CWT Presents Dr. Kurt Luther - Civil War Photo Sleuth

Added to Calendar: 04/21/21


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Forum Host
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Mar 15, 2013
Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at 8:30pm EDT
CivilWarTalk Presents:
Dr. Kurt Luther

Civil War Photo Sleuth:
Using technology and community to rediscover
lost identities in American Civil War-era photographs.

A Free Live Video Presentation
The American Civil War was the first widely photographed conflict. Many thousands of portraits of the participants survive today, but fewer than 20% of the images are identified. Eight years ago, at a Civil War exhibit hosted by Pittsburgh’s Senator John Heinz History Center, Dr. Kurt Luther stumbled upon a Civil War era photo of his own 3x great uncle, Oliver Croxton. It was the earliest family photo he had seen and finding it was an emotional experience. Luther already had an interest in history and the Civil War, and he began to wonder how he might help other history enthusiasts share a similar experience.

Dr. Luther explains, "I started learning more about Civil War photography, and how to identify different visual clues - like the uniform, insignia or the photographer's studio information. As a computer science professor, I was doing research in the area of crowdsourcing. I though maybe there's a way to bring these two things together." Dr. Luther's idea developed into 'Civil War Photo Sleuth' - a free, online platform that uses crowdsourcing and facial recognition software to help identify subjects in Civil War era photographs.

Dr. Kurt Luther is an associate professor of computer science and (by courtesy) history at Virginia Tech. He directs the Crowd Intelligence Lab, researching the complementary strengths of crowdsourced human intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI) in domains like history, journalism, national security, and creativity. Since 2015, he has written a quarterly column on Civil War photo sleuthing for Military Images Magazine. He was named an Emerging Scholar by the American Civil War Museum and a Distinguished Writing Awards Finalist by the Army Historical Foundation. You can learn more about him here.

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