DHi Speaker Series: Ellen Hoobler: "Of Software and Ceramics"

Most people have heard of the ancient Aztecs and Maya, but many other great civilizations flourished in Pre-Columbian Mexico as well. Few are as important and enigmatic as that of the Zapotecs of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. The Zapotecs built a great capitol, Monte Albán, which rose and fell long before the Spanish invasion of 1519 CE. Since the Zapotec glyphic script was no longer in use by the sixteenth century, and has not been deciphered fully, the culture’s deepest beliefs and values are hard to discern. While we do not have written texts, we can try to interpret the more multivalent messages communicated through the patterns of objects and their placement in ritual spaces of the Zapotecs.  One particularly important such space is the subterranean tombs, sited under the houses of the living Zapotecs who resided at Monte Albán. Undisturbed tombs, for the archaeologist, are like time capsules ready to reveal ways of death -- and life -- for ancient peoples. 
However, those revelations can only occur with a critical evaluation of such spaces. The archaeologist in charge of Monte Albán’s early excavations, Alfonso Caso, excavated about 175 tombs at the site in the 1930s and 40s. He planned to fully publish his work, but was pressed into bureaucratic service and eventually died without creating a cohesive description of the tombs’ contents. Decades later, I found thousands of his catalogue cards, made long before the advent of computers, but seemingly crying out for use in a database. After digitization, I was able to extract information to make diagrams of many of the tombs, and eventually worked to create interactive 3D digital models of the tombs. This talk explores two aspects of the search to give ancient tombs new life. First, examining the tombs as teaching tools for undergraduates, who not only  participated in learning software and creating the digital models but also raised important new questions about these spaces. Second, in more recent work, the team this summer provided 3D printed models of some of these objects to the small community museum in San Juan Guelavía, a Zapotec-speaking town near to Monte Albán. The lecture will discuss some of the issues of return of digital and printed 3D models, the opportunities and challenges that multiple iterations provide. 
Ellen Hoobler, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Art History, Cornell College
Ellen Hoobler, Assistant Professor of Art History at Cornell College, has been voted one of the "40 Under 40" of "Professors Who Inspire" by the website NerdScholar.com.  In 2014, she was one of the co-Directors of NEH Digital Humanities Startup Grant HD51944, "Dangerous Embodiments: Theories, Methods, and Best Practices for Historical Character Modeling in Humanities 3D Environments." Ellen has extensive experience in Latin America, particularly Mexico, and her field of specific expertise is pre-Columbian art of Mexico. 

Janet Thomas Oppedisano (Simons)

Director, Digital Humanities Initiative, Hamilton College

Janet Thomas Oppedisano is Hamilton College's Digital Humanities Initiative Director. Her responsibilities include oversight and direction of the daily activities of the DHi to develop a collaborative community in which creativity, technology, and innovation lead to new methods of research, learning, and publication. This includes strategic planning in the use of technology, collaboration on grant proposals and budgets, management and communication of DHi projects, coordination and teaching of DHi's undergraduate research fellowship program CLASS and creation of direct connections between DHi projects and the curriculum. She is engaged in faculty outreach and development; project management; identification and research of technologies appropriate to research projects and learning goals; and coordination of academic support services to meet teaching, learning, and research needs.  Janet is involved in the development of sustainable digital scholarship infrastructure and models for support of digital humanities projects at liberal arts institutions. She recently collaborated with over 23 liberal arts colleges to develop the Institute for Liberal Arts Scholarship (ILiADS.org). She co-teaches “Models for liberal arts and four year colleges at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (dhsi.org). Janet has presented regionally and internationally on learning design, collaboration, media scholarship, and models for digital scholarship. Janet has co-authored articles in the Journal of Political Science Education, Educause Quarterly, and Collaborations in Liberal Arts Colleges in Support of Digital HumanitiesJanet holds an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. @janettsimons


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Angel David Nieves, Ph.D.

Co-Founder & Former Co-Director, Digital Humanities Initiative, Hamilton College

Angel David Nieves, Ph.D. is  co-founder and former Co-Director of Hamilton’s Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) which is recognized as a leader among small-liberal arts colleges in the Northeast (see, http://www.dhinitiative.org).  As Co-Director, he has raised over $2.7 million dollars in foundation and institutional support for digital humanities scholarship at Hamilton.  He is also Research Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.  He taught in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park, from 2003-2008.  Nieves’s scholarly work and community-based activism critically engage with issues of race and the built environment in cities across the Global South.  His co-edited book “We Shall Independent Be:” African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the U.S. was published in 2008.  He is completing a manuscript entitled, An Architecture of Education: African American Women Design the New South, with the University of Rochester Press for their series “Gender and Race in American History” (forthcoming, 2018).  Nieves is also currently working on a new volume in the Debates in the Digital Humanities Series and on a special collaborative issue of American Quarterly (2018) on DH in the field of American Studies.  He is co-editor (w/Kim Gallon, Purdue) of a new book series at the University of Georgia Press, The Black Spatial Humanities: Theories, Methods, and Praxis in Digital Humanities.  He serves on the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) Committee on Information Technology (2016-2019).  He was most recently appointed to the Board of New York State’s Humanities Council (2017-2020).  His digital research and scholarship have been featured on MSNBC.com and in Newsweek International.His digital scholarship can be found at http://www.apartheidheritages.org