Navigating the DH Center - Library Divide
University of Pennsylvania, United States of America
Institutions often struggle with the question of where technical support for the humanities should be located. Libraries have long been supporters of digital humanities and institutions like the University of Virginia have provided inspiring leadership for some. On the other hand, independent DH Centers like the ones at George Mason and Stanford have produced some useful and popular tools as well as solid scholarship.
Both models have their own benefits and drawbacks. Library based support for DH can often tap into expertise in scholarly communication and digital preservation and benefit from existing organizational structures (and corresponding budgets) designed to support research. However, some libraries can seem rigid and unwilling to experiment. Conversely, independent centers are often quite nimble and able to act on exciting, if experimental, ideas. That being said, these centers are frequently constrained by a reliance on soft money that prioritizes innovation over maintenance and can sometimes feel like exclusive clubs built for a select few.
We are two friends with 10 years of experience each who have taken leadership positions on opposite sides of the library/center divide at the same institution at the University of Pennsylvania. Laurie Allen is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Department in the Penn Libraries while Stewart Varner is the Managing Director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities in the School of Arts and Sciences. Working with a small but devoted group of colleagues, we have been trying to build a truly collaborative DH program that attempts to merge the best of both worlds, and create a model that supports experimentation and is welcoming to a broad range of people.
In this talk, we will share what we have learned from building and administering a relatively large and new Digital Humanities program, and from attempting to build a new kind of community at our institution. Our experience has involved constant balancing between capacity building structure, and the creative chaos necessary for learning how to do new things across two organizational structures. We’ve developed some very helpful models for staffing and planning while continuously tinkering with our project management workflow in an ongoing effort to create something capable of surviving reality.
We will also discuss how our own values, and the values of our colleagues and teams have helped shape the direction of Digital Humanities at our institution. Taking very seriously Miriam Posner’s call to focus on people rather than projects (http://miriamposner.com/blog/commit-to-dh-people-not-dh-projects/), we have attempted to build a wide network of faculty, staff, librarians, and students who are thoughtful users, creators, and critics of technology. Prioritizing support for staff and colleagues over particular projects can raise challenges, and while not all of the process has been successful, the deep partnership between the library and the DH Center continues to grow, and we hope that by sharing the lessons learned, the wider community can benefit from our experience.
Building Political Will for Inter-Sector Collaboration in Support of Digital Preservation
Catholic University of America, United States of America
How does one organize a federal big-data project that supports media preservation, utilizing the service time of professors? This paper discusses the work of the Library of Congress Radio Preservation Task Force, a project of the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board. I discuss how the final product of the task force - our metadata interface - is representative of a holistic process of organization that includes intense negotiation, parallel planning, labor organizing, and awareness-raising strategies regarding the role of sound history in broader preservation discourses.
Our interface is designed by Mark Matienzo (Stanford) and William Vanden Dries (Indiana), and provides collection-level descriptions, and will eventually act as a hub for educational, curatorial, and curricular projects. I argue that the content embedded in the interface also reflects thousands of hours of accumulated work put forward by multiple academic research divisions - Network, Communications, Development, Grantwriting, and Research Content - in the development of a public humanities resource. To accumulate collection-level data presented for public access, the task force is structured for flexible labor and input from over 40 federal, public, and academic conference partnerships.
I close by discussing strategies to design a national project so that it emphasizes ways that preservation and access initiatives can help with deficiencies in curriculum, especially related to alterity experience and associated primary sources.
Theorizing and Re-theorizing Collaboration in the (Digital) Humanities
University of Miami, United States of America
In Debates in the Digital Humanities (2012), Tom Scheinfeldt explained that “the fact that nearly all digital humanities is collaborative accounts for much of its congeniality—you have to get along to get anything accomplished.” Scheinfeldt is only one of many commentators to emphasize the importance of collaboration in DH. DH initiative charters, likewise, may note that “the most innovative scholarship in the digital humanities is collaborative.” At the same time, many people have observed repeatedly that collaboration is not the norm in the humanities; and essays like the Collaborators’ Bill of Rights and the Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights have worked to outline best practices to make collaboration more equitable for all involved.
Why does collaboration remain challenging? In this paper, I will argue that many of the difficulties of collaboration arise from an enduring focus within the humanities on originality. I will examine how this focus shapes humanities scholars’ sense of both creation and collaboration; and how it influences our interactions with existing DH projects. I will use this examination to reflect on common assumptions about collaboration, and to present a series of specific questions and lenses that could be used to discuss and theorize collaboration in the humanities. My goal in this presentation is not to singlehandedly solve the problem of collaboration. Instead, I hope to illuminate how undertheorizing collaboration contributes to and exacerbates ongoing structural inequity and precarity in DH, as well as contributing to recurring challenges around sustainability. Greater clarity around these issues will in turn allow members of the community to engage in dialogue about how we might intervene.
Revealing Voices: Establishing Meaningful Outreach Strategies for Project Vox
Duke University, United States of America
In an effort to disseminate announcements to our scholarly audience for Project Vox, a digital humanities project dedicated to introducing women into the philosophical canon, we launched a blog on our website in 2017. The Project Vox team not only shares content about women philosophers, but also publishes transcriptions of documents written by these philosophers, provides teaching materials for undergraduate courses, and curates a gallery of images related to the content on the website. In my own form of online activism as the Outreach and Assessment Coordinator, I created our leading blog series, Revealing Voices, which reveals those voices of formerly forgotten women philosophers and the scholarly voices of those in the field. Through this series, we are able to provide the contributors at all different points in academic life a place to communicate with others about feminist research and publishing. For example, we had one contributor write about translating the works of women philosophers into Lithuanian in order to combat a Soviet-era censure imposed on philosophical writing. Another contributor discussed her struggles of rejection in academia when writing grant proposals to examine gender and feminism in philosophy. By engaging with our social media users and reaching out to them to write a post for our blog series, we are not only creating stronger relationships with our readers, but we are giving them an outlet to speak to a community working to correct the exclusions of women from writing and academic study. I believe that we must prioritize outreach for digital humanities projects to go beyond social media and news articles to create a global community that trusts and recognizes our work.