DH Blueprints is live and ready to teach by example. Visit our final project website, DH Blueprints. There you can see what came of our projects as well as the various resources we compiled for people interested in learning more about the exciting field of digital humanities. A more in depth recap is forthcoming.
Since June, my work for the Digital Scholarship Summer Internship at Amherst has been dominated by exploration. Throughout my time working as an intern this summer at Frost Library, I’ve had the opportunity to digitize nineteenth-century Emily Dickinson poems, attend data visualization conference workshops, consult with Native American scholars about digital scholarship possibilities for Amherst’s own Native American book collection, and contribute to this blog. The list goes on and on.
But this week ends on a different note as the supervising staff helped us mark deadlines for our final projects and its components. In late August, our DH initiative must transform from an abstract idea to an actual digital experience for others to explore. What we’re trying to do is develop an educational webspace featuring a few model projects in digital scholarship that could serve as examples for fellow undergraduate students, especially those unfamiliar with digital scholarship.
My individual digital scholarship project, which is now part of our collaborative ‘meta-project’ around digital scholarship, has changed a great deal in the last few weeks. And it’s changed even more since I first began to envision what our collective digital project would be. Initially, I wanted to explore a project that would map the publication data of the Native American books collection. Then, I wanted to plot geographic locations within various books to see what Native American authors were writing about a given region in the U.S. over time. And now, I’ve shifted to using text analysis programs and methodologies to compare two different Iroquois creation stories written by Tuscarora authors. How’d this happen? Continue reading Where Am I and How Did I Get Here?
Part of the goal of our internship is to provide adequate documentation of our process. Whereas some websites leave you hanging as how something was created or how to use it as a source, one of our aims aside from exploring the Kim-Wait Eisenberg Native American books has always been to provide transparency. To start off this process, it will be helpful to begin recounting the process thus far. Rather than boring everyone to sleep with a timeline of what happened, I’ll just cover a few salient topics.
Not too long ago, my fellow interns and I met with visiting scholars from The American Antiquarian Society to discuss how digital scholarship can enhance the field of Native American Studies. (Victoria Turner wrote an excellent post about that dialogue with those AAS Fellows). One of the most enlightening moments of that discussion was when the AAS Fellows revealed the slight discomfort that humanities scholars have with the digital humanities. Despite all of the possibilities of DH to expand access to literary and historical knowledge, they suggested that at times, digitization can actually distance scholars from the original works. I definitely agree: reading through a digitized text of an original work can be quite different than actually holding the physical edition with your hands (it’s part of why I still prefer checking out books from the library over e-books). The book covers in the Kim-Wait Eisenberg Collection of Native American literature provide a unique, distinct historical field of study in their own right. Viewing digitized book covers, author portraits, and illustrations could help to humanize and enhance the experience of interacting with an otherwise unexicting electronic text.
At this moment, prospects for the DS Summer Project are still inchoate and hazy. After a week of exploring secondary sources, digital tools, we purposefully splintered ourselves into five proposals to see what projects might be best. Some common themes that emerged from the proposals we discussed were
1. Future in curriculum and student research
2. Geographic data and visualizations (sometimes referred to as maps)
3. Use in scholarly research
4. The value of book covers (the artifact itself, not just texts of books extracted with OCR)
5. Videos (short interviews of scholars, screencasts to explain how to use a website)
Most of our potential projects are broad in scope, and involve Herculean tasks like hunting down publicly accessible/accurate historical maps for each decade from the 1770s onward, or scanning and processing each of the 1300-odd covers of the collection. We are looking at projects such as a searchable gallery of book covers and author portraits or an interactive stack of map layers related to Native American history. Some problems arise with how comprehensive we’d like to be (for example, attempting to scan all of the book covers, or just some of them?) and how useful and interesting our site will be. I tend to get attached to thinking in terms of which tools seem most promising, rather than looking at broader questions of what scholarship should come out of the project’s use.
In the next week we’ll be meeting with Amherst Professors Kiara Vigil and Lisa Brooks of the American Studies Department to discuss what needs and interests the faculty can bring. By then, we should have locked into a fair idea of our project backbone so we can begin the work itself.
Last week, we interns had free reign to do our own research relating to a digital project proposal for the KWE Native American book collection. This meant lots of time exploring different books and articles related to Native American studies and digital humanities tools that could be useful for our digital project. I broke up my time reading and gathering info on two broad subjects that tended to overlap as I began to hone in on what I was interested in. In the one corner, there was Native American literary history. In the other, studies related to the history of American publishing and of American print culture. In many ways it was a week of info dumping- searching catalogs for articles, skimming said articles, checking bibliographies, looking up books… you get the idea. With that said, I think an important take away from this is that there is so much to learn about the fields I’m looking at. That can be daunting, but it’s also cool to be exposed slowly but surely to something new. Anyway, I have a few more takeaways that might be best served as questions. Continue reading Coming up for Air: a Brief Recap on a Week of Research
n. An orphan workis still in copyright but the work’s creator or their representative cannot be found. In this case, digitizing can be iffy because a relative might come knocking and wondering why you are sharing their copyrighted materials. However, some universities agreed to make orphan works available, saying that fair use of orphan works will help scholars and the public.
The Kim-Wait Eisenberg Collection, the newest component of Amherst College’s Archives and Special Collections, is indeed a comprehensive collection of literary works from the Native American past, admirable for both its chronological and thematic breadth. However, when we walk into a collection of Native American books, what do we expect to find? In the American imagination, Native American history and experiences in the United States have centered so deeply on the relationship between Native American people and European settlers. This Eurocentric focus can come at the expense of other considerations in Native American Studies, such as the historic relationships between Native Americans and other ethnic minorities.