic cards (defined by the admin when configuring the entry point). So you can shuffle and sort the view of the cards based on an attribute of the data, and you can filter to see a subset of the cards.

Additionally, you can specify the size of the topic cards: thin, medium, or wide height/width (in any combination) or you can set it to automatic. When set to automatic, DH Press re-sizes the cards based on the amount of content displayed. This produces irregularly-sized topic cards. We recommend that set either height or width to automatic, but not both.

Audio/Transcript Tool Enhancements

Side-by-side display of Spanish and English transcript

Side-by-side display of Spanish and English transcript

In a previous post, I discussed how we’ve improved the audio/transcript tool in several key ways. First, the transcript now displays as scrolling text, both in the modal and in the full transcript view. In addition, site visitors may now specify the width of the transcript iframe in the full transcript view (by a simply dragging action), thereby controlling how much text they see. This will help users explore the transcript.

Secondly, we’ve added the capability to display two transcripts side-by-side. This was especially important for our Digital Portobelo project, in which we wanted to deliver Spanish and English versions of the transcripts. In theory, any language that can be encoded as Unicode UTF-8 should work in our tool. And, in cases where only some of the interviews within a given project require dual transcript display, DH Press will automatically default to a single transcript view if a second version does not exist (as this example from Digital Portobelo illustrates).

In a future release, we hope to expand the Audio/Transcript even more, this time focusing on the media component. Currently, we only support streaming audio from SoundCloud, but we would like to expand streaming to other third party providers. Moreover, we hope to expand the type of media supported in the tool, to include videos (streamed from YouTube) and more static media content, such as images (for example, a digital representation of a diary, with the accompanying textual transcription). (No word yet on how long it will take to add these features.)

Check out our 2.0 Demo Project, which uses streaming music and accompanying lyrics (processed as timestamped transcripts), in our first experiment with audio/text other than oral history material.

Technical Specifications and Admin Improvements

Though your site visitors might not notice it, we’ve also made it easier to manage DH Press from a technical perspective. We’ve cleaned up the code, streamlined it, commented it out (in line documentation), and implemented a new JavaScript library. Check out a recent blog post by our developer, Michael Newton, which explains some of these changes.

No Additional Plugins Required

Our initial beta version required three additional plugins to be installed before DH Press could be functional; those plugins are now incorporated into the tool so that no additional plugins are required. While project admins may likely want to install additional plugins, such PDF Embed plugins, or Usernoise for feedback, to extend their projects even fuller, these plugins are not mandatory.

Resolving Data Issues

In the process of streamlining the code, we’ve also paved the way for future extension of the tool. We’ve also worked to resolve some of the data conflicts we noticed in early beta testing. While most users probably didn’t encounter such conflicts in their projects, those who want to create multiple DH Press projects (using similar data) in a single WordPress site would have run into problems when creating legends, including the creation of erroneous duplicates and ghost categories, as well as repeating colors for similar legend values across projects. We’ve resolved most of the problems, and are continuing to improve how DH Press handles data.

We’ve also added new and reconfigured existing data types to help cut down on user error during the mote creation process.

Data Type Function
Short Text Used for creating legends; recommended not to exceed 32 characters
Long Text Used for all other text, including csv_post_post, as well as html (such as img src html embed code); can be used for any content with html embed code, such as YouTube video, Google Street View
Lat/Lon Coord Geocordinates for map markers
Image Image URL for display in modal*
Link To Links to external website using target:blank function; no embed code required (just a URL)
SoundCloud Link to SoundCloud audio file for the audio/transcript tool
Transcript Link to Transcript .txt file (from your site’s Media Library) for transcript
Timestamp Start/End timestamp for audio/transcript tool

*Technically, these images will also render on a post page, but if you want to include multiple images, we recommend using HTML embed code. This can be implemented by creating a separate field of data in your spreadsheet, and using the <img src> tags. This way you can add any number of images, and include additional content, such as line breaks and captions, all through basic HTML.

WordPress Themes

We’ve also been working to decouple the plugin from any particular WordPress theme. The 1.0 version could only work with Twenty Twelve, but 2.0 is a bit more theme independent. Not every theme will work with DH Press, and we plan to spend some time developing a list of recommended themes. Please note that visualizations will likely not load in an incompatible theme. For users who wish to experiment with themes, please contact us at to share your progress.

Error Checking

We have improved error checking for user admins. In the initial plugin, there was no indication of problems in the project settings interface. For example, if a user neglected to specify a lat/long mote for the markers, it would be very difficult to diagnose why the map visualization wouldn’t work. We’ve identified several critical configuration errors that might break the visualization to assist users in determining user-generated errors. This will make project creation easier for our users, especially those new to the toolkit.

Moreover, we’ve added a testing panel in the project configuration/settings section of DH Press. You can run this to check your data. Currently, DH Press can check for lat/long and timestamp data types.

Kiosk Mode

We’ve added a new Kiosk Mode for projects requiring site-specific delivery, as in the case of our Mapping Early NC Lebanese Households project, which is being displayed on a 27” touch tablet in the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh (February-August, 2014). Kiosk Mode enables project admins to optimize their projects for tablets, and improve the user experience for site visitors. Kiosk Mode includes a site timeout (to refresh the browser after a specified period of inactivity), a choice of opening links in a new browser tab or the same one (we often want to constrain our users’ ability to navigate off the project website when viewing the project on site), and a custom theme that includes a larger navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.

Leaving any of the timeout fields blank (either for the entire site or for the DH Press project visualization) will default to no timeout. Kiosk mode may be activated for projects that are not intended for site-specific delivery.

Global Options

Kiosk mode is part of many other Global Settings for DH Press, which are configured not in the DH Press section of the dashboard, but under Settings (Settings > DH Press Options). Users can:

  • Set up a site tip page (global help for all visualizations)
  • Set a site timeout (good for site-specific projects; if one user walks away, the project resets after a period of inactivity so that the next user is not confused)
  • Set a redirect URL (where should the site re-set to? The Home page? The Entry Point?)
  • Set a Kiosk Launch Page
  • Enter Kiosk Mode to add the navigation bar to the bottom of the screen for easier exploration and maneuvering
  • Configure Kiosk User Agents to enable Kiosk mode on certain types of devices (leave blank if enabled for all devices)
  • Block external links (specify the URLs) to keep people from leaving the webpage; ideal for site-specific tablets that have their keyboard disabled (keeps users from checking email or accidentally leaving the DH Press project)
  • Display DH Press credits at the bottom of the screen
  • Set up screensaver, such as an image gallery


Because we’ve been able to ramp up development and shorten our development cycles, we’ve begun implementing plugin versioning. This enables us to maintain a stable version of the plugin, while also releasing more experimental (and possibly buggy) versions in rapid succession. We will push new versions to GitHub as often as we can. But users will have the freedom to decide if, and when, they want to upgrade the plugin. In this way, they can quarantine their existing projects to prevent potential residual problems that may arise when upgrading.

DH Press 2.0 should work in WordPress 3.8.3 and 3.9.1, and is compatible with PHP 5.3 and 5.4.

A Final Note to Admin Users

While I’ve tried to cover the major changes to DH Press, we recommend that all admin users read the release notes for 2.0 on GitHub before installing or updating the plugin.

Additionally, given the rapid pace of this most recent development cycle, we are still in the process of updating our user documentation, which we’ve been busily overhauling. We’ll also be adding short demos, and streamlining the documentation to make it more succinct and easy to navigate. We expect the bulk of the revisions to be done over the summer, and ask for your patience as we redesign our documentation.

Finally, we have spent a good deal of time trying to develop a more sustainable solution for users interested in exploring and playing with the tool. Our existing Sandbox has been difficult to maintain, and has been taxing on our servers. We are considering moving away from a hosted Sandbox space, and instead providing users with a short-term, temporary account to help them decide whether they want to adopt DH Press. We would then provide documentation to help users obtain their own WordPress installation in their own server environment (typically through third-party web hosting services) for long-term use. We’re not yet certain we’ll pursue this route or not, but we’ll continue to post updates as we develop a new Sandbox policy.

No matter what, you can install the plugin on your own hosted sites. Simply grab the latest stable release version by clicking the “download zip” button. Then, upload the zipped file directly to WordPress: Plugins > Add New > Upload. WordPress will do the rest!

We’re excited about these improvements to DH Press, which we think make it an even more user-friendly and intuitive digital humanities toolkit. We hope you’ll agree.

Please share your thoughts with us, send us new feature requests, or let us know how you’re using the tool. You can email us at or follow us on GitHub and Twitter (@dh_unc).


Thanks to all members of the DH Press team, past and present, who have helped us along the way, as well our countless Practicum students and graduate interns for helping us to test the tool. We were sad to lose our original programmer, Joe Hope, who has left RENCI. Special thanks to Michael Newton, who assumed lead programmer responsibility this Spring, and Olivia Dorsey, who has spearheaded the documentation overhaul.

Public Launch of Digital Portobelo

Renee Alexander Craft, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Curriculum in Global Studies, and one of two inaugural DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows, publicly launched her digital humanities project, Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation. This collaborative project was built with the Digital Innovation Lab using DH Press.

Renee Alexander CraftThe project was unveiled at a two-part lecture/presentation, “The Devil is in the Details: Engaged Qualitative Research and the Digital Humanities.” This launch event focused on the “front stage” and “behind the scenes” processes that created Digital Portobelo, an interactive online collection of ethnographic interviews, photos, videos, artwork, and archival material that illuminate the rich culture and history of Portobelo — a small town located on the Caribbean coast of the Republic of Panama best known for its Spanish colonial heritage, its centuries old Black Christ festival, and an Afro-Latin community who call themselves and their cultural performance tradition “Congo.”

In the first part of the event, Alexander Craft talked about how she came to study Portobelo, how her research has evolved over time, and how she developed the digital project in tandem with her monograph, When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in 20th Century Panama. She shared triumphs and challenges, and stressed the deeply collaborative nature of her work.

In the second part, Pam Lach, Project Manager for Digital Portobelo, deconstructed the project, revealing the processes and workflows developed to create the project. Her PowerPoint, along with all additional resources for those interested in creating similar digital oral history projects, is available at and

This project received support through an inaugural Digital Innovation Lab/Institute for the Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship, a program of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, which is supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Check out Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation!

DIL’s Lebanese Migration Project Opens at Museum of History

Mapping Early NC Lebanese HouseholdsThe Digital Innovation Lab has created a new project which opens February 22 at the North Carolina Museum of History as part of the “Cedars in the Pines – The Lebanese in North Carolina: 130 Years of History” exhibit. Mapping Early NC Lebanese Households uses DH Press to visualize Lebanese households in select North Carolina cities from 1900 to 1930, allowing visitors to explore the geography of Lebanese communities and learn more about Lebanese immigrants, their families, and others — such as boarders — with whom they lived. Additional features — including Household Spotlights — delve deeper into the stories of particular families, providing narratives of their experiences as immigrants in North Carolina in the early twentieth century.

Mapping Early NC Lebanese Households was created in collaboration with the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies at North Carolina State University and RENCI. It is both a website and an interactive digital component of the “Cedar in the Pines” exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History. The exhibit will from from February 22, 2014 through August 31, 2014.

Special thanks to everyone who made this possible, especially:
Stephanie Barnwell, Project Manager
Joe Hope (RENCI), Web Developer
Michael Newton, DH Press Lead Developer
And all of our undergraduate and graduate practicum students who have contributed to the project over the years.

Check out the digital project |  Learn more about the exhibit

Postscript: The project team was on hand for the Opening Reception on Friday, February 21. We had the opportunity to talk to members of the Lebanese-American community, guide them through the project, and help them find their ancestors among the many maps in our project. It was an incredible honor to be included in the evening, and we learned a lot about how to make the project even better.


DH Press Recognized in the 2013 DH Awards

I am thrilled to announce that DH Press came in as Second Runner Up in the “Best DH Tool or Suite of Tools” category for the 2013 Digital Humanities Awards. 511 votes were cast in our favor. This public recognition reflects the hard work and dedication of the entire DH Press Team, past and present, without whom the we would not have gotten this far.

DH Press Project Team
Project Manager: Pam Lach
Developers: Joe Hope (RENCI), Michael Newton (DIL/CDHI)
Current Project Team: Stephanie Barnwell
Past Members of Project Team: Jade Davis, Bryan Gaston, Chien-Yi Hou, with contributions from Joe Ryan (ITS Research Computing)
DIL Director: Robert Allen

And a big thanks to our Clients and Partners: Renee Alexander Craft (Communication Studies and DIL/IAH Faculty Fellow), Seth Kotch (Southern Oral History Program), Michelle Robinson (American Studies), Anne Whisnant (History/American Studies), and the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies at NCSU. Check out their projects!

Look for more good things to come with the upcoming release of DH Press 2.0!

DH Press Audio/Transcript Widget

DH Press’s audio/transcript widget offers a dynamic way of exploring oral histories and other audio material. Users can listen to interviews while simultaneously reading the corresponding textual transcript, explore individual excerpts, or listen to interviews in their entirety. Read more.

Side-by-side display of Spanish and English transcript

Side-by-side display of Spanish and English transcript

Through the DIL’s collaboration with UNC-CH Communications Studies Professor Renee Alexander Craft in 2013, DH Press was updated to support bilingual oral history delivery, a feature developed for her DIL/IAH Fellows project, Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation.  For her project Craft not only needed to support Spanish language oral histories, she also wanted the interviews to be accessible to Spanish and English speakers. Pam Lach and Michael Newton worked with her to develop the capacity to display two transcripts, side-by-side, for every streaming audio file (which required producing two unique transcripts for every interview, one in Spanish and the other in English). In this way, users can read the Spanish and English transcripts as they listen to the (mostly) Spanish interviews. And in the case of interviews where only one transcript exists (as with Sandra Eleta, for which no Spanish transcript currently exists), DH Press defaults to displaying just the one transcript.

They also made the transcripts easier to read by adding a scrollable box of transcript text that appears just below the audio.


DIL Seeks a Graduate Research Associate

Feb 20 Update: We are no longer accepting applications for this semester, but graduate students interested in working with us in the future may submit a letter of interest and CV/Resume to Lab Manager Pam Lach.

The Digital Innovation Lab (DIL) at UNC-Chapel Hill seeks a graduate student (masters or PhD level) to join our team in the Spring 2014 semester. This individual will work 15 hours per week in the spring semester, and will be expected to continue in the position over the summer (additional summer hours may be possible), and beyond. He/she will contribute to our growing portfolio of public digital humanities projects, including contributing to the ongoing development of DH Press, a WordPress-based digital humanities visualization toolkit.

Anticipated job duties include:

  • Updating and reformatting existing DH Press user documentation
  • Management of ongoing and new DH Press projects
  • Working with and coordinating DIL staff, including
    • Undergraduate student workers
    • Graduate Practicum students


Candidates must be graduate students currently enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Candidates must have experience working in WordPress and a demonstrated interest in digital humanities. Project management experience, as well as a working knowledge of one or several programming languages (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and Ajax, Python) is desired.

Preference for candidates who can commit beyond Summer 2014.

About the DIL

Launched in July 2011, the DIL is a project-focused hub for collaborative, interdisciplinary discovery, experimentation, implementation, and assessment in the use of digital technologies to advance the work of the University in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The DIL’s work seeks to lower the barriers of access (time, money, and technological) for humanists and cultural heritage organizations to create digital humanities projects. The DIL contributes heavily to the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI), funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To Apply

Please send cover letter and resume/CV to Pam Lach, Lab Manager. Inquiries should be directed via email to Dr. Lach.

A Guide to Developing Digital Oral History Projects using DH Press, Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part blog post documenting how to use DH Press to create digital oral history projects. Return to Part 1.

Workflow at a Glance

After you have completed your interviews, you can follow this general workflow for creating an oral history project in DH Press:

  1. Produce a clean, edited transcript
  2. Timestamp the transcript, either manually or using a timestamping tool
  3. Format the transcript for the DH Press Audio/Transcript Tool
  4. Load your audio files to SoundCloud, and/or your video files to YouTube
  5. Load all of your timestamped, formatted transcripts to the DH Press Media Library
  6. Create your data set
  7. Import your data into DH Press
  8. Configure your DH Press project and add any additional content to your website

Step 1. Create all Transcripts

In order to use the DH Press Audio/Transcript Tool to its fullest, you will need complete transcripts for each interview. Follow whatever process your organization uses to create and edit your transcripts.

If you do not have the capacity to create complete transcripts, you may consider transcribing the relevant sections of your interview, or possibly working with tape logs. However, this will limit the usability of those interviews in DH Press, as it will constrain your users’ ability to explore fully each interview.


Transcripts should be saved as either Word files (.doc or .docx) or Plain Test (.txt) files. See Step 3 below for more details.

Step 2. Timestamp all Transcripts

Once you have a completed transcript, you will need to timestamp it. In other words, you will need to provide the corresponding times that match various moments in your transcript to the actual media file. For example:

Example of a timestamped transcript

Example of a timestamped transcript

Each transcript that you plan to include in your DH Press project will need to be timestamped.

There are two ways you can develop timestamps, either by using a timestamping tool, or by producing your timestamps manually.

Automated Timestamping

There are some tools available that will produce a timestamped transcript for you. Essentially they allow you to feed your transcript and audio file into the tool, and the tool returns a timestamped transcript. We have used Docsoft:AV for this purpose. However, this is proprietary, and quite expensive, software. Docsoft:AV produces timestamps at short intervals, typically every few seconds. It is accurate down to the microsecond level. You may need to re-process your transcript several times in order to obtain accurate timestamps.

The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries created OHMS: Oral History Metadata Synchonizer which may also be of use for timestamping.

Manual Timestamping

If you don’t have access to an automated timestamping tool, you can insert timestamps manually, either during the initial transcribing process, or after. In other words, you can manually type in your timestamps at whatever interval you choose. For instance, you may want to insert a timestamp at every question and response, or at even intervals, such as every two or five minutes. Timestamps can be inserted in the middle of sentences. The more timestamps you insert, the more control users will have to navigate, explore, and jump around in an interview.

When deciding how to timestamp your transcripts, you may need to balance the needs of your users against your own resources (time, labor, deadlines).

There are many free tools out there that can assist with your timestamping process. ExpressScribe is one such tool that allows you to slow down the audio to get a more precise timestamp. It supports timestamps to the microsecond level, and can be integrated with a foot pedal.

Timestamp Format

Regardless of which approach you take, each timestamp should be formatted accordingly:


That is: [Hour:Minute:Second.Microsecond]

Brackets are required at both the beginning and end of every timestamp. Each value (hour, minute, second, microsecond) should appear as a double digit. Use a zero as the first number when appropriate (03 instead of 3 seconds, for instance). Hours, minutes and seconds should be separated by colons (do not use extra spaces). Microseconds are optional; when used they should be separated with a period. Please note that you will need a concluding timestamp at the end of the transcript, indicating the end of the audio file.

  • Example of a full timestamp: [01:11:03.94]
  • Example of a timestamp without microsecond: [01:09:22]
  • Example of a timestamp for an interview that is less than an hour: [00:39:43.73] or [00:39:43], which corresponds to thirty-nine minutes and forty-three seconds (and 73 microseconds).

Step 3. Format all Transcripts

All timestamped transcripts should be formatted according to the following specifications:

Placement of Timestamps

Each timestamps should be placed on a line by itself, with the corresponding text appearing below the timestamp. For example:


But I became sort of a good wife, and he wanted to go on to graduate school at  [00:30:17.63]

the University of Virginia.


JW: Why did you get married?


HL: It was considered the thing to do. So I’m working in the governor’s office,  [00:30:28.19]

he’s at Emory, and he would visit every weekend and of course my family liked

Speaker Names

The interviewer and interviewee’s names should be listed in full the first time each one speaks. Initials may be used each subsequent time. If you prefer, you may continue to use the full names each time, or just the last name. Adopt whatever approach is common among your organization or collaborators. Any of these formats will work in DH Press, but we recommend consistency within and across each transcript. For example:


Jessie Wilkerson: Now it’s on. Okay.


Helen Lewis: Okay, we were talking about when I moved to Forsyth County and


JW: Oh, goodness.


HL: That’s when I was in high school. So those were my experiences in Forsyth

Sentence Spacing

DH Press can only display text transcripts with a single space after periods. All double (or triple) spaces after periods should be eliminated. See why you should never use two spaces after a period. Likewise, only use single spacing between sentences/lines.

Here is an example of a complete timestamped transcript.

Additional Interview Metadata

No additional information (such as title, interview date, interview location, interviewer’s name) should appear on the transcript. That is, all header or metadata information should be stripped from the final transcript.

We recommend that you create a corresponding metadata text file or spreadsheet for this information, which might include the following fields:

  • Interviewer(s)
  • Interviewee(s)
  • Interview Date
  • Interview Location
  • Transcriber(s)
  • Notes

You may also need to record the filename of the audio/video file, and where it is being stored locally (e.g. on a hard drive, on a server, in a cloud-based site such as Dropbox, etc.).

File Format

In order for DH Press to display transcripts properly, you will need to convert each transcript to a plain text (Unicode UTF-8) file format.

Before doing that, we recommend that you remove any special formatting, such as:

  • Bold or italics
  • Special paragraph formatting, such as double spacing or hanging lines (note that double spacing between sentences may throw an error in the tool)

You can leave special characters (such as serif quotation marks, ampersands, tildes, accents, umlauts) intact.

When ready, re-save the file using the plain text file format. In Microsoft Word: Save as > Format (Plain Text) > Encoding (UTF-8). Once the save is completed, you will see a duplicate filename with a .txt file extension (in contrast to .doc or .docx). For example:



Alternatively, you can save the text file with a new filename.

You may continue working from the .docx file to create your data (see Step 6) but the .txt file is the one that will be loaded into DH Press (see Step 5).

We recommend that you double check your transcript formatting in a plain text editor (Windows: Notepad (built in) or Notepad++; Mac: TextEdit (built in) or TextWrangler) to ensure that there is no strange formatting in your document. You may need to manually edit the transcript to remove any potential formatting problems.

File Name

When naming your transcript file, we strongly recommend that you adhere to naming conventions for web files. Most importantly:

  • Do not include spaces in your file name
    • Good: PamLachTranscript or Pam_Lach_Transcript or Pam-Lach-Transcript
    • Bad: Pam Lach Transcript
  • Do not include any special characters in your file name, such as:
    • Commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, accents, or ampersands

Step 4. Load all Digital Media Files to SoundCloud or YouTube

DH Press’s Audio/Transcript Tool works by linking your audio file to your transcript file, both of which would have been pre-loaded to the web.

All audio files will need to be loaded to SoundCloud in order for your project to work. Please consult SoundCloud’s documentation to learn how to upload your content. We recommend that you load your files using the mp3 format. Uploading WAV files will result in file compression/truncation, which can adversely impact performance in DH Press.

You will need to copy the URL for each individual audio file that you upload. Each URL will need to be included in the data file you will build for the project. Each audio file must have a unique URL.

To grab the URL, simply navigate to the file and copy the URL in the navigation bar. For example: There is no need to grab either the Widget Code (the <iframe> code) or the WordPress Code. We recommend that you paste all URLs into a spreadsheet or Word document to keep track of all URLs. For example:

Interviewee Audio_URL
Helen Lewis

You can do the same for video files, but you’ll load those files to YouTube.

Step 5. Load all Transcripts into DH Press

Likewise, each timestamped transcript .txt file will need to be loaded to your DH Press Media Library. You can bulk load these files: WordPress Dashboard > Media Library > Add New and select all the files you want to load (you can also load these in one-by-one). As with your media files, you’ll need to copy the URL for each individual transcript. To do that, navigate to the Media Library and select the “View” option for each individual transcript.

You should add your transcript URLS to your tracking document:

Interviewee Audio_URL Transcript_URL
Helen Lewis

The exact URL for your transcript will vary.

Step 6. Create all Data for DH Press Project

You are now ready to create the data for your DH Press project. This is the process whereby you transform the stories related in your oral histories into data (rows and columns in a spreadsheet) based on common themes. Project data are created outside of the DH Press environment and imported later. Please consult our Data Documentation for more information about required fields, supported data formats, and data collection tools available.

Essentially, the process of creating your data is an indexing project, similar to assigning tags to various segments of each interview. This allows you to describe various portions of an interview. Each chunk you describe becomes a row of data in your spreadsheet, which in turn, becomes a dot on the map. Each chunk has a starting point and an ending point, both of which correspond to the timestamps in your transcript. Make sure all timestamps in your data exactly match the timestamps in the transcript, or you will get error messages in DH Press.

This chunk of the transcript corresponds to a single row of data in the spreadsheet.

This chunk of the transcript corresponds to a single row of data in the spreadsheet.

Determining a data model for your project can be tricky, especially if you are not accustomed to thinking about your work in data terms. Unfortunately, that is beyond the scope of this documentation. Email me if you would like to set up a brief consultation about your data.

Choosing a Data Collection Tool

Data may be gathered in a variety of ways, using a range of tools, but data sets can only be bulk imported into DH Press when formatted as comma-separated values (CSV) files. Using a spreadsheet that can output as CSV is probably the easiest way to create your data.

There are numerous spreadsheet tools available, including Microsoft Excel, Google Spreadsheets, Apple Numbers, or any other open source spreadsheet tool. Whatever spreadsheet tool you select, make sure it can export files as CSV.

*Mac users working in Excel must use the Windows Comma Separated (CSV) file format, or data will not successfully import into DH Press.

Fields Required for DH Press

Whatever data you want to represent in your digital oral history project, there are a few fields (spreadsheet columns) that are absolutely necessary. The following three columns should appear at the beginning of your data (Columns A, B and C, respectively), with an optional fourth column (Column D):

  1. csv_post_title
  2. csv_post_type
  3. project_id
  4. csv_post_post (optional)

Make sure all fields names are lowercased and that there are no hanging spaces at the end of the field name. Use only underscores in these field names. Please consult our data documentation for an explanation of each field, and their appropriate values.

You can also download a DH Press data template to assist you in your data collection. Note that the fourth column in the spreadsheet (csv_post_post) is optional.

Required Fields for Audio/Transcript Tool

In addition, you will need to create columns to capture all of the information about your interviews (interview metadata). This should include:

  1. Interviewee_name
  2. Interviewer_name
  3. Interview_location
  4. Interview_date
  5. Media_URL (SoundCloud or YouTube URL)*
  6. Transcript_URL (DH Press URL)
  7. Timestamp

The Timestamp column is critical for enabling users to jump around and explore an audio file and transcript. This column captures the starting point and ending point of the segment of the interview you are describing. This corresponds to the actual beginning and closing timestamp in the transcript. It should be formatted accordingly: starting point-ending point. For example: 00:00:02.43-00:03:05:66

*The current version of DH Press cannot support using SoundCloud and YouTube files interchangeably. If you are working with a mix of audio and video files, we recommend that you create two separate fields in your data: Audio_URL and Video_URL. Please note that we have not yet incorporated YouTube media files into the Audio/Transcript Tool but hope to do so soon.

Other Possible/Suggested Fields

Once you have established these eleven required fields, the rest is completely up to you and what you are trying to visualize in your project. You might think about recording common, overarching themes, or keywords, or other descriptive information. There is also space for extended narrative, interpretation, or analysis (we recommend using the csv_post_post field for this).

Note: in order to use the mapping tool (currently our only available visualization, or entry point), you will need a field for Latitude and Longitude. This can be represented as a single field (latitude,longitude) or as two distinct columns. Whichever way you prefer, make sure that Latitude is always listed first. DH Press uses the Decimal Degrees format (not the Degrees, Minutes, Seconds format), which can be obtained via Google Earth or Google Maps (or a similar program). To see latitude/longitude in Google Maps, enter the location address in the search bar, and then right click the map marker. Select What’s Here to display the latitude and longitude coordinates.

Whatever you decide, these columns can potentially be used to create distinct filters (“legends”) for your map, where unique values determine each marker’s appearance. For example, in the “Mapping the Long Women’s Movement,” markers all dealing with the women’s movement are purple, while markers related to education are blue.

Here is a segment of the data we collected for the Long Women’s Movement project:

An incomplete segment of Long Women's Movement data.

An incomplete segment of Long Women’s Movement data.

Step 7. Import all Data into DH Press Project

Once you’ve completed and cleaned your data (checked for consistency), you should be ready to import your data into DH Press. Remember to add the appropriate project_id value to your spreadsheet prior to importation. Please consult our documentation to learn more about these processes.

There are some common mistakes that occur when importing data, including:

  • ERROR: row(s) of data (e.g. “marker posts”) do not import (error message: Skipped N posts)
    • CAUSE: missing unique “csv_post_title” value (Column A)
  • ERROR: posts imported but not as Marker Posts
    • CAUSE: missing “dhp-markers” value (Column B)
  • ERROR: posts imported as Marker Posts but are “orphaned”
    • CAUSE: missing or incorrect “project_id” value (Column C)
    • markers will show up in Marker Library but will not show up when you try to configure your project (if none of your data fields show up, it means the Project ID was wrong)

Step 8. Configure DH Press Project

Example of configuring the A/V Entry Point, with optional second language transcript.

Example of configuring the A/V Entry Point, with optional second language transcript.

When you’re ready to create your DH Press project, please consult our DH Press documentation. You may also want to review our at-a-glance project creation workflow.

In particular, you’ll need to format the following “motes” accordingly:

Audio URL: configure as FILE data type
Transcript URL = configure as FILE data type
Timestamp = configure as TEXT data type

In addition to creating a Map Entry Point, you’ll need a second entry point “A/V Transcript.” This entry point should be added as the entry point in the modal. This should be the only entry point assigned in the modal.

Once the project is configured, you should be ready to share it with your audience. Because DH Press is integrated into WordPress, you can also create any number of other pages related to your project, your staff, your sponsoring organization, or other similar projects.

Using non-English Languages

As noted earlier in this documentation, preliminary testing suggests that non-English interviews can be used in DH Press, provided the transcripts are formatted as Plain Text, encoded as Unicode (UTF-8). To date, we have only tested Spanish. To see this in action, visit Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation.

Moving Beyond Oral History

We are beginning to think about how the DH Press Audio/Transcript Tool might be adapted more broadly beyond digital oral history projects. In theory, any sort of streaming multimedia could be used, provided there is a supporting .txt file with some sort of timestamps to assist with navigation, i.e. an index with the appropriate metadata. One potential adopter suggested using the tool as a bridge between recorded music and sheet music, assuming the sheet music could be converted to a plain text file. You could also use the tool for documentaries and other films.

We are only just beginning to explore the possibilities, so stay tuned for future experimentation.

Need Help?

Have an idea for an extension to the Audio/Transcript Tool? Or need help getting your project started? Contact me!

Return to Part 1.