Livingstone Online Celebrates the National Endowment for the Humanities

Today 22 voices from Livingstone Online celebrate the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Since 2010, the NEH has funded three phases of development for Livingstone Online and the affiliated Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project. These initiatives have enabled us to a develop a wonderful educational resource and to bring the manuscripts of explorer, abolitionist, and missionary David Livingstone (1813-1873) to a national and global audience through our digital museum and library.

To date, we have published images of over 9000 original manuscript pages plus 3000 manuscript images enhanced with state-of-the-art spectral imaging technology. Alongside these images, we publish a rich array of essays that open every facet of Livingstone’s historical legacy for study and every technical aspect of our site for review. Visitors can learn about the many people Livingstone encountered in his travels across Africa, his correspondence with the leading figures of his day, his untiring efforts to stop the slave trade, his work as a Christian missionary, and much, much more. Visitors can also explore the many digital technologies that have enabled our work.

All our materials are available for free to the general public. Our spectral imaging project has been the subject of a documentary broadcast by PBS and National Geographic, while the main Livingstone Online website was part of National History Day in 2015-16, and our staff worked with students from many places across the U.S., including Carmel High School in Indiana, Washburn Rural High School in Kansas, Immaculata Catholic School in North Carolina, and even Pacific Horizons School in American Samoa. Internationally, we have collaborated with educational institutions in locations such as Scotland, England, South Africa, and New Zealand.

The Livingstone Online staff and our friends take great pride in being supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. As the voices below indicate, we have not only learned much through our work on these NEH-funded initiatives, but have been inspired to create a resource of use to students of all ages, members of the general public, historians, librarians, scientists, programmers, and many others. Without the NEH and its extraordinary staff, our resource would never have been possible.

Adrian S. Wisnicki
Director, Livingstone Online
Director, Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project
Lincoln, Nebraska


Angela Aliff (Roanoke, VA, USA) – For me, collaboration with Livingstone Online has put my scholarly research and creative ability into perspective. When so much work remains to be done for the betterment of society, our students, and ourselves, my work as an individual can feel insignificant. However, this project, sustained by the efforts of friends around the world, is a reminder that a project is more than the sum of the contributions. Thanks to the generosity of the NEH, together we’ve made something meaningful that will last. Project role: Research assistant.

Bill Christens-Barry (Ellicott City, MD, USA) – The National Endowment for the Humanities has provided crucial funding for work on Livingstone Online that has advanced the cause of all Americans. By enriching our understanding of our common heritage, hopes, and human experience, our shared identity is strengthened. As Americans we continue to rely upon and value vital support from NEH so that we can draw inspiration from our past and better shape our future. Project role: Imaging scientist.

Mary Borgo (Bloomington, IN, USA) – The NEH has played a tremendous role in preparing me for the job market. Working with Livingstone Online has given me the opportunity to practice the project management and coding skills that I need to succeed within the university system and in the tech industry. With the NEH’s support, Livingstone Online has preserved nineteenth-century material to promote conversations about African history, and I’m very excited to see the next phase of the project. Project role: Research assistant.

Janet Browne (Cambridge, MA, USA) – Uniquely important records about David Livingstone’s explorations in central Africa and his horrific disclosures about early slave trading would be inaccessible without funding from the NEH. Project role: Former associate director.

Karen Carruthers (Glasgow, Scotland) – Support from the National Endowment for the Humanities has allowed us to research, help preserve, and make available to a worldwide audience the writings of a key nineteenth-century figure. Livingstone’s writings form some of the earliest written accounts of the peoples, cultures, and landscapes of sub-Saharan Africa. As well as being of interest to historians and other academics, Livingstone has real contemporary relevance. He campaigned tirelessly against the East African slave trade and strongly believed in human equality and a shared humanity at a time when such views were rarely expressed. It is fitting therefore that funding from NEH has brought together an international team to help make available to people across the world the writings of a truly global figure. Project role: Collaborator.

Lawrence Dritsas (Edinburgh, Scotland) – As an academic from the USA now based overseas, I see directly the benefits of the NEH to international scholarship. The NEH enables colleagues from the USA to travel the world as researchers, collaborators and educators.  Without the NEH, the USA’s vibrant contribution to humanities around the world would suffer and we would all be poorer for it. Support, preserve and cherish the NEH! Project role: Collaborator.

Amzie Dunekacke (St. Andrews, Scotland (currently) / Elk Creek, NE, USA) – Contributing to Livingstone Online has enabled me to grow in confidence as both a digital humanist and someone pursuing an education and career in the humanities. Entering college, I never imagined I would be a part of such a fascinating project nor did I realize just how necessary and valued the scholarship and resources of sites like Livingstone Online are. Without the NEH, Livingstone Online and all the passionate work and learning that has gone into the project would not be possible, and my time as an undergraduate would lack a truly enriching experience. Project role: Research assistant.

Roger L. Easton, Jr. (Rochester, NY, USA) – From my perspective, this was a groundbreaking project that unified the scholarly and technical worlds to recover information formerly thought lost to history. Without the NEH providing the venue and the resources, it is quite likely that the collaboration could not have happened. My thanks to NEH and their terrific staff for providing the infrastructure and guidance that elicited the enthusiasm of the project team. I am confident that this will be one of a very small number of projects that I look back upon with such pride of accomplishment and such very fond memories. Project role: Imaging scientist.

Samantha Fitch (Arizona, USA) – I have been honored to share in the experience of working on the Livingstone Online project. This project has been personally enriching to me, as it has introduced me to the field of digital humanities, and I feel extremely lucky to have played a small role. It has been fascinating for me to learn what the field of digital humanities can reveal, and I am pleased knowing that this project provides public access to our findings and our methods. It has also been professionally enriching, as I have been able to travel to conferences where I presented Livingstone Online to other scholars and in turn discovered various interesting and ongoing projects in the field. I am grateful for this opportunity and for NEH support! Project role: Research assistant.

Dane Kennedy (Washington, DC, USA) – The National Endowment for the Humanities is the institutional engine that drives the democratization of our cultural heritage. Its range of programming at the national level and its support for state humanities councils serves all. It reminds us of our country’s rich cultural diversity and its core of common values. We need it more than ever. Project role: Collaborator.

Keith Knox (Kihei, HI, USA) – It has been a life-changing experience to me to work on the Livingstone projects over the last few years. As a result of the support of the NEH, I have been able to work collaboratively with scientific and scholarly colleagues to recover the information recorded by Livingstone in his diaries while he traveled in Africa. Not only was it a thrill to recover his writings that were illegible and lost to the world for the last 140 years, but in doing so, we have developed new technologies that will enable other scholars to recover information from other important cultural heritage artifacts. I am grateful to the NEH for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Livingstone projects. Project role: Imaging scientist.

Ashanka Kumari (Louisville, KY, USA) – For me, a first-generation college and graduate student, NEH support on the Livingstone Online and Spectral Imaging Projects has given me the opportunity to collaborate with dozens of scholars and researchers across the world to develop one of the largest digital archives of an explorer. Without the NEH, I couldn’t support myself in presenting this crucial research not only nationally, but also internationally such as at the Digital Humanities 2016 conference in Krakow, Poland last summer. NEH support is key and necessary for the success of these projects and others. Project role: Junior project scholar.

Chris Lawrence (London, England) – I initiated Livingstone Online in London over ten years ago. What began as a small project is now an international website of the highest order. Its flourishing after its directorate moved to the United States has been heavily dependent on NEH support. Now, in turn, the great work of collaboration shows in the support for the NEH. Project role: Director emeritus.

Blaze Livingston (Omaha, NE, USA) – [Descendant of David Livingstone.] Without the National Endowment for the Humanities funding Livingstone Online, I wouldn’t have been able to become a research assistant, and I wouldn’t have been able to have such an amazing opportunity to prepare for my future research endeavors. This opportunity has acted as a base for me, and I will carry the experience with me as I further my career opportunities. Project role: Former research assistant

Justin Livingstone (Belfast, Northern Ireland) – As a researcher interested in David Livingstone – and more broadly in empire, exploration, and Africa – Livingstone Online has long been of tremendous importance to my work. The scope of the enterprise, enabled by NEH funding, is staggering: it is surely one of the finest digital resources for researching and teaching a whole range of nineteenth-century topics. Having admired the project from its inception, it has been a pleasure to collaborate with Livingstone Online over the past few years, developing a critical edition of Livingstone’s Missionary Travels. I’m very grateful to the NEH, since without the agency’s support this work simply wouldn’t have been possible! Project role: Project scholar.

Anne Martin (Blantyre, Scotland) – Through its support of the Livingstone Online and Spectral Imaging Projects, the National Endowment for Humanities has made it possible for us to digitize and transcribe many of David Livingstone’s writings (diaries, letters and others), then make them available online to the vast Livingstone community through a newly-designed website. Apart from the fact that this has been immensely satisfying for me personally, it is also worth noting the extent to which the availability of this new resource has transformed things. I work at the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, Scotland – the aforementioned website development has given us a resource we could only have dreamt of previously, as an aid to our daily workload, and so it would be hard to overstate the contribution of the NEH. Project role: Associate director.

Jared McDonald (Clarens, South Africa) – As one of Livingstone Online’s international scholars, I can testify to the global reach of the project, which has been made possible by the generous support of the NEH. The international scope and impact of the project is reflected in the institutional partnerships and collaborative ties between scholars that have emerged and strengthened across continents in recent years. Project role: Project scholar.

Kathryn Simpson (Argyll, Scotland) – The National Endowment for the Humanities has allowed me to be part of a wonderful creative space. Although the funding has enabled me to work for Livingstone Online and complete my PhD, what has been most satisfying has been all the work that lead from the core academic research. The National Endowment for the Humanities focus on engagement, dissemination and inclusion has pushed us to always look outward in what we were doing. As a result of which I have led high school students on “expeditions” through their own local park, I have helped children in a village in Tanzania reclaim their own history, and I have worked with educational boards on courses that teach school students to be our “Global Citizens” of the future. That our humanities work has had such global reach is because it is based on the very same principles that drive the National Endowment for the Humanities, those of cultural advancement and engagement, and I am honoured that I get to be involved in such a wonderful project. Project role: Project scholar.

Matthew Stumpf (Indiana, PA, USA) – The Livingstone Online project has meant more to me than many may think. Having only had involvement in the project for roughly a year, my footprint is smaller than most who have had a role in making this endeavor what it is today. However, the project itself has had resounding effects on my own scholarly path. I was the first MA student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) ever to receive an assistantship, and, almost by fate, that assistantship was with Dr. Wisnicki and the Livingstone project. Not only did this involvement allow for me to partially fund my master’s coursework, buy it also enabled me to gain the skills and the background necessary to continue on into PhD coursework and an editorial assistantship that continues to shape my life. Project role: Former research assistant.

Michael B. Toth (Oakton, VA, USA) – The Livingstone Online Enrichment and Access Project (LEAP) has supported the development and funding of new data sources, research techniques and technologies thanks to sustained funding from the NEH. Researchers across the United States and around the globe now have free and open access to large amounts of data. Any student or institution has online access to all the Livingstone Online data for any purpose. This includes researchers in small museums, libraries and educational institutions as well as those in major institutions. Livingstone Online supports not just academia and the humanities, but also a broad range of public and private institutions in their advancement of knowledge, science, and information technology. It has supported the development of new work processes and imaging technology by US small businesses and industry that are being applied to other industrial applications and new business opportunities. This project has provided a return on investment that is incalculable, with a positive impact on our nation, its institutions, industry, and students for years to come. Project role: Program manager.

Megan Ward (Corvallis, OR, USA) – Working on Livingstone Online has enabled me to practice a kind of public humanities very different from – but complementary to – the work I do as a professor. I have talked with high school students working on Livingstone projects; helped create our outreach project; met with museum curators, librarians, and even a television producer; and contributed ideas for a widely-accessible site design. Along the way, we have worked to build a thoughtful project that will be both rigorous and scholarly and useful to anyone interested in Livingstone – or imperial history, African culture, Victorian publishing, spectral imaging, nineteenth-century medicine, or the host of other topics that the site encompasses. Funding from the NEH not only helped this project get off the ground; it also allowed it to grow and broaden into a truly public project. Role: Project co-director.

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