Thursday, June 16, 2011

Digital Humanities for Librarianship

Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) has been a rising force in the digital humanities (affectionately known simply as “DH” in the field).  Having been hosted at the University of Victoria campus for more than 10 years now, DHSI has provided an ideal environment for discussing and learning about new computing technologies and how they are influencing teaching, research, dissemination, and preservation in different disciplines.  Every year, faculty, staff, and students from the Arts, Humanities, Library, and Archives communities as well as independent scholars and participants from industry and government sectors participate in the DHSI.    Digital Humanists can no longer be classified as a “fringe group” or sub-discipline; it’s grown to encompass its own set of theories, best practices, industry standards, and scholarly publications.     What is DH and why should we care?   Simply put, it touches on so much, as
an area of study, research, teaching, and invention concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Sometimes called humanities computing, the field has focused on the digitization and analysis of materials related to the traditional disciplines of the humanities. Digital Humanities currently incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from the traditional humanities disciplines (such as historyphilosophylinguisticsliteratureartarchaeologymusic, and cultural studies) with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisationdata retrieval, computational analysis) and digital publishing.
One of this year’s themes of DHSI 2011 is Editing Modernism in Canada, or better known as EMiC.    Bridging academia, technology, and industry, EMiC has slowly risen as the hub for training and networking graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, professors, publishers, and technologists.  Where traditional disciplines shun digital technologies, EMiC fills in by providing the resources necessary for researchers to conduct literary projects using cutting edge technologies, be it digitization, text-encoding initiative markups, or social media fluencies.   Although it aims primarily at preserving Canadian modernist literature, it serves as a the gold standard in innovation for the digital humanities field.
It seems an opportune time for academic libraries to take note.  To a certain extent, academic libraries have slowly shifted in that direction, with such positions as Digital Humanities Librarian at Brown University’s Center for Digital Scholarship.    University of Toronto Library has its own digital scholarship librarian, and in the process of creating its own Digital Scholarship Unit.  The University of British Columbia Library forged ahead in creating a brand new division called Digital Initiatives.   It seems quite clear: academic libraries have an important voice in DH.   For humanists, who only recently had been questioned whether it will survive the 21st century, it’s only logical to collaborate with one of academia’s oldest partner: the library.  So let’s move forward.