Our JSTOR Labs team recently announced the launch of Juncture, a free, open source tool to support the creation of visual essays using technologies that are broadly accessible. The tool was developed in connection with the Plant Humanities Lab, a resource created by JSTOR Labs and Dumbarton Oaks.

As an authoring tool, Juncture makes it easier for digital humanists to do their work, and also opens the door to beginners. Using the Markdown language, which can be learned in 30 minutes or less, authors can quickly write digital text with emphasis and basic structures such as lists, hyperlinks, images, and video.

The tool also supports advanced web-authoring methods such as Mapping (via GeoJSON), Automatic Information Retrieval (via knowledge graphs), and Advanced Image Retrieval and Manipulation (via International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF)). While these technologies may seem intimidating at first, JSTOR Labs has created documentation to walk researchers and students through it step by step.

“Our goal is to make it easy for authors to tell compelling stories featuring images, maps, and media that are as central to the message as the text,” said Alex Humphreys, head of JSTOR Labs. “We aim for this to be useful both for scholars seeking to create and share new knowledge and for teachers looking for compelling project-based learning tools.”

Featured in the Harvard Gazette in How Plants Have Influenced Human Societies, the site includes eleven visual essays written by students and faculty using Juncture that explore the impacts of plants like cacao, sunflowers, and the powerful peony.

Juncture has also been used to tell the story of Kent, a county in Southeast England that inspired artists and writers such as Edith Nesbit and H.G. Wells, through the lens of historical maps. When asked about Juncture, Carolyn Oulton, Professor of Victorian Literature in the School of Humanities, Canterbury Christ Church University, and Kent Maps Project team leader said, ”What our team loves about Juncture is that everyone can interact with it. Our Humanities students are going digital, our school participants are using Computer Science to bring forgotten stories to life. This innovative approach just shows that history really is the future!”

Humphreys added, “At a time when researchers have more content and data at their fingertips than ever before, there are new opportunities to gain insights and to communicate them in ways that are more engaging and impactful. Rather than simply putting ‘words on a page,’ writers now can make complex arguments and tell compelling stories while readers can be invited into more immersive learning experiences.”

Learn more and try it at juncture-digital.org.