Introduction to Digital Humanities in the Library

 

manatees sourced from: Cordierite. “Manatee.” Piq, 316837, Publisher, July 15, 2015, https://piq.codeus.net/picture/316837/Manatee.

Digital “hue” manatees. Sourced from: Cordierite. “Manatee.” July 15, 2015, https://piq.codeus.net/picture/316837/Manatee.

With technological advances, researcher preferences are changing and libraries are changing with them, including new departmental needs to accommodate these changes. One of these changes is the inclusion of Digital Humanities within the library, a growing field that intersects digital platforms with humanities fields. To educate library and other Dartmouth staff on the Digital Humanities (DH)  field, Laura Braunstein, the Digital Humanities Librarian at Dartmouth, led an 8 session course that sought to address the what, how, who and why of DH: “what is it?”, “how is it done?”, “who does it?”, and “why do it?”

Digital Humanities encompasses intersections of technology and the humanities that explore the utilization of technological platforms and tools in the humanities fields as well as a humanities perspective on using and teaching technology. More than just a technological addition, DH challenges and changes traditional humanities. The digital world offers new opportunities and challenges in dissemination and structure that alter how the materials are accessed, used, and processed by consumers. These changes create opportunities for publications of scholarship in more nonlinear and connected ways, such as crowdsourcing for information or visualizing and presenting information in non-traditional ways.

Open access, scholarship freely available online to anyone with internet access, is one of the advantages to DH projects, but it also creates questions surrounding the rights to create digitized DH materials. What rights are required in order to make materials available digitally? Given the digital nature of DH projects, making them freely available online can be easily accomplished once issues surrounding copyright and other factors are treated thoughtfully.  Librarians within the Scholarly Communication, Copyright, and Publishing Program at Dartmouth consult with DH project authors on what rights and obligations in sharing content within their projects.

The “Occom Circle Project” provides an example of a DH project in the library. Dartmouth teams created an open access digital edition of handwritten documents from, to, or pertaining to Samson Occom and those who were close to him. The project not only included digital photos and TEI markup of the documents, but also added links within the documents that provided additional information for the people, places, and situations referenced within the writing. This project not only increases accessibility to the materials, but also opens up the texts for word mining by including the TEI markup and anticipates how a scholar would use the text by providing links to more information on referenced topics, and differs from accessing and reading through the physical copies or online photos of the materials.

The format of the Introduction to Digital Humanities course itself was an experiment in learning and use of digital tools. Rather than teaching as a one-time workshop, the class met twice a week for lecture and discussions and completed assignments in discussion posts and readings. This format contributed to greater familiarity amongst the staff members and a more consistent connection to the material. It was interesting to see how staff from different departments connected the conversations on DH to their own work and experiences. Overall, the course looked not just at DH, but also at how technology is changing libraries and what that means for those within it; potential for a change in the role of librarian and potential for changing the ways to access and understand scholarly material.

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