OREM — Utah Valley University, in partnership with the University of Oxford, launched on Tuesday the Quill Project, a "groundbreaking" research platform to conduct contextual study of negotiated texts, with its initial focus on the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
The project re-creates what it was like to be present in the room and witness what was being discussed at the time of the U.S. Constitution's creation.
"Quill models formal negotiations, including legislative and quasi-Parliamentary processes, making them visual," its website states.
"The platform was designed with global collaboration in mind, and the data-entry tools require a minimum of technical knowledge."
The Quill Project was created by Nicholas Cole of Pembroke College at the University of Oxford, with significant research conducted by Pembroke College students and at the UVU Center for Constitutional Studies.
Using custom software, the Quill Project captures and fully renders the textual creation of historic documents in an accessible way, showing how the drafting process informed and shaped the final document.
While most Americans are familiar with the basics of the U.S. Constitution, "few people understand the extensive negotiations behind its making,” said Cole, a senior research fellow at Pembroke College.
“Thanks to a unique collaboration with the students at UVU’s Center for Constitutional Studies, we’ve been able to provide some much-needed insight and context into what went on during the Constitutional Convention, and how it led to the historic document we know today. We look forward to working with the UVU team on further projects exploring the basis of American Constitutional Law,” Cole said in a press release.
UVU President Matthew Holland, in a prepared statement, said he is “immensely proud of our students’ contribution to this remarkable, even historic project, which provides a significant learning tool to everyday students as well as scholars looking to delve more deeply into negotiated texts.”
Holland spent last summer at Oxford University on sabbatical.
“We have been honored to work with such an esteemed institution as Pembroke College in bringing this platform to the public. This collaboration by our Center for Constitutional Studies beautifully illustrates our defining commitment to engaged learning, which immerses students in real-world activities outside the classroom to increase professional competence and confidence,” Holland said.
The official launch and a demonstration of the platform was conducted at the U.S. Capitol. To watch the unveiling visit facebook.com/UtahValleyUniversity.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said study of the Constitution is "highly personal" to him and his family. Lee's father, the late Rex E. Lee, was solicitor general of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. The senator's brother, Thomas R. Lee, is associate chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court.
"I highly commend this unique transatlantic partnership between our great Utah Valley University and the world’s most famous and established institution of higher education, Oxford University. I believe the Quill Project can play a significant role in improving constitutional literacy across the world,” Lee said in a statement.
A variety of other projects for Quill are planned or underway. A group of UVU’s constitutional studies students is researching the 1895 records of the Salt Lake Convention, which led to the creation of the Utah Constitution.
UVU, with an enrollment of nearly 37,300 students, is the largest public university in Utah.
It is one of a few higher education institutions in the nation that offers a dual-mission model, which includes technical training and a community college education alongside advanced, four-year degrees and targeted masters’ programs.
Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, has been an internationally renowned center of learning for centuries.
"There is no clear date of foundation, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris," the university's website states.
Pembroke was founded in 1624 to serve the common good through the promotion of scholarship and research. The student body is made up of 375 undergraduates, around 35 visiting students on their Junior Year Abroad from U.S. and Chinese universities, and more than 283 postgraduates.
The college houses several research groups and is committed to the tutorial system of undergraduate teaching.