UR Professors Awarded Grant to Study Social Protest Photography

January 22, 2020

ArnoldUNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Statistics professor Taylor Arnold and digital humanities professor Lauren Tilton will work with colleagues from Harvard University on a new project making digital collections at libraries and museums more accessible.

The project has been awarded a $50,000 grant from Collections as Data: Part to Whole, a University of Nevada Las Vegas initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The University of Richmond team will receive $37,388 for their part of the project, Images as Data: Processing, Exploration, and Discovery at Scale

Arnold and Tilton will apply their distant viewing framework, which uses computational techniques to process and analyze visual culture, to the curation of digital archives. The team will work with three digital collections from Harvard University Library and two digitized collections from the Harvard Art Museums. The former is part of a collection of materials from across Europe relating to social protests and political unrest. 

Tilton“This imagery provides unique perspective of political unrest and the culture of protest in Europe in the context of rising nationalism, anti-immigration movements, globalism and international migration,” said Tilton. “These are important collections. We want to enable easier access to both scholars and the general public.”

Along with increasing access to a specific set of collections, the grant will result in a reusable approach that takes into account ethical concerns.

"Our goal is to address the social and ethical challenges that arise when applying computer vision algorithms, particularly of sensitive topics," Arnold said. "We are developing concrete strategies for the thoughtful application and publication of data produced by automated computer vision algorithms."

Arnold and Tilton have both taught at UR since 2016 and direct the Distant Viewing Lab. They have collaborated on previous projects including the Distant Viewing Toolkit, their digital project Photogrammar, and the book Humanities Data in R