Christopher Long recently posted on a new initiative of the Penn State College of Liberal Arts and the University Libraries called The Humanities in a Digital Age. While that post remains the canonical announcement (to be included in the Norton Anthology of Education Administration Blog Posts), I also sent an announcement out to the Libraries today, which I include below. We’ll have much to say about this in the coming few weeks, but for now, here’s the skeleton of the plan.
A few months ago Susan Welch, Dean of Liberal Arts, asked me to attend a CIC meeting on the topic of digital humanities along with Christopher Long, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and a small team of Liberal Arts faculty. The goal of that meeting was spark collaboration across institutions, but in this case it also led to a discussion of opportunities for the Libraries and Liberal Arts to collaborate to promote and/or support digital humanities at Penn State. Before ALA Dean Welch and Dean Dewey met with Chris Long and I to discuss some specific ways we could work together on this effort. Chris and I then met just before the 4th to nail down a few more details. Here they are.
In the coming year, we’ll launch an initiative known as “Humanities in the Digital Age,” which will promote digital scholarship in the humanities, with the emphasis on “scholarship.” Plans are, at this stage, fairly preliminary, but they include three key activities. First, we will help to build the community of interested researchers across many disciplines and colleges, including the Libraries. This will include programming of various sorts, including workshops, a possible discussion series, and outside speakers. Secondly, Liberal Arts will identify a few research projects already underway and provide additional seed support to help demonstrate the variety of forms digital scholarship can take. Third, the Libraries and Liberal Arts will jointly fund a new position on a fixed-term basis.
This position for now has a working title of Digital Humanities Research Designer. The purpose of this position is to work with researchers to help them define their aims and assist in identifying what tools or techniques could allow them to explore their research questions. In some ways, this “research designer” role would be analogous to how an instructional designer might help an instructor develop courseware. There are still a lot of details to work out (like a job description, duties, etc) which will require more input from some of you.
For Liberal Arts, this initiative will help them to support their own researchers and prepare their graduate students to become faculty themselves. For the Libraries it will allow us to deepen already strong support for the humanities, and to expand our ability to provide digital curation services to that community.
One of the reasons this has been an easy discussion with Deans Dewey and Welch is that we had already begun to explore these collaborations in big and small ways. Dawn Childress has been discussing the topic with Chris Long and members of his staff, and planning workshops at this year’s Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit event on August 15 and 16. Dan Mack had been developing digital humanities projects and ideas with colleagues in Classics. Eric Novotny brought the historian Bill Blair to the Libraries to talk about digitization and, several years later, we have a full-fledged collaboration between the Libraries and the Richards Civil War Center known as The People’s Contest. Dean Welch was already aware of some these activities.
I welcome your thoughts and questions, and you will hear more about this as it develops.