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  • SN-0035 Extended Development Project- Online Database on the History of Evolutionary and Developmental Biology

This wiki space contains archival documentation of Project Bamboo, April 2008 - March 2013.

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Extended Development Project: Online Database on the History of Evolutionary and Developmental Biology

Collection Date: 23 Dec 2008
Scholar #1 Info: (if more than one scholar's process is described, copy this set for each scholar)

  • Name: Phillip Thurtle
  • Email:
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Institution/Organization: University of Washington
  • Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: Cultural Studies of Biology

Collector Info (can be the same as "Scholar" above):

  • Name: Phillip Thurtle
  • Email:
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Institution/Organization: University of Washington

Notes on Methodology:

Recent research in the field of evolutionary and developmental biology have challenged conventional notions of the gene as a code script. This project intends to collect citations of important papers, copies of the original papers, video interviews of researchers, material artifacts, and written stories from those involved to document this change. The project will work as a online database giving access to materials, a workspace for researchers to tag and collect materials, an exhibit space where invited scholars put together exhibits, and an online means to gather stories participants. Currently the prooject is using Zotero as the citation management system and will then use Omeka as the database/exhibition/collection space.


  1.  There are different levels of participation in this project. The most surficial is the viewer of the exhibits, then the user of the database, the developer of a folksonomy for data objects, the story contributor, the video taped interviewees, and the scholars invited to contribute exhibits.
  2. This process is desiged to encourage individuals to use the associative power and the distributed nature of new media to encourage users to think in new terms about history and thus to encourage new thinking on the role of genetics in society.
  3. Students, educated lay readers, and specialized scholars in the humanities and the sciences.
  4. Currently, yes.
  5. Data collection (story gathering), robust methods for visualizing data through tagging, publication of exhibits, tools to automatically post Zotero databases into Omeka.


Please provide some keywords that will allow us to group or cluster related stories--or aspects of stories.

1. Was this story collected for a particular Bamboo working group?  If so, please include, as keywords, the appropriate group(s).

  • Stories

2. Suggested keywords: Does this story contain elements that could be mapped to these keywords?  If so, please indicate which ones and briefly describe the mapping.  Add any additional keywords in #3. (These are global keywords from this page keywords)

3. Please list additional keywords here:

Folksonomy, exhibit, biology

4. Related Stories: Are there parts of the story that relate to other collected stories? Please provide title(s) and link to the story page. 


The findings of evolutionary and developmental biology significantly challenge popular understanding of the role of genes in evolution and development. Currently much of the debate about the role of genetics in the development of organisms is couched in terms of "nature" (genes) and "nurture" (environment), terms coined in the mid-nineteenth century. Recent findings suggest that this distinction is overwrought and that variability between organisms is due more to when and how genes are transcribed as opposed to what the genes actually code for. This new way of understanding the interplay of nature and nurture promises new understandings for how organisms develop, learn, and contribute to their environments. An interactive, online database of this research is needed to collect stories from researchers involved in this dramatic change, provide an organized forum for presenting primary, secondary, and media-rich materials (such as interviews and animations) that explain and evaluate this change, and promote a greater understanding of how digital tools can foster complementary and productive interactions between humanists and scientists.

Thurtle has already begun a collaboration with the Center for New Media and History at George Mason University. With help from CHNM's Echo: Exploring and Collecting History Online project (, Thurtle has organized an extensive database of primary documents using CHNM's Zotero research management software ( The next step is to begin using CHNM's Omeka web publishing platform ( to create an online workspace for the collection and presentation of these materials.

 Once completed, the Extended Development Project promises the following contributions to online humanities scholarship and the humanistic study of bio-medicine:
• A set of import and export tools to facilitate data migration and exchange between personal Zotero databases and public Omeka websites and exhibitions.
• An annotated and cross-linked bibliography of historically important papers in evo-devo research, including copies of especially important published documents (with permissions).
• Copies of unpublished files and images from evo-devo researchers (photos documenting lab culture, for instance, or laboratory notebooks of key experiments).
• Footage from newscasts and news articles demonstrating how the reception of evo-devo research has changed.
• A collaborative repository for online collecting of digital materials from subject populations.
• An exhibit space for invited researchers to construct and publish scholarly multimedia exhibitions using materials from the database.

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