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Where does DM come from?

"the whole story..."

In 2007, project director Martin Foys began work on developing a digital edition of an early medieval map of the world, the Cotton Mappamundi. With the help of $5,000 summer grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), he began work on the edition with three undergraduate research assistants, Liz Aghjayan, Liz Lipke and Whitney Trettien. They used a prototype of the now defunct Edition Production Technology resource (EPT) to digitally edit the map and link it to textual sources and analogues. At the same time, Foys realized the project he was creating could equally serve other medieval maps that had similar content, and that he needed a new resource to allow him to edit a collection of medieval maps of the world together in a single network. This expanded project would be called Digital Mappaemundi, and Asa Mittman joined the project as a co-director.

In 2009Shannon Bradshaw became the project's technical lead, and in 2010, Foys and Bradshaw were awarded a small NEH Digital Humanities Startup grant to develop a prototype of a resource that would let them edit a collection of medieval maps. Another "aha moment" came when they realized the resource they were developing could be used not just for medieval maps, but for any collection of digital images and texts. Lisa Fagin Davis started work using an early version of the resource to digitally edit a fifty-foot medieval scroll, and Bradshaw began collaborating with DMS-Tech, a Mellon Foundation-funded project at Stanford University to develop standards for digital repositories of medieval manuscripts, through which the Digital Mappaemundi prototype was used by the Dictionary of Old English and several other projects.

In 2013, the project was awarded an NEH multiyear Digital Implementation grant, and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) became the new home for the project, under the administration of Dot Porter. The original edition project of medieval maps of the world, now called Virtual Mappa, became the flagship project of the new resource, and continued to be developed in collaboration with the British Library, where research associate Cat Crossley oversaw the foundational editing and annotation of ten early medieval English maps of the world and thousands of geographic inscriptions. Through SIMS, Performant Software was brought on to complete development of a beta (v1.0) version of the resource, now rebranded as Digital Mappa, and DM v1.0 was released as open-access software in early 2018. During this rollout, Heather Wacha joined the project, thanks to support from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture (CHPDC) and director Jonathan Senchyne, and a Council on Library and Information ResourcesCouncil on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) data curation postdoctoral fellowship. Wacha helped finish editing the Virtual Mappa project and to prepare the project (including a complete edition of the Cotton Mappamundi – the object that started all of this more than ten years ago now!) and the DM v1.0 resource for public release. Graduate research assistants Maxwell Gray, Kent Emerson and Laura Schmidt also joined the project, thanks to generous funding from a UW2020 grant, and helped Wacha with the rollout of DM v1.0 on campus at UW and online, and helped manage new projects begun on the resource at UW.

A major new version, DM v2, was released in early spring of 2020, and in the summer of 2021, this version was updated with various refinements,  fixes and new features. A new release with all of these upgrades, DM v2.1, will be available in November, 2021 (see

Currently, a number of new DM projects by faculty and students are underway at the University of Wisconsin, and other projects begun over the past few years at SIMS are being prepared for publication, and a number of other scholars and institutions have begun to use DM. Some of the most developed projects are featured on our Showcase Projects page. 

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