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Cheryl Smeall

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McGill UniversityHumanities and Social Sciences Library Location Montreal Canada Discipline(s): History, Humanities Research Interests: Digital Humanities, Visualization, History Languages: English

Since 2011, I have been a collaborator on the Mapping the Republic of Letters Project (, a project of the Humanities + Design Lab ( at Stanford University.  This collaborative initiative brings together a diverse group of scholars with the aim of developing and using digital tools to analyze large data sets pertaining to the early modern period.  At the Early Modern Time + Networks workshop, held at Stanford in August of 2012, we began to develop a tool that could be used to visualize as a whole the data that each of us has amassed.  The tool, called Knot, will enable us to visualize the social networks that existed between all of the early modern figures under study in the project.  Through the use of filters for categories such as profession and place of birth, Knot can also display the connections that existed between these figures.


My contribution to the project focuses on Venetian polymath Franceso Algarotti (1712-1764).  I began by creating a number of large databases detailing Algarotti’s correspondence, travels, and publications, following a standardized method that we had developed for cataloguing this data.  In partnership with the DensityDesign Research Lab at the Politecnico di Milano, our data was then used to create a visualization depicting Algarotti’s travels, networks, and significant publications in a single image (, which was published in Il Corriere della sera along with an article that I co-authored with Paula Findlen (Stanford) on Algarotti’s travels.  Over the course of the summer, we plan to use various visualization tools, including Knot, in conjunction with our data in order to ascertain what they can show us about Algarotti’s networks, publications, and travels.  Paula Findlen and I then plan to use the results of these visualizations to co-author an article on the editorial history of the various versions of Algarotti’s published correspondence.