History 295: In Search of the Blue Nile

This student-curated exhibit follows the extraordinary journey of eighteenth-century naturalist James Bruce (1730-1794) as he endeavored to discover the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Bruce’s expedition took us through the Iberian Peninsula, the Levant, and the Barbary States, eventually leading us into Egypt, Axum, Gondar, Lake Tana and the holy streams of the Gish Abay in Ethiopia. We also explored figures that were essential both to the journey of James Bruce, as well as the history of early modern Europe and Ethiopia. These included: the fictional Prester John, Job Ludolf and Abba Gregorious, Francis Bacon, James Cook, Carl Linneaus, Comte de Buffon, Ras Maka’el, and Məntəwwab, the Dowager Empress of Ethiopia. Using the extraordinary resources in W&L’s Special Collections, including an original copy of Bruce’s “Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile” (1790), students explored topics such as early modern scientific expeditions, classification and taxonomy, print culture, race in the scientific imagination, popular geography, early museum collection and organization, and the complicated reception of Bruce’s narrative upon his return to Europe. We also worked together to recreate 18th century research methods, including constructing a camera obscura and collecting local botanical specimens on W&L’s campus.

Spring 2015
Professor Stephanie Stillo

Mapping the Literary Railway

Project Lead:

Paul Youngman, Professor of German


Student contributors:
Gabrielle Tremo, Research Assistant (2014)
Ulemj Enkhbold (Lenny), Research Assistant (2015, 2016)
Elizabeth J. Stanton, Research Assistant (2015)
Ben Fleenor, Research Assistant (2016)

Advisory Board:
Jeff Barry, Associate University Librarian
Mackenzie Brooks, Digital Humanities Librarian
Alston Cobourn, Digital Scholarship Librarian

Project URL: http://literaryrailway.academic.wlu.edu/

Project Description:

The goal of “Mapping the Literary Railway” (MLR) is to demonstrate the idea that visualization is interpretation. To this end, we have taken the traditional humanities research conducted by Professor Youngman for his monograph Black Devil and Iron Angel: The Railway in 19th-Century German Literature (Washington, DC: Catholic UP 2005) and applied spatial humanities techniques to his conclusions.


Attended Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship, July 2015
Washington and Lee University press coverage


Youngman, Paul, et al. “Visualizing the Railway Space in Fontane’s Effi Briest.” TRANSIT 10, no. 2 (2016).

Methodology: mapping, Neatline, and Omeka

German 403: Independent Study

In this Fall 2013 Independent Study course, Katie Jarrell and John Bruch began The Leipziger Illustrite Zeitung Project, under the guidance of Professor Paul Youngman.  This project focuses on photography and imagery in an illustrated newspaper, published in Leipzig, Germany from 1843-1944. The basis of our project was to create an online, public database of the photographs, since the LIZ is rich with interesting photos. To do this, we scanned each photograph and made an online archive using Omeka. In this digital archive, photos are tagged based on theme, location, and symbolic meaning. After completing the photo database, we also added the photos to Neatline, a digital mapping device. By choosing to color-code each photo thematically, we were able to use Neatline to view trends in the photos as they correlate to certain cities or countries. What we found was both expected and surprising. The current project focuses on the first two volumes of November 1935, although we hope to expand both the Omeka archive and the Neatline map to include many more of the available volumes.