Models of digital humanities/digital scholarship

These are my notes for my brief talk at Iliads 2015 panel on models of digital humanities/digital scholarship.
Over the last three years a group of faculty, librarians, and IT staff at Washington and Lee have met regularly to explore what model for DH would work at our institution. The group is chaired by Paul Youngman, professor of German Studies. It’s particularly good to have someone in that role like Paul, who can convey a lot of enthusiasm about DH to other faculty.

I want to say that we use the term DH, digital humanities, because the dean of the college, who is also an english professor, likes that term. And she’s the champion of our efforts. My advice is to find the term that works best at your institution: dh, digital liberal arts, digital studies. But don’t agonize too much over the name. More important is what you do than what you call it. 

So, the DH working group sets the vision and direction for our initiatives. But the actual work is done through a collaborative group called DHAT, the digital humanities action team. There is significant overlap between the working group and DHAT to ensure good communication. DHAT is co-chaired by our DH librarian and an academic technology specialist. 

I want to say something about staffing. The success of these initiatives is entirely dependent upon the people who collaborate with faculty and students. (I’m talking about the librarians and IT staff.) I don’t like to use the word “support” because it really is more of a collaboration.  As a librarian, I can say that digital scholarship is simply what a library does today. Libraries, today, do not function without technology and digital media. Many librarians think about these issues all the time. 

You need to get the buy-in of the leadership of your library and/or IT organization. Those are the organizations that have the financial resources to make digital scholarship a priority. I do need to stress that every college has its own political issues. What is successful at one place may not be at another.

At W&L we have redefined several positions. We have a digital scholarship librarian who is focused on digitizing, scholarly communication, copyright, and is our Omeka expert.
In my position as AUL, I put about 75% of my time into developing these initiatives. That’s because the library has made DH a priority. And even though we use the term DH, we don’t limit ourselves to the humanities. I do a lot of work with our journalism dept and would like to do more with our business programs, particularly with regards to data science.

This year our humanities reference librarian retired after 30 years. And we decided to restructure that position as a DH librarian. And Mackenzie Brooks, who was previously our metadata librarian, assumed that position. And I’m going to let her talk about our curricular efforts regarding DH.

More information about DH at W&L can be found at

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