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Libraries take lead in supporting Digital Humanities efforts at Rutgers

April 28, 2014
Infographic showing the GDP of each US state compared to the GDPs of foreign nations, in US dollars.

Digital Humanities project illustration, provided by Krista White

A growing movement at Rutgers and nationwide to change the nature of humanities scholarship and teaching has found an enthusiastic partner in the Rutgers University Libraries.

Digital Humanities is the broad term used to describe efforts to advance four goals - research and development for analyzing humanities data and creating new tools for that analysis; the use of technology in humanities pedagogy; theory and critical inquiry related to the ways in which technology is changing the way we understand our selves, our cultures and our societies; and preservation and access of materials and scholarly works in the humanities.

Responding in part to the work of the the School of Arts and Sciences' Digital Humanities Steering Committee in the 2012-2013 academic year, and building on existing library services and resources, the Libraries have taken a number of steps to support Digital Humanities (DH) efforts at Rutgers-New Brunswick.  The Libraries have dedicated space in the Scholarly Communications Center, on the 4th floor of Alexander Library, for a DH lab.  The lab is staffed by Vishal Kamath, a graduate student in the history department who coordinates DH events at Rutgers. Alexander Library also served as host for the first DH Showcase on January 29th, a four hour series of presentations on DH projects already underway at Rutgers. The showcase included presentations on five different ongoing DH projects by Rutgers librarians and staff members - Spatial Humanities and Technology as Critical Thinking Tools (Krista White); Roman Republican Coins (Ron Jantz and Rick Hale); The Syriac Online Digital Portal (Isaiah Beard); Digitizing Oral History Collections in the Libraries (Caryn Radick and Krista White); and The President's Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief (Jim Niessen).

In support of DH workshops for interested university faculty members, held in the digital classroom in the Scholarly Communication Center, the Libraries' Integrated Information Systems department (IIS) installed specialized tools such as TeX Live, Komodo Edit, Notepad++, Pandoc, and Gephi on all the PCs in the classroom. IIS also dedicated a Libraries server to support collaborations by workshop participants, allowing them to create, save, and work jointly on new databases.

On the Rutgers-Newark campus DH efforts, already underway for the past two years, focus on access and preservation of existing materials, as well as the creation of new, born digital resources with an emphasis on oral history projects. Librarians in the John Cotton Dana Library frequently consult with faculty on the creation, preservation and access of DH projects. One active DH project in the Libraries that serves as exemplar for the campus is the digitization of the more than 22,000 pages of transcripts for the Jazz Oral History project for the Institute of Jazz Studies.

The Libraries recently hired a new Digital Humanities Librarian on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus, Francesca Gianneti, who will support faculty members and students engaged DH projects. Francesca joins Krista White, a Digital Humanities Librarian at the John Cotton Dana Library on the Newark campus, who arrived in the spring 2012 semester and has already forged a number of strong connections with Rutgers faculty and community partners engaged in DH work. Krista organized a THATCamp (The Humanities And Technology Camp) event, a free-form gathering and brainstorming session of people engaged in DH projects, on the Rutgers-Newark campus on Friday April 4th.

The Libraries look forward to expanding our support of DH projects at Rutgers. For more information on Libraries services and resources for DH activities, please contact Francesca Giannetti at francesca.giannetti@rutgers.edu or Krista White at kwhite2@rutgers.edu.

Note on accompanying image:
This image was adapted by Krista White, Digtial Humanities Librarian, from an original 2007 map design found at Frank Jacob’s “Strange Maps” blog at http://bigthink.com/ideas/21182. Original map designer unknown.
Data Sources: IMF World Economic Outlook Database, 2011 Accessed 8/1/2011 from http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2010/01/weodata/download.aspx and U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2011, "Current-dollar and 'real' GDP," Accessed August 1, 2011 from http://www.bea.gov/national