NEH Grant Awarded to Archives

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The University of Illinois Archives has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to develop a prototype web-portal and analysis-engine to provide access to archival material related to the development of the iconic, multi-disciplinary field of cybernetics.

The grant is part of the NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundations program . The project, entitled “The Cybernetics Thought Collective: A History of Science and Technology Portal Project,” is a collaborative effort among several academic units at the University of Illinois (U of I) and three other institutions that also maintain archival records vital to the exploration of cybernetic history: the British Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In addition to supporting the development of a web-portal and analysis-engine, the award will enable the multi-institutional team to begin digitizing some of the archival records related to the pioneering work of U of I Electrical Engineering Professor Heinz von Foerster and his fellow cyberneticians W. Ross Ashby (also a former U of I Electrical Engineering faculty member), Warren S. McCulloch, and Norbert Wiener.

“This grant will afford us the unique opportunity to explore connections between these four individuals—Heinz von Foerster, W. Ross Ashby, Warren McCulloch, and Norbert Wiener—and to better understand how they influenced each other and the context in which their ideas evolved. It will also enable us to shed light on hidden connections between documentation within their research archives,” said Project Director Bethany G. Anderson. “We are excited to see where these connections take us and are grateful to the NEH for its invaluable support for this ambitious project.”

Cybernetics emerged during World War II as the science of communication and control systems used to build automatic antiaircraft systems, but gradually became a vehicle through which scientists, engineers, humanists, and social scientists studied the complexities of communication and self-organizing systems. Cybernetics is generally regarded as one of the most influential scientific movements of the 20th century. At a time when postwar science had become highly compartmentalized, cybernetics epitomized the interdisciplinarity that has become emblematic of innovative research in the modern era. This project will provide greater access to the archival materials that document the rich and complex history of the “thought collective”—the scientific community of individuals exchanging thoughts and ideas about cybernetics, including scientists and researchers affiliated with the University of Illinois’ Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL).

The development and archival work for this project will extend from May 2017 to April 2018. The project team from the University of Illinois includes Bethany G. Anderson, Archival Operations and Reference Specialist in the University of Illinois Archives; Christopher J. Prom, Assistant University Archivist and Andrew S. G. Turyn Professor in the University of Illinois Archives; Kevin Hamilton, Professor of Art and Design; Dan Roth, Professor of Computer Science; and Jamie Hutchinson, Editor for Engineering Publications in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Among the collaborators from the partner institutions are Jonathan Pledge, Curator of Contemporary Archives, Politics and Public Life at the British Library; Tom Rosko, Institute Archivist and Head of the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections; and Charles B. Greifenstein, Associate Librarian & Curator of Manuscripts at the American Philosophical Society.

Visit the “The Cybernetics Thought Collective: A History of Science and Technology Portal Project” site at for more information.

To read the full press release, see the NEH site: .

“The Cybernetics Thought Collective: A History of Science and Technology Portal Project” has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities:  Exploring the human endeavor

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this news release, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Data Purchase Opportunities

Data Purchase Program 2017

The University Library is soliciting applications from faculty members, graduate students, and academic professionals who need to purchase numeric, spatial, or textual data for their research. Through this Data Purchase Program, several purchases of data will be funded. Applications will be accepted beginning March 27, 2017; the deadline for first consideration is May 26, 2017.

Visit for more details, including a description of the program and a link to the full announcement.

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New Digital Publishing Initiative

IOPN Launches with First Book

News release courtesy of the Illinois News Bureau :

The University of Illinois Library has launched a digital publishing initiative, the Illinois Open Publishing Network , with its first work – a new English translation of a memoir of Claude Monet.

“Claude Monet: The Water Lilies” was first published in 1928 by Georges Clemenceau, the former French prime minister and a friend of Monet. Bruce Michelson, a U. of I. professor emeritus of English, produced the new translation of the memoir – as well as translations of three essays on art by Clemenceau, included as appendices. He agreed to publish it online as a pilot project for the Illinois Open Publishing Network, and as the first publication of Windsor & Downs Press , the primary imprint of the network.

“This is a way in which somebody with more than 30 years on the clock can participate in a new direction as an academic,” Michelson said.

“Libraries have to fulfill their mission in new ways,” he said, noting that students can do much of their research online without ever visiting a library. “We’ve got to rethink in fundamental ways what we’re doing. This is an experiment in that direction.”

Bruce Michelson, a U. of I. professor emeritus of English, produced a new translation of the memoir “Claude Monet: The Water Lilies” by Georges Clemenceau, the former French prime minister and a friend of Monet.

The publishing network is a network of open-access scholarly publications and publishing infrastructure and resources. It is the result of the first year and a half of a research initiative, Publishing Without Walls , funded by a four-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation . Publishing Without Walls connects scholars to new ways of producing open-access, digital publications through tools and workshops. It is also conducting a two-year research study to examine how scholarly publishing is changing in the digital age. It is a collaborative effort of the Library, the School of Information Sciences, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities and the department of African American studies.

“We’re really trying to build a new model for scholarly communications – what it means for libraries to do this work so we’re not just at the end of a life cycle, collecting and maintaining materials, but also helping scholars create materials, too,” said Harriett Green , the English and digital humanities librarian and the interim head of the Library’s Scholarly Communication and Publishing unit.

Some digital projects published on the network will incorporate video, interactive images and other multimedia functions, Green said. The digital version of Michelson’s book has hyperlinks to sources in the footnotes and embedded illustrations that can be enlarged.

“It’s really useful when you’re talking about the Monet water lily paintings, which are the size of a wall,” Michelson said of the embedded images. “You can put a better replica in high resolution or high definition online than you can see in an art book.”

“There are many different ways we can start linking Bruce’s work to others’ work on Monet or Clemenceau. His scholarship will be so much more accessible,” Green said.

“We like to think of ourselves on a spectrum. How does the digital mode of publication complement the traditional publication, which is still necessary for peer review and tenure?” she said.

A survey of scholars in the humanities showed many are concerned about using online publications because they are not as accepted for the tenure review process, said Janet Swatscheno, a visiting digital publishing specialist.

“A lot of people interested in working with us are past tenure and willing to be more experimental,” Swatscheno said. “Properly representing their scholarship is what’s important to them.”

Green said the staff of the Publishing Without Walls initiative is trying to guide scholars on ways to show the impact of digital publications for purposes of tenure review, and on talking with colleagues and tenure committees about how to evaluate such publications in ways similar to looking at traditionally published articles or books.

Michelson said online publishing initiatives such as the Illinois Open Publishing Network must also establish a level of trust and confidence among scholars through outside peer review, careful proofing of galleys and similar types of vetting.

“They need to establish a level of quality and care close to what’s represented by academic books,” he said.

Green said the Illinois Open Publishing Network staff has been developing a workflow for submitting, editing and peer review of articles. The network is experimenting with the CommentPress tool that allows a scholar to post a draft of an article and peers to make comments. The software platform Open Journal Systems, which it uses for publishing journals, has an editorial workflow built in, providing for peer review and editorial review.

Publishing Without Walls is working with both the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities and the African American studies department on multimedia projects, including an interactive textbook on black studies, Green said. It also will soon begin publishing Media -N, a journal on new media artworks edited by Kevin Hamilton, an Illinois art and design professor and the associate dean for Fine and Applied Arts.

The initiative is also establishing relationships with university presses, including the University of Illinois Press.

“We’re really emphasizing the open-access policy and encouraging faculty to share in open-access repositories,” Green said.

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