Media Advisory: U.Va. Students to Give Interactive Presentation of 1895 Rotunda Fire on May 3

April 20, 2011 — University of Virginia students will give a presentation of their computer-aided visualization of the 1895 Rotunda fire, which they produced for a University Seminar this semester, on May 3 at 3:30 p.m. in Alderman Library.

The class, "Digital Humanities: The 1895 Rotunda Fire," researched many aspects of the fire – its start, how it spread, the Rotunda annex where it began, architectural issues, the lack of fire management plans, and, of course, professor William H. "Reddy" Echols' unsuccessful attempts to fight the fire with dynamite.

The result is an interactive visualization that tells the story of the fire in an engaging and compelling manner, said Bill Ferster, VisualEyes project director for U.Va.'s SHANTI – or Sciences, Humanities & Arts Network of Technological Initiatives – program. He taught the seminar with Kurtis Schaeffer, associate professor of religious studies in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of SHANTI's steering committee.

"We came up with the idea for the 1895 Rotunda fire course from the University Seminar we taught last year about the 1828 Library, in which students produced a digital re-creation and analysis of the first library of the University, located in the Rotunda," Ferster explained.

Students created the 1895 Rotunda fire visualization using SHANTI's VisualEyes tool, a Web-based tool for visualizing and analyzing primary documents, maps, timelines, charts, catalogues and other basic resources for humanities scholarship. The students will present their project in the SHANTI meeting room on the third floor of Alderman Library.

Ferster said his mission at SHANTI is to "help faculty and students use interactive visualization to present their research." The overarching aim of SHANTI, according to its website, is to promote innovation at the University through the use of advanced technologies in research, teaching, publication and engagement.

REPORTERS: Bill Ferster can be reached at 540-592-7001 or

— By Rebecca Arrington

Media Contact

Rebecca P. Arrington

Assistant Director of Media Relations Office of University Communications