SHANTI - Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives

Vinegar Hill / Profile

Home Page:


Tool Development, Scholarly Content, Teaching


A HistoryBrowser visualization of Vinegar Hill, an African-American neighborhood in Charlottesville that was demolished for urban renewal and redevelopment in the 1960’s. Using housing appraisals and other records, users can browse through the neighborhood and view synthesized panoramic images, time-based aerials and interactively query the the data in an intuitive manner.

We have developed a new tool with funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities called the HistoryBrowser to streamline the production of compelling historical visualizations and have been using it with scholars and university students to engage them in the creation of digital history projects. The HistoryBrowser encourages primary source documents to speak more directly to the audience by providing visualizations of the relationships, chronologies, and causal events. They will often contain word-based narrative, in written or oral forms to help connect the resources, but the browser allows for a new form of storytelling, using guided visualizations. These visualizations use new methods of interpreting and presenting historic inquiry, such as animation over time, charts, maps, data, and interactive timelines to graphically show the relationships between multiple kinds of information. More information and projects done using the HistoryBrowser can be found at We have been teaching a capstone class for fourth-year history majors at the University of Virginia that uses a seminar format to enable students to create compelling historical visualizations based on their own research efforts. These are frequently done in collaboration with organizations such as Monticello and Poplar Forest to give students access to scholars and resources. The class is scaffolded through the process of creating these historical visualizations by the complementary backgrounds of their instructors: historian Scot French and educational technologist Bill Ferster. These courses provide an opportunity to expand and extend the HistoryBrowser using the talent from the university’s undergraduate population. The first class focused on Thomas Jefferson’s 1876 journey to England ( The following year’s class explored Jefferson’s to his retirement home/plantation at Poplar Forest (, and the current year looks at a contentious urban renewal project in Charlottesville during the 1960’s (


Scot French

Bill Ferster


National Endowment for the Humanities

View Relationships