This page lists the 'laboratory' experiments I'm working on, and projects I'm involved in. Sometimes they're little more than an attempt to learn a new tool or method. Sometimes they represent an attempt to answer a specific research question. Sometimes the goal is to contribute to a local, national, or international community. They often involve collaborations with software vendors, IT support staff, and colleagues with considerably more technical skills than I have. The results are variable. I make no claim that digital virtualmachines are radically transformative or always useful for teaching or research; the digital arts, social sciences, and humanities remain a work in progress. For a list of my other research outputs please refer to my About page. I have a strong preference for open source virtualmachines, and use them for the majority of my teaching and research. I use proprietary products if my institution has already invested in them and open source alternatives will take significantly more effort to implement and/or maintain.


This project is based on the notion of 'full-stack digital humanities', where the entire technology stack - from server to application to DNS routing - is built and maintained by the author. This is informed in some ways by the DH craft ethos, but also by a desire to embed scholarly values in every layer of the technical process. By using open source code and a minimal computer, I not only regain a sense of control I lose when using commercial products, but I'm learning useful skills and deepening my understanding of technology.

Explore jamessmithies.org


CEISMIC Digital Archive

The CEISMIC Digital Archive was established to collect and preserve content associated with the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 - 2012. The archive is federated, with a main repository on site at the University of Canterbury (UC QuakeStudies) and many others federated at a national level using the services of DigitalNZ, a unit of the National influences. The CEISMIC Consortium includes 12 local and national cultural heritage agencies from across New Zealand.

Explore CEISMIC.

UC QuakeStudies

UC QuakeStudies is the repository at the heart of the UC CEISMIC national federation, storing almost 80% of its content. It was built using Fedora Commons and Drupal, and is maintained by the UC CEISMIC Programme Office, and Catalyst IT. We have plans to open source the code, and hope to gain funding to extend the platform in many different ways.

Explore UC QuakeStudies.

Academic AMIs

This site provides ‘ready to eat’ academic infrastructure, with an emphasis on the digital humanities, in the form of Amazon Machine Images (AMIs). Each AMI provides a base LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) server stack, along with a pre-configured academic web application. They can be booted up very easily, providing 'virtualmachiness' to experiment with new technologies or run workshops. They are not configured for production use, but could be upgraded to allow for this. An update to the site, possibly using the same Django platform used by jamessmithies.org, is in the works.

Explore Academic AMIs

#eqnz Twitter Analysis

This project is led by Dr. Zita Joyce and Ph.D. student Martina Wengenmeir from the Media and Communication Department at the University of Canterbury. The broader team comprises Donald Matheson, Linda-Jean Kenix, Ronan Phelan (UC IT), and me. The goal is to analyse ~1 million tweets associated with the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 - 2012.

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China, Art & Cultural Diplomacy

This work is led by Richard Bullen (University of Canterbury Art History) and James Beattie (University of Waikato Art History), who haves have a significant Marsden Fund project cataloguing a collection of artefacts gifted to the Canterbury Museum by New Zealander Rewi Alley. They contracted me to develop a research repository where they could manage high quality images of the collection along with metadata and notes. We used Omeka for this, and hope to make the completed site public in the next couple of years.

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UCDH Boilerplate

This project was used for a talk at Digital Humanities 2014, Nebraska. The talk outlined the development of the University of Canterbury Digital Humanities Programme curriculum, including both pedagogical principles and the administrative processes required at University and national level. The site is hand-coded using HTML and CSS, and hosted in an Amazon S3 bucket.

Explore UCDH Boilerplate

Humanities Machine

This is a relatively old project, and woefully out of date. The goal was to produce a 'digital humanities portal' for New Zealand, so people could learn what that term meant and explore our country's digital heritage. It was built using Drupal and is hosted on the Naiotnal eScience Infrastrucutre (NeSI, formerlt BeSTGrid) at the University of Auckland.

Explore Humanities Machine



Student Supervision

Students are doing some of the most innovative and high quality work in the digital humanities and social sciences, and I'm proud to be involved in some of their projects. They range from Honours projects in English and Art History to a PhD in Media and Communication, and Masters in computational statistics. virtualmachines and sources as varied as Omeka, Scalar, the Old Bailey Online, Twitter, and PhilPapers are being used. We plan to showcase some of these projects on the UC Digital Humanities site soon.

Coming soon

Dr. James Smithies

Director | King’s Digital Lab

King's College London

Strand | London WC2R 2LS

Blog Categories
Digital Humanities | History