Pilot Projects Selected for Brown’s Digital Publishing Initiative

The Dean of the Faculty and the Brown University Library are pleased to announce the selection of two faculty-led projects for the inaugural year of the University’s Digital Publishing Initiative. Supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Digital Publishing Initiative offers Brown faculty members the opportunity to explore new and innovative approaches to scholarly publishing and research. Produced through new partnerships between scholars and digital scholarship staff, these two pilot projects will be conceived and constructed over the next several years, leading ultimately to pioneering, interactive publications on the web.


Massimo Riva, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence and Professor of Italian Studies, Chair of Italian Studies

Written by Brown University’s leading Italian Studies scholar Massimo RivaItalian Shadows: Casanova’s Polemoscope and Other Tales of Imaginary or Forgotten Media conceives of an archaeology of virtual reality. Through focusing on four curious pieces of analog media from the pre-digital age—including Casanova’s voyeuristic polemoscope (or jealousy glass); an eighteenth century peep show box, the Mondo Novo; the Great Belzoni’s Aggrescopius, an enhancement of magic lantern theater; and the travelling panorama—Riva will draw connections between old forms of reality-altering technologies and today’s virtual world. Taking advantage of the capabilities of the web, Italian Shadows will include rich, interactive illustrations that capture the effects of these long forgotten optical tools and cut a hypertextual path across a variety of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century mediascapes. Mining the past for examples of “imaginary” technologies that provided a conduit for alternative imaginings, this study examines the complex relationship between technological innovations and the cultural imagination.

myofficialphoto cropped

Tara Nummedal, Associate Professor of History, Associate Professor of Italian Studies

The other pilot project is a collaboration between Brown University’s Tara Nummedal and Columbia University’s Donna Bilak. Combining the format of the scholarly edition with that of a critical anthology, Nummedal and Bilak’s Project Atalanta will bring a multimedia seventeenth century text to life in digital form. The digital publication will produce a dynamic, enhanced digital edition of Michael Maier’s extraordinary text, Atalanta Fugiens (1617/18). An alchemical emblem book, Maier’s Atalanta fugiens re-casts the myth of Atalanta—the fleet-footed virgin—as a series of fifty emblems that outline the creation of the philosopher’s stone. With its combination of text, image, and music, the Atalanta fugiens represents an early multimedia work. In Project Atalanta, this historic text will be represented in dynamic digital form and be accompanied by newly written scholarship that will help elucidate the Atalanta fugiens’ many layers.

These proposals by were selected by the Digital Publications Advisory Board, which is made up of Brown faculty members and administrators reflecting a broad range of disciplines, interests, and areas of expertise. These proposals were selected not only for their scholarly promise, but also for their innovative approaches to digital forms of research and presentation.

The Digital Publishing Initiative is a joint project of Brown’s Office of the Dean of the Faculty and the Brown University Library. Funded by the Mellon Foundation, this Initiative aims to extend the University’s mission in supporting scholarship of its faculty through engagement with new and emerging forms of digital publication. Each year for the duration of the grant, faculty members at the University will be invited to submit proposals for digital publication projects to be made in partnership with members of Brown’s Center for Digital Scholarship, which provides design and editorial support, and technical expertise.

In April, 2016, Professors Riva and Nummedal will speak in the Brown University Library about their Mellon-supported digital projects. The exact date and location of this talk will be announced soon. Later this spring there will be a new call for proposals issued to the Brown community, with proposals to be evaluated in the 2016 fall semester. For more information about the Digital Publishing Initiative, please contact the Digital Scholarship Editor, Liz Glass at elizabeth_glass@brown.edu.

The Digital Publications Advisory Board Members for 2015-2016:

  • Michael Satlow, Chair
  • Thalia Field
  • Harold Cook
  • Leslie Bostrom
  • Steven Lubar
  • Courtney Martin

Ex-Officio Members:

  • Kevin McLaughlin, Dean of the Faculty
  • Joseph Meisel, Deputy Provost
  • Harriette Hemmasi, University Librarian
  • Liz Glass, Digital Scholarship Editor