Digital Projects on Campus

Digital project graphic

The University of Chicago is home to a wide range of innovative digital projects in the humanities and related disciplines. Examples from various fields of study are listed below (not an exhaustive list). Many of these projects employ students.

Archaeological Projects in OCHRE

  • A number of archaeological projects at the University of Chicago and elsewhere make use of the Online Cultural and Historical Research Environment (OCHRE), with training and technical support from the staff of the OCHRE Data Service. OCHRE is a multi-project computational platform that supports all stages of research, including the acquisition, integration, analysis, publication, and archiving of a projects digital data. It provides advanced features for managing, querying, and publishing large amounts of textual, numeric, and image data and for sophisticated geospatial mapping, network analysis, and statistics. See the Project Gallery page of the OCHRE website for a list of the projects that use OCHRE.



  • Critical Editions for Digital Analysis and Research (CEDAR) is a collaborative research initiative spanning several departments at the University of Chicago and consisting of text-critical projects that make use of the OCHRE platform. CEDAR projects deal with literary corpora that have complex histories of transmission, revision, and translation, e.g., the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the Middle English poem Piers Plowman, the plays of Shakespeare, and the works of Herman Melville. CEDAR project teams consist of scholars and students at the University of Chicago and elsewhere who work with the OCHRE staff to develop, test, and document new ways of digitally representing and analyzing original manuscripts, textual variants, printed versions, and diverse editorial reconstructions and translations, enabling views of these data that are not possible using traditional printed editions. The primary faculty contacts for CEDAR are Ellen MacKay in the Department of English Language & Literature and Jeffrey Stackert in the Divinity School.

Chicago Language Modeling Lab

  • The Chicago Language Modeling Lab is directed by Jason Riggle. Its goals are to computationally implement linguistic models; discover and implement learning algorithms for those models; and test the predictions of the models by simulating language learning, use, and change among populations of interacting language-using agents.


  • The Cinemetrics project is directed by Yuri Tsivian. Cinemetrics is an open-access, interactive website that collects, stores, and processes data about film editing. It has already emerged as an important forum for the world’s leading film scholars, enabling them to share data and ideas about the statistical analysis of cinema.

DeepScribe: Deciphering Cuneiform with Artificial Intelligence

  • The DeepScribe project is directed by Sanjay Krishnan and Susanne Paulus in collaboration with Sandra Schloen and Miller Prosser of the OCHRE Data Service. Manually deciphering an ancient clay tablet inscribed with wedge-shaped cuneiform signs is a laborious, time-consuming, and error-prone process. This project is a collaboration between scholars of cuneiform writing and computer scientists to explore how recent advances in computer vision can assist researchers by automatically identifying symbols and words in photographic images of the tablets to enable the automatic transcription and indexing of the many thousands of cuneiform tablets stored in museum collections worldwide. Extensively annotated tablet data stored in the OCHRE platform is used as training data for machine learning vision models.

East Asian Scroll Paintings

  • The Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History, directed by Wu Hung, has created an interactive website to simulate the experience of viewing East Asian scroll paintings in ways that published photographs in books and projected slides cannot, and to make them more widely accessible for teaching and research. Handscroll paintings, painted horizontally on pieces of silk or sheets of paper and mounted as scrolls, are a major type of traditional East Asian painting, distinctive in their format and method of viewing. Their creation is based on special principles that differ from those of painting single-framed pictures as they are continuous pictures that progress in space and time. Because of the rare and fragile nature of East Asian scroll paintings, they are rarely shown. They cannot be handled by the public or exposed to light for extended periods in exhibitions, hence the need for this online viewing tool.

Hack Arts Lab

  • The Hack Arts Lab, founded by Jason Salavon, provides an open-access laboratory for creative digital fabrication and visualization by students and faculty. It is located on the ground floor of the John Crerar Library and is part of the Media Arts, Data, and Design Center. It supports activities ranging from undergraduate projects to faculty-led exploration. Its resources include 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering stations, workbenches and microcomputing tools, all offered at minimal cost.


  • Linguistica was developed by John Goldsmith to explore the unsupervised learning of natural language, with primary focus on morphology (word-structure). Unsupervised learning refers to the computational task of making inferences (and therefore acquiring knowledge) about the structure that lies behind some set of data, without any direct access to that structure. In the case of unsupervised learning of morphology, Linguistica explores the possibilities of morpheme-combinations for a set of words, based on no internal knowledge of the language from which the words are drawn.

Mapping the 1919 Chicago Riot

  • The riot of 1919 was the largest of its kind in Chicago’s history and the main episode of racial violence in the “Red Summer” that swept the nation in that year. Mapping the 1919 Chicago Riot is a collaborative project to visualize the 1919 riot, combining original historical sources with modern geospatial technologies. This project is directed by John Clegg in the Department of History.

Marathi Online

  • Marathi Online was developed by Philip Engblom, formerly a Senior Lecturer in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. It is an interactive and self-directed first-year course in Marathi that runs on the OCHRE platform. Marathi is the official language of the state of Maharashtra in India and is spoken by more than 80 million people as their mother tongue.

Modeling Organizational Innovation in Renaissance Florence

  • This project, directed by John Padgett, explores the evolution of social networks in Renaissance Florence from ca. 1300 to 1500. It has entailed the construction of a large relational database constructed from primary archival sources. The database contains information on about 60,000 persons, including data concerning 10,000+ marriages, 14,000+ loans, 3,000+ business partnerships/firms, 40,000+ tax records, 12,000+ political-office elections, and other matters. Renaissance Florence was the arena for many history-altering organizational and technical inventions, in numerous domains, which Prof. Padgett studies primarily by modeling the catalytic co-evolution of multiple, cross-cutting social networks over time.

Online Tiwanaku

  • Online Tiwanaku is a digital companion to the two-volume archaeological report Tiwanaku and Its Hinterland edited by Alan Kolata. This searchable website runs on the OCHRE platform as a supplement to the print publication. It makes available much of the data from the excavations in and around the large site of Tiwanaku in the Lake Titicaca basin of Bolivia for use by scholars and students, including a large number of photographs.

An Organon for the Information Age

  • An Organon for the Information Age is a project is directed by David Schloen, Malte Willer, and Samuel Volchenboum. It is concerned with the problem of integrating heterogeneous data that has been recorded digitally in accordance with disparate conceptual ontologies in order to answer questions by means of comprehensive automated querying and analysis. It focuses on the state of the art in the computational implementation of formal ontologies for knowledge representation and the strengths and weaknesses of ontology-based data integration using highly generic “top-level” or “upper” ontologies. Despite decades of research, the stubborn inability of computer systems to achieve semantic integration of digitized information—to achieve “good old-fashioned" artificial intelligence—provokes thought about the persistent philosophical weaknesses of computational efforts to mimic embodied human knowledge and reasoning.

People of the Green Sahara

  • People of the Green Sahara is a project directed by Paul Sereno to investigate Gobero in the Sahara Desert, where a cluster of archaeological sites dating from 10,000 to 5,000 years ago are preserved in ancient dune and lake deposits, from a time when the Sahara was lush and well-watered. These sites document a 5,000-year-long drama of changing climate and changing cultures. The data from this projectincluding CT scans of burials and associated paleontological and geological dataare stored and managed in the OCHRE platform.

Persepolis Fortification Archive

  • The Persepolis Fortification Archive project is directed by Matthew Stolper. In 1933, tens of thousands of clay tablets were found by University of Chicago archaeologists working at the site of Persepolis in Iran to clear the ruined palaces of Darius, Xerxes, and subsequent rulers of the vast Achaemenid Persian Empire. These tablets were records produced by the operations of a single administrative organization in the years around 500 BCE and shed light on the economic and political institutions of the period. High-resolution digital images of the Persepolis tablets are being annotated and made accessible to scholars online via the OCHRE platform, together with textual transcriptions, translations, lexical information, and philological commentary.

Perseus under PhiloLogic

Ras Shamra Tablet Inventory

  • The Ras Shamra Tablet Inventory, created by Miller Prosser and Dennis Pardee, uses the OCHRE platform to make available to scholars detailed information about the thousands of texts inscribed on clay tablets that were found at the Syrian site of Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) on the Mediterranean coast. These texts date to the thirteenth and early twelfth centuries BCE, at the end of the Late Bronze Age, and they comprise multiple genres: mythological, administrative, epistolary, legal, and liturgical. They are written in Ugaritic, an ancient Northwest Semitic language related to Hebrew, and in Akkadian, the East Semitic language of Mesopotamia which served as a lingua franca in this period. The Ras Shamra texts provide unparalleled information about the society, economy, religion, and culture of the ancient Levant and shed light on the language and culture of the ancient Israelites who are depicted in the Hebrew Bible.

Spoken Yucatec Maya

  • Spoken Yucatec Maya is an online learning tool created by John Lucy that currently runs on the OCHRE platform. It is intended to teach the indigenous Yucatec Maya language spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico and northern Belize. Digitized sound clips from field recordings of native speakers that date back to the 1920s are distributed among 18 lessons that take the learner through a series of drills, quizzes, vocabulary lists, and conversation prompts.

Textual Optics Lab

Visualizing the Changing Spatial and Social Ecology of Renaissance Florence

  • This project, directed by Niall Atkinson and John Padgett, is developing a time-series of digital maps based on the extensive residential data contained in the 1427 and 1480 (or perhaps 1495) tax censuses (catasti) of Renaissance Florence. These maps document the changing spatial, social, and economic ecology of that city over a hundred-year period. They are anchored in the spatial infrastructure of Florencestreets, walls, major buildings, churches, administrative boundaries, etc.but because they are constructed using household-level census data, they are able to show, in a fine-grained manner, changing spatial distributions of wealth, occupation, and family size. The geospatial data and census data used to generate these maps is stored and managed via the OCHRE platform, which is also used to publish the maps and related information on the Web.

Washo Documentation Project

  • The Washo Documentation Project, directed by Alan Yu, is providing online digital documentation of the structure and usage of Washo, a severely moribund language spoken by fewer than 15 elderly speakers in the area around Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada. The thousands of audio files and other data used to document Washo are stored and managed via the OCHRE platform, which is also used to publish this information on the Web.

Weston Game Lab

  • The Weston Game Lab, directed by Patrick Jagoda, is part of the Media Arts, Data, and Design Center. It has classrooms, studio spaces, and open work areas for collaborative game design and development and it provides access to the University’s collection of historically significant video games via a growing collection of vintage and contemporary consoles.