Feature Story

Mapping the Martyrs

May 5, 2015 – by Cole Hatcher


OWU Students Use Grant Funds to Create Digital Humanities Project

A group of Ohio Wesleyan University students spent spring semester undertaking a journey that dates back more than 1,900 years.

David Eastman, Ph.D.

Under the direction of David Eastman, assistant professor of religion, the students created “Mapping the Martyrs,” a digital humanities project available online at www.mappingthemartyrs.org.

Their work, culminating with the launch of a new scholarly website, was supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant administered by the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium. The students – all enrolled in Eastman’s “Martyrdom and Persecution in Early Christianity” course – also presented their work during a recent campus forum.

One of the exciting elements of the project, Eastman, Ph.D., told the attendees, was the students not only collected data to document religious persecution, but “they’re also beginning to say what it means. So, they’re actually creating knowledge.”

Makenna Huff ’15, a mathematics and religion major from Medina, Ohio, served as the project’s digital scholarship student assistant, collaborating with the group to brainstorm, develop, and troubleshoot technical aspects of the website.

Huff previously earned an OWU Theory-to-Practice Grant to study pilgrimages, walking 500 miles across northern Spain in summer 2014 as part of her research.

“I now understand that study of religion cannot be separated from its lived experience,” she said of her pilgrimage, “a lesson I am grateful to have learned and which I believe was possible only through personal journey.”

To conclude the “Mapping the Martyrs” presentation, Jacob Heil, Ph.D., Mellon Digital Scholar for the Five Colleges of Ohio, discussed the project from his consorital perspective.

“I get to see a lot of these projects developing … and I think that this one should be lauded for how exemplary it is,” Heil said. “It is kind of a microcosm of all the wonderful things that I think about [with] digital humanities projects.”

Those wonderful things included, he said, both collaboration and the showcasing of student work. “This is the creation of knowledge,” he concluded, echoing Eastman’s words, “rather than just kind of the consumption of digital knowledge.”

Other OWU students participating in the “Mapping the Martyrs” project were:

  • Rhiannon Bair ’16, a religion major and English minor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • Sam Barnett ’15, a classics and medieval studies major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • Zach Claytor ’16, an astrophysics major and religion minor from Chillicothe, Ohio.
  • Peter Cook ’17, an exercise science major and religion minor from Toledo, Ohio.
  • Jessica Harpel ’16, a psychology major and biology minor from Paulding, Ohio.
  • Cheyne Keola Lacanaria ’17, a health and human kinetics major and religion and psychology minor from Farmington Hills, Michigan.
  • Sophia Love ’17, a pre-professional zoology major and history minor from Portland, Oregon.
  • Dominic Mejia ’17, a pre-theology major from Bryan, Ohio.
  • Cameron Pappa ’16, a pre-medicine and pre-professional zoology major and chemistry minor from Gilroy, California.
  • Kiersten Payne ’17, a religion major and German minor from Hicksville, Ohio.
  • Joshua Pyles ’17, a health and human kinetics major, with a focus in exercise science, and religion minor from Columbus, Ohio.
  • Haley Schafer ’15, a psychology major and religion minor from Harrod, Ohio.

In addition to Mellon Foundation funding and Five Colleges of Ohio support, “Mapping the Martyrs” also received support from Ohio Wesleyan’s Honors Program; Ben Daigle, associate director of consortial library systems for the Five Colleges; and David Soliday, OWU’s instructional technologist.