Digital Chicago: Unearthing History and Culture

Digital Chicago unearths the city’s past in order to preserve it for a digital future.

Digital Chicago's website

Visit our collection of digital humanities projects at

These projects reflect the work of Chicago Fellows faculty in our 2015, 2016, and 2017 cohorts, representing scholarship in anthropology and archaeology, art history, English, environmental studies, politics, religion, theater, and more, with other projects coming throughout 2018. 

In 2015, Lake Forest College received an $800,000, four-year (20152018) grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to involve students and faculty in exploring specific at-risk or forgotten sites in Chicago’s history, through urban archaeological digs, innovative digital humanities projects, and complementary coursework in a wide array of disciplines, including English, History, Art, Music, and others. 

Archaeological Field School

Urban archaeologist and Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Rebecca Graff, the grant’s Chicago Archaeological Fellow, will lead an Archaeological Field School as part of Lake Forest College’s 2018 Access: Summer program. The dig will take place at the Gray House in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood. The course offers a chance for students from Lake Forest College and other area schools to gain firsthand archaeological experience. 

Chicago Fellows

The Digital Chicago grant supports the work of several Chicago Fellows faculty every calendar year of the grant (20152018). The Chicago Fellows hail from a variety of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. During their tenure as Fellows, they develop course materials and digital products connected to a research project touching on the grant’s Chicago focus. Fellows share their research with the campus community through the Digital Chicago Seminar, participate in public panels and events, contribute to digital production, and connect their work with a broad community of students and Chicago-area residents. 

Chicago-Focused Courses

The grant supports the development of an array of Chicago-focused courses, including First-Year Studies (FIYS) courses as well as classes taught by the Chicago Fellows. Fall 2015 FIYS courses related to the grant were taught by Lia Alexopoulos, Ben Zeller, Rachel Ragland, Josh Corey, and Chad McCracken. 


Lake Forest College, with partial funding from the Digital Chicago grant, recently established a network of InnovationSpaces on campus. The VirtualSpace, in particular, emerged directly from Digital Chicago’s work in 360° immersive explorations and includes 2 HTC Vive virtual reality headsets and a fabulous collection of educational and experiential demos. 

Student Research

Digital Chicago thrives with the help of student researchers in a wide variety of arenas. Students work one-on-one with one of our Chicago Fellows as a Chicago Fellows Research Assistant, create original illustrations and graphic design, excavate historic sites, and peruse historical materials in libraries and archives across Chicago. Each summer, our student researchers gather as a group to share notes and resources, and during the school year as well, many students continue their work with a faculty member or with the grant’s planning team. 

Chicago-Area Events

In August 2016, Lake Forest College and Digital Chicago partnered with the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University on Windy City in Motion: Movies + Travel in Chicago. This ten-panel exhibit celebrates little-known facts about movies in Chicago, and the starring role played by the city itself. 

Grant Staff

The Chicago Mellon Project grant is supported by staff in the Center for Chicago Programs as well as faculty and staff from across the college. Our staff includes Davis Schneiderman (Project Director), Emily Mace (Chicago Digital Humanities Coordinator), and Anne Thomason (Digital Archivist). Jennie Larsen, Director of the Center for Chicago Programs, and Kathy Barnett, administrative assistant for the Center, provide additional support. 


Latest News

   Digital Chicago grant concludes

In December 2018, Digital Chicago: Unearthing History and Culture, Lake Forest College’s generous $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, came to its formal conclusion.