Public launch of Civil War Photo Sleuth website

Assistant Surgeon Francis Marion Eveleth, identified by Dr. Luther via Civil War Photo Sleuth website

On August 1, we held our public launch party for the Civil War Photo Sleuth website at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Our team spent the day helping new users (in person and online) get signed up and contributing to the site. Dr. Luther and Military Images editor Ron Coddington gave brief remarks, and we were joined by many distinguished guests, including Library of Congress and National Archives staff. The National Archives’ Innovation Hub provided the perfect setting for the event. We were also grateful for VT Computer Science and Civil War Times for event photography and social media coverage (more photos are available here).

A highlight of the event was sharing a new identification — made via the website — of a previously unknown Civil War soldier tintype from the Library of Congress collection. The donor of the photo, Tom Liljenquist, was present to receive the identification.

Beta release of Photo Sleuth software in Gettysburg

The Civil War Photo Sleuth team. From left: Intern Natalie Robinson, Lab Director Kurt Luther, Intern Ryan Russell, and Ph.D. Student Vikram Mohanty.

The Civil War Photo Sleuth team released a beta version of our software for identifying unknown Civil War photos at the 45th Civil War Artifact and Collectibles Show in Gettysburg, PA. Our table was set up next to our partners at Military Images Magazine. The team was excited to help dozens of attendees sign up for the site, and these new users tentatively identified several unknown soldier photos during the show.

We also demoed an earlier version of the Photo Sleuth software at the previous year’s Gettysburg show in 2017. More details here.

The American Soldier in World War II launched on Zooniverse

On May 8, the anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, we launched The American Soldier in World War II, a crowdsourced transcription project featured on the Zooniverse platform. This project is the result of a year-long collaboration between Virginia Tech’s History and Computer Science departments, University Libraries, the National Archives, and Zooniverse, with funding by the NEH. VT History professor Ed Gitre is the PI. Dr. Luther is Co-PI and technical lead of the project, and Crowd Lab Ph.D. candidate Nai-Ching Wang is the lead developer.

Our launch included a transcribe-a-thon event at multiple physical and online locations and was based in the Athenaeum digital humanities center at VT. In its first 24 hours, the project attracted over 5,000 contributions. More photos of the event are available on VT Department of Computer Science’s Facebook page.

Thanks to our many collaborators and transcribers for making the event a success!

Please check out some of the publicity for the project to learn more:

Debuted Civil War Photo Sleuth software in Gettysburg

Dr. Luther unveiled our new Civil War Photo Sleuth software to the public for the first time in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The software uses crowdsourcing and face recognition to identify unknown people in photos from the American Civil War era.

On Friday, Dr. Luther demonstrated the software at an invitation-only event for Civil War photography experts at the Adams County Historical Society. On Saturday and Sunday, he joined Ron Coddington (pictured below), editor and publisher of Military Images magazine, at the 44th Annual GBPA Civil War Artifact and Collectibles Show. We had a table set up showcasing the Civil War Photo Sleuth software and invited collectors to bring their historical photos to us for scanning and real-time analysis and identification. Many took us up on the offer, and by the end of the weekend, Civil War Photo Sleuth had created quite a buzz. More photos of the event are posted on the Military Images Facebook Page.

We look forward to improving the software based on the feedback we received and preparing for a wider release. Meanwhile, anyone interested in beta testing can sign up on a new website for the project, CivilWarPhotoSleuth.com.

Mapping the Fourth of July goes public

Mapping the Fourth of July in the Civil War Era has launched! Mapping the Fourth is a crowdsourced digital archive that explores how Americans celebrated the Fourth of July while their nation was being torn apart. It is built with Incite, a plug-in developed by the Crowd Lab for the Omeka content management system.

This project, funded by the National Archives, is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Dr. Paul Quigley (PI) of the History Dept., Dr. Kurt Luther (Co-PI) of the Computer Science Dept., and Dr. David Hicks (Co-PI) of the School of Education, all at Virginia Tech.

To help promote the launch, Virginia Tech wrote up a wonderful press release that was featured on the vt.edu home page all Fourth of July weekend. Additionally, Dr. Quigley mentioned the project in his op-ed on Civil War-era Independence Day in the Roanoke Times.

Wikimedia funds enhancements to ProveIt

The Wikimedia Foundation has awarded a grant to Felipe Schenone to make improvements to ProveIt.

Dr. Luther led the team that developed ProveIt when he was at Georgia Tech. ProveIt is a Wikipedia gadget that provides a friendly user interface for managing references in Wikipedia articles. The gadget has since been integrated into the English-language Wikipedia and has over 7,000 active users. This work was also demoed at the WikiSym conference in 2009.