I recently attended a talk sponsored by the MLIS Colloquium Speaker Series at Rutgers University titled “Digital Humanities: New Roles for Libraries.” The panel consisted of a diverse group of Digital Humanities scholars, staff, librarians, and specialists who discussed a broad range of topics ranging from an overview of the Digital Humanities to the specific roles of the various members of the panel. As a PhD student in the Humanities, it was fascinating to learn about the general role of the Digital Humanities as well as the role they can play in my own scholarship. The panel allowed me to consider the benefits of this kind of technology in academia, and to think about scholarship in ways that I had not previously thought about it. In the following paragraphs, I intend to share my learning experience with you!
Perhaps an obvious, but very important aspect of the Digital Humanities is that it allows us to conduct research remotely. The example provided was the Jazz Oral History Project at Rutgers – a project devoted to the recording and digitization of the oral history of jazz musicians and their profession. By digitizing the oral history interviews, we are able to access these materials from any location, thus eliminating the need to travel to conduct research.
The most interesting aspect about this project, however, is the notion that it changes the way we study history. We are no longer simply memorizing important people and eventful dates, but instead listening to and learning from the seminal figures that lived this history and are providing us with the opportunity to rewrite it. As one of the panelists stated, we are experiencing history through storytelling, arguably more exciting than the traditional experience we are used to.
I think the greatest potential of the Digital Humanities lies in the opportunity for collaboration. Digital Humanities librarians are able to work with scholars from many different departments of the university. Furthermore, the Digital Humanities can bring together researchers from two seemingly disparate fields, such as Foreign Languages and Computer Science. This allows for various networking and professional exchanges, but it also provides the opportunity to consider your research from different and multidisciplinary perspectives. I believe this is especially relevant in today’s academic world; STEM disciplines and the Humanities are often at odds with each other, but it is truly in our best interests to narrow the gap between the two and take advantage of the chance to collaborate.
The Digital Humanities will undoubtedly continue to evolve and prove to be a valuable tool in academic research. In a world of continual scholarly production across multiple disciplines, the Digital Humanities allows us to engage in both technical and creative endeavors, providing us the opportunity to expand our work and the collective knowledge of humanity in previously unthinkable ways.