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 IU Trident Indiana University

The Digital Scroll: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road Manuscript

Project Lead: David Reagan and Patrick Beard

Advanced Visualization Lab, Visualization and Analytics Group, UITS Research Technologies - Research made possible via the IQ Table

On the Road scroll

Figure 1. A screenshot showing a description of Bill Burroughs from Jack Keroauc’s On the Road. This image has been partially blurred to protect the copyright and personal property of the donor.

The Advanced Visualization Lab collaborated with the Lilly Library to create a digital interface to Jack Kerouac’s original On the Road manuscript.

The Digital Scroll was displayed alongside the original scroll at the Lilly Library, in conjunction with the Lilly’s exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday of William S. Burroughs. The Digital Scroll allows curators to highlight passages describing “Old Bull Lee,” a character based on Burroughs. The AVL’s use of open tools creates opportunities to reuse this software for future digitization efforts and the display of very large images and maps.

To avoid pausing to feed his typewriter new sheets of paper, Jack Kerouac wrote his novel On the Road on one 120-foot-long scroll of tracing paper sheets that he had taped together. This scroll has since been digitized in order to allow exploring the manuscript without exposing the fragile document to excessive handling. AVL staff created an interface to the digital version of the manuscript using open-source web technologies and a multi-touch display. Users can explore the document using intuitive multi-touch gestures, and view a selection of important passages using an on-screen navigation menu. 

NSF GSS Codes:

Primary Field: Human Computer Interaction (980) 

Secondary Field: Computer Science (401) Computer Systems Analysis