University of Richmond Professors Awarded $485K Mellon Grant For Open-Source Software to Analyze Visual Culture

April 7, 2022

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Statistics professor Taylor Arnold and digital humanities professor Lauren Tilton have received a $485,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation for their Distant Viewing Toolkit project, an open-source technology for the computational analysis of visual culture.

This three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, the largest supporter of the arts and humanities in the U.S., supports development activities for the extension of the Distant Viewing Toolkit technology as well as workshops to improve accessibility and a post-doctoral fellow position in digital studies. It will be hosted by the Distant Viewing Lab, founded and run by Arnold and Tilton.

"The Distant Viewing Toolkit is open-source software designed to apply state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms to digitized collections of still and moving images,” said Arnold and Tilton. “Our audience for the toolkit includes LAM institutions (libraries, archives, and museums), researchers, and students.”

Using the Distant Viewing technology, Arnold and Taylor have analyzed photos from the Great Depression, social protest photography, and pop culture and tv shows. Tilton is using this software as part of a project with the Library of Congress to examine approximately 250,000 images from five early 20th-century photography collections.

Arnold and Tilton have both taught at UR since 2016. They have collaborated on previous projects, including the book Humanities Data in R, and recently received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Advancement grant for the Photogrammar Visualization Software.