On Tuesday, April 30, members of the Villanova community gathered to celebrate the launch of Aurelius, the library’s very own Digital Humanities Initiative. Those in attendance had the privilege of hearing Villanova faculty members describe fascinating projects developed in collaboration with library staff.
Laura Bang, Digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, opened the event by asking for a definition of the Digital Humanities. Answering this request was no easy feat: because the Digital Humanities (DH) are in their nascent stages as a discipline, providing a proper definition is difficult. However, one audience member accepted the challenge, describing DH as “a digital framework for investigating the humanities, and a humanities framework for investigating digital scholarship.”
Annika Thiem, PhD, Dr. theol. and assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, was the first faculty member to present. Dr. Thiem’s project involves a full-text archiving of Jahrestage (Anniversaries), a novel by German author Uwe Johnson about New York City. Along with making the sprawling 1700 page book full-text searchable, Dr. Thiem’s project seeks to map the areas described in the novel, opening up a spatial dialogue with Johnson’s fascinating textual exploration of the city in the 1960s. Dr. Thiem remarked upon the “provisionality” of DH as a field and described some of the excitement that provisionality can inspire.
Craig Bailey, PhD, associate professor in the Department of History, presented the second project: a digital archival and local community project which explores the rich history of the city of Ardmore, Pa. Dr. Bailey teaches a junior research seminar in history, during which students will research some component of Ardmore’s history by exploring archived material and then log that material on a digital, interactive map in Aurelius web space. In this course, undergraduate history students will not only learn how to research archived materials but also create an interface for the community to access the material.
The event closed with David Uspal, senior web specialist for Library Services and Scholarly Applications, who spoke on his web-development work for these and other projects. Mr. Uspal described his experience with DH as mutually enriching, a process in which he offers technical expertise to faculty members whose unique projects, in turn, challenge him to hone his skill set and learn new techniques.
Corey Waite Arnold is a writer and intern on the Communication and Publications Team. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.
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