The Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), is an interdisciplinary research lab at Stanford University that engages in collaborative work in the digital humanities and allied fields. The idea of CESTA is simply this: combine faculty, staff, and students in a research lab setting and take advantage of what digital tools and methods have to offer for the exploration, analysis, and presentation of humanistic research, broadly construed to include the application of knowledge and concepts from the social and natural sciences.

CESTA is collaborating with the Chinese Railroad Workers (CRW) project on several levels, beginning with providing working space, technology, staff, and logistical resources to support the team. We are active in evaluating and supporting technical approaches for asset management, metadata development and research practices. Finally, through our Spatial History Project, we are investigating the potential of mapping and visualization methods for supporting the development and presentation of the CRW archive. Building on our existing historical GIS for the western portion of the transcontinental railroad, we are creating maps tracing the incremental progress of the rail across the landscape. By situating the stories, artifacts, documents and photographs depicting Chinese railroad workers in specific places at specific times, we hope to stimulate a better understanding of the worker experience, identify significant gaps in the historical record, and enable researchers to explore and comprehend the developing archive.

In addition to the Project Leaders Gordon H. Chang,  Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Hilton Obenzinger, and Denise Khor, the following people are involved in the CESTA-CRW collaboration:


Zephyr Frank       zephyr_frank_LG

Director, CESTA

Zephyr Frank is an Associate Professor of History at Stanford University, Director of the Spatial History Project, and the principal investigator for the Terrain of History project. This project is an international collaborative project that seeks to reconstruct and analyze the social, cultural, and economic spaces of nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro. Professor Frank has been conducting this research for the last eight years.



Erik Steiner

Creative Director, Spatial History Project

Erik Steiner helped found the Lab in 2007 and served as the first Lab Director until 2010. He now serves as the Creative Director of the Spatial History Project. Before coming to Stanford, Erik worked for several years at the InfoGraphics Lab in the Department of Geography at the University of Oregon. Erik has over a decade of experience in leading the design and development of dynamic mapping applications, including the award-winning Atlas of Oregon CD-ROM and Interactive Nolli Map Website. A designer at heart, Erik is passionate about building deep creative partnerships that cut across disciplines and expertise.



Matt Bryant

Project Manager and Lab Manager, CESTA 

Matt Bryant joined the lab in March 2012. He is the project manager for numerous CESTA initiatives, and is also the lab manager for the collective that makes up CESTA: the Spatial History Project, Humanities + Design, and the Literary Lab. Matt has a background in fine arts and communications, and outside of work you can often find him making dust in his woodshop. He enjoys good music, vintage tools and machinery, maps and diagrams, and the great outdoors.



Gabriel Wolfenstein

Crowdsourcing Project Manager, CESTA 

Gabriel Wolfenstein is a historian by training, whose work is in Victorian Britain, with specific focus on the history of statistics and the census. He is particularly interested in how the making and taking of such surveys impacts the way people think about themselves and the world around them. Other interests include the rise of bureaucracies and the popularization of science. Formerly a post-doctoral Fellow in the Humanities in Stanford’s Introduction to the Humanities program, he has lately become interested in questions of the utility of crowd-sourcing for humanities research, and crowd-sourcing in general. He is currently the Project Manager for CESTA’s Mellon Grant supported research into these very questions. He earned his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. from The New School for Social Research, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.


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Maria McVarish

Lab Affiliate

Maria McVarish is doctoral student in Modern Thought and Literature with a background in architecture and visual research. Her doctoral work centers on the relationships between historical thought, spatial practice and public memory, with particular attention to the after effects of railroad and industry history on landscape and identity.


Undergraduate Research Assistants



Krista Fryauff

Krista Fryauff is a fourth year undergraduate student at Stanford University pursuing a Computer Science degree with a concentration in Human-Computer Interaction. She is currently assisting in the production of accessible, user oriented interfaces for the benefit of research efficiency. Krista is interested in the use of technology as a tool to support other fields and communities.

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Christina Smith

Christina Smith is a sophomore majoring in Classics and minoring in Medieval Art History. She enjoys exploring monastic ruins and is intrigued by Gothic choir stall carvings. She hopes, someday, to excavate remains of Roman or Anglo-Saxon Britain. Christina is also an avid student of the traditional Scottish fiddle and a wicked step dancer! When not studying or working, Christina can be found participating in jam sessions, drinking tea, serving at a local soup kitchen, and enjoying family and friends near and far. She greatly looks forward to learning and contributing to the Chinese Railroad Workers project at CESTA.



Bojan Srbinovski

Bojan Srbinovski is a sophomore who hails from Republic of Macedonia, where he learned how, among other things, English from Cartoon Network. He is interested in the relationship between cognitive science and narrative theory. At CESTA, he is a member of the Chinese Railroad Workers project.