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    View of a fountain in front of the West Building

    Research Projects

    Projects in American Landscape and Garden Design History
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    Projects in American Landscape and Garden Design History


    Unknown, Kitchen Garden, Elias Hasket Derby House, c. 1795–1799, Samuel McIntire Papers, MSS 264, flat file, plan 107. Courtesy of Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Rowley, MA

    The digital repository History of Early American Landscape Design (HEALD) is an investigation into the relationship between textual and visual representations of designed landscapes in North America from the colonial period to the mid-19th century, inclusive of private gardens, institutional grounds, and public spaces.

    HEALD is based on the publication Keywords in American Landscape Design (2010), edited by project director Therese O’Malley. It retains the research goals of the original publication, while expanding its reach with over 223 content pages and more than 1,700 images. Written text intertwines with images of paintings, drawings, architectural plans, ceramics, and more from collections across the United States.

    In the past year, the image database has been reviewed, edited, and reinvigorated with newly digitized files along with more detailed captions. The flexibility of the platform allows HEALD to be continually reevaluated and updated. For example, a new page dedicated to the French architect and émigré Pierre Pharoux (1759?–1795) was added, including original texts and images documenting his designs for new towns in upstate New York in the late 18th century.

    Drawing on a statement of work drafted in 2019–2020, HEALD is in the process of adopting standardized semantic ontologies to ensure the usability, interoperability, and longevity of its data. At the same time, through a customization of its open-access software, MediaWiki, HEALD is adding metadata that aims to represent the complex relationships among keywords, places, and people.

    By populating the semantic data with additional information that speaks to the context of the history of American landscape design, users can export HEALD content for further research or adopt the customized relational data set as a model for their digital art-historical research projects. HEALD offers a template for digital research in the history and culture of landscape and garden design, as well as in the broader field of the digital humanities.

    Along with data development based on the Semantic Web, the project has maintained fundamental aspects of HEALD’s functionality. Users can access an extended bibliography, which can be searched and imported from Zotero, and navigate the content through an intuitive system of hyperlinks. The “Digital Approach” page, which includes a user guide, is a point of reference for users to learn how to explore the repository.

    Finally, in a few months, HEALD will unveil new browsing features that include improved search capability, a more intuitive table of contents for keyword pages, and a rejuvenated overall appearance.

    Research Associate: Valeria Federici
    Robert H. Smith Research Associate: Matthew J. Westerby
    Assistant to the Program of Research: Abby S. Whitlock

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