A DH State of Mind: Libraries and the Digital Humanities

A DH State of Mind: Libraries and the Digital Humanities

Cindy Elliott (The University of Arizona Libraries, USA), Mary Feeney (The University of Arizona Libraries, USA), Chris Kollen (The University of Arizona Libraries, USA) and Veronica Reyes-Escudero (The University of Arizona Libraries, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8444-7.ch007


Partnering with faculty and students working in the digital humanities is a natural extension of librarian roles as liaisons, subject specialists, curators, and digital collections specialists. Librarians are well-positioned to identify campus needs and opportunities, and provide research consultations, information resources, and digital project management expertise for the digital humanities. The authors propose that a “digital humanities state of mind” is a way for librarians to approach engaging in and supporting the digital humanities. This chapter explores the roles and contributions of librarians working on digital humanities projects, examines how some libraries collaborate in the digital humanities at their institutions, and explains the importance of environmental scanning and needs assessment for understanding the digital humanities researchers at one's own institution. The authors discuss three examples of digital humanities library collaborations: digitization of Mexican and Mexican American newspapers, digitization of borderland materials, and a 16mm film project.
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One of the first questions for many getting involved in digital humanities is what are the “digital humanities”? Participants in the annual Day of DH have offered their own definitions of digital humanities. Not surprisingly, there are many different definitions, but some commonality emerges, mainly around the use of digital technologies to inform humanities research. Keywords like interdisciplinary, collaboration, different, and new also are commonly used. One participant simply offered this as a definition: “TBD” (Bonds, Day of DH, 2014, p. 2). There are differing views of what is and what should be considered digital humanities, and what does and doesn’t make a scholar a digital humanist. Svensson (2012, pp. 44-47) analyzed four statements or descriptions about the digital humanities: from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities, from a white paper from the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities, from a junior scholar perspective, and from a panel at the Modern Language Association Convention in 2011. These different descriptions, and Svensson’s discussion, highlight the differing and evolving views of the digital humanities. He proposes the digital humanities as a “trading zone and meeting place” (Svensson, 2012, p. 52), which encourages participation, interdisciplinarity, openness, and sharing of interests. There is a range of disciplines involved in digital humanities, across the arts and humanities (Sula, 2013, p. 16), with potential for many participants and contributions.

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