If the notion for the past decade in digital humanities investment has been to let a thousand flowers bloom, it seems to have worked. Digital creation is no longer just the realm of specialists, IT developers, and librarians who manage collections. Today, with digital humanities (DH) hitting its stride, historians, philosophers, and poets not only are learning how to use tools to conduct analysis for their work; they also are building collections, developing their own tools, and constructing platforms. Major funding may still come from just a few usual suspects, but academic and cultural institutions are carving out and reallocating funds to create and support the digital initiatives. This democratization of digital creation signals an exciting time, and yet it can pose institution-wide challenges as well.
Scholarly monographs and journal articles have well-defined paths of publication; likewise, libraries and museums have well-established methods for cataloging and storing images of objects in their collections. But what about those innovative digital resources that are not quite large enough to be self-sustaining and don’t quite fit into traditional models of distribution? They may have required funder and institutional investment, will need ongoing support, and offer great potential for scholars well beyond the campus, perhaps even beyond the academy. Without a system of support, this type of project can be at real risk of becoming quickly outdated, if not completely lost in the shuffle. What role could or should the higher education institution play in supporting these works?
In 2014, with support from a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities, Ithaka S+R undertook a study of institutional models of support for DH outputs, specifically those larger-scale projects that are intended for public use and that require ongoing support and maintenance.1 In the past year, interest in and enthusiasm for DH—and for digital scholarship more broadly—has continued to grow. University and college libraries are undertaking reassessments of their role vis-à-vis digital work and are asking themselves if they need a DH or digital scholarship center of their own. Some are considering if and how to repurpose physical spaces to support this. In April 2014, the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) convened a group to discuss Digital Scholarship Centers,2 and in the spring of 2015, it convened a group of DH center directors and others engaged in this space to discuss various digital center models.
The Digital Humanities Are Alive and Well and Blooming: Now What? | EDUCAUSE.