Cheers to the end of Fall term! It was a strange one for everyone, but DHA work went along smoothly nevertheless. We actually had a fair number of tasks on our hands this term, some (like updates to the Public Memory of Myanmar collection) carrying over from last year, others from fresh projects or classes.
One rather short but nonetheless important project I want to highlight was a bit of work we did for AMST 256 (Walt Whitman’s New York). The assignment students were working on involved analysis of individual sections of Whitman’s Song of Myself. The professor asked if we could provide any resource for them that would allow them to understand usage of language throughout the text, so as to add more nuance to the students’ arguments about their respective sections.
Our solution to this was to partition digitized versions of the text into sections (using a Python script! ah, my CS major is coming in handy), then upload those files to make Voyant corpora. We passed the links from these to the professor, along with some instruction documents from a previous term. This made for text analysis tools that were accessible to the students and required very little input from the professor.
The reason I wanted to highlight this project is because we want to offer more support to English and related courses, and I think this one provides a very nice model. While much of DHA work is centered around long-term projects that heavily involve professors, this assignment was a good example of how it’s easiest to introduce DH tools to courses—and professors—when they come tailored for the students. Once it’s been introduced, there’s a hope that the professor—or future professors for the course—will better understand how the tools can be used, and know when it might be useful to come to us in the future, or even incorporate it on their own.
Stay tuned for more DHA involvement with English courses! Our goal for next term is to make a “what we can do for you” sheet for English professors, offering ideas for places where DH tools could be useful to their courses, and how we could assist them with the implementation.
Throughout my first term as a DHA, I have learned about different tools and platforms such as Omeka, WordPress, Overleaf, and many others. Although this term was quite different than others, my work as a DHA definitely allowed me to continue acquiring new skills and furthered my interest in Digital Humanities. One particular project I would like to focus on is the ongoing WordPress site for History 116.
Before this project, my experience and knowledge of WordPress was limited. I am grateful that I received the opportunity to work with knowledgeable peers and supervisors who made my introduction to WordPress seamless and as helpful as possible. During our work on this site, I learned about the many plugins and tools of WordPress. One of the main components/plugins I learned about and worked with on this project was Timeline JS. I was a little confused and lost in my initial attempt at using the plugin but, after playing around with it a little bit I was able to get the hang of it and begin using it to its full potential. Embedding the code for the timeline was also a bit tricky towards the beginning but, after many attempts, I was able not only to implement the timeline but also refigure it and incorporate links to redirect the user to the project pages.
As I look forward to next term, I hope to continue learning and acquiring more skills as throughout my career as a DHA. Lastly, I want to especially thank my peers/co-workers and supervisors for helping me throughout this term with any questions I had. I also want to thank them for providing me excellent advice as to how to approach different projects, I look forward to next term and can not wait to continue contributing and learning more.
After last Spring Term when I had to figure out how to turn my Dance Comps performance into a digital production, I got used to being outside of my technological comfort zone. I never considered myself particularly tech-y, but because I was put in a position where I had to teach myself new skills, I knew I wanted to find out more. Hence, I applied to be a DHA and wow, have I learned a lot this term.
Much of what I worked on during Fall Term, whether it was a project or general housekeeping items, had to do with WordPress. When I logged onto the DHA Blog WordPress site last week and saw my introduction post from September, it dawned on me that back then I did not understand how to use WordPress at all. Although at the time I was able to create a post with relative ease, I didn’t even realize that I was editing the backend of the site!
I have to credit Miyuki and Luna for all the help I got from them in learning more than just the basics of WordPress. Miyuki and I spent some time finding and fixing broken links on the Carleton DHA site and it was here that I got a hang of going into a certain page to edit it. Then I was able to work with Luna and Marcella on a faculty WordPress project. This was exciting because the bits and pieces I had picked up in the weeks prior really came together. I finally understood the different editing techniques WordPress offers and I feel much more confident in my abilities now.
It was a (surprisingly) good term (given the circumstances) and I’m excited to see what winter brings!
As the pandemic shifts our education to an online platform, professors and librarians have had to rethink how to exhibit their research, classroom projects, and collections. How can you recreate the library in a virtual classroom where many of the students are in different parts of the country? How can students present their work to each other and to the public when in-person gatherings are a safety hazard?
The answer to most of these questions has been to create a website. As a Digital Humanities Associate, my primary work this term has been to build websites, using tools like Omeka, Scalar, and WordPress, to create ways for faculty and librarians to display their work in a pandemic-ravaged world.
At the beginning of the term, I worked with the Special Collections librarian to transfer images of rare books to a website for classes to peruse. Normally, the Special Collections department would welcome students into the library to walk around and look at the amazing collection of facsimiles and manuscripts, encouraging students to flip through the pages and get up close and personal with these rare texts. With the arrival of coronavirus, all this has changed.
As a substitute for an in-person showcase, I created an Omeka site that contained images of rare books for student. While they weren’t able to feel the vellum of the pages, students really enjoyed being able to see images of the texts produced during the period they were studying. Digitalizing these images and making them available online made the texts more accessible, even if we lost some of the materiality.
I think one of the (very) few positive things about the pandemic is how it has forced people to reimagine and innovate the way we do things. Carleton faculty and librarians have clearly shown themselves up to the challenge.
I learned a lot this term from concrete skills like website building and how to add plug ins on WordPress, to more abstract concepts such as how much information companies like Facebook have about me or how to effectively work and communicate all online. For the sake of this short reflection though, I’d like to focus on my personal growth and increasing interest in digital humanities.
One thing I have loved about learning new digital skills is how much it has demystified the digital world for me, particularly code. As someone with a lot of friends in CS, that world has always rather terrified me, and it has been hard to get past the view of people working in coding languages as wizards who go clickity clack on their computers and magically make things happen. I’ve always respected it, but firmly believed I could never do anything like that. While I have certainly not done any real coding for this job, learning more digital skills and having coding language pop up in small, manageable, understandable ways has really helped build my confidence as well as make computers seem a lot less scary. And the more I realize just how doable using digital tools for humanities projects is, the more I want to share with my peers in the humanities who have perhaps not yet drunk the Kool-Aid. I want to share the knowledge that we shouldn’t be scared of the digital world and should instead embrace it as a helpful resource and a good way to bring the subjects we love into the 21st century while potentially reaching a wider audience.
In addition, getting to work more with metadata this term has helped solidify my desire to continue my education in library sciences after I graduate. It’s been posted here before, but having worked a lot this past year with Omeka, this meme felt appropriate and made me laugh:
I had a great term, and I’m looking forward to winter!