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!
Hello all! My name is Marcella (she/her/hers) and I’m a senior History major with minors in Creative Writing and MARS. This is my first year working as a DHA and I’m really excited to continue expanding on skills I’ve learned in classes and become familiar with new technologies as I try to integrate my love for the humanities into the modern, digital era. In my free time I am president of an a cappella group, I play D&D with my friends, and I like to go on adventures or just watch movies with the people who are important to me. I’m excited to work with you all this year!
Hello! My name is Frank (He/Him) and I am a Junior Economics major. I live in Minneapolis, MN, and am studying remotely from home this term. I am very excited to work with everyone and get to know you all. I enjoy watching sports, listening to music, exercising, and playing video games.
Hi! My name is Karah (she/her) and I am excited to start working with you all. I am a senior Environmental Studies and Dance double major. I am from Rapid City, SD, but I am studying remotely from Boulder, CO this term. I love dogs, hiking, and I play the violin.
Hi everyone! My name is Grace (she/hers) and I am a senior History major and Digital Arts & Humanities minor from New Jersey. I am thrilled to be returning for my third year as a Digital Humanities Associate and I look forward to further developing my DH skills.
Although I’m a History major, I’ve had an interest in technology for as long as I can remember. For me, the digital humanities is the perfect way to combine both of my passions and I love seeing how STEM can transform and aid humanities-based research. I’ve been able to apply my interests working on a variety of DH projects, including a video game on the Boston Massacre and a quantitative textual analysis of medieval English chronicles.
In my free time, I love reading, watching movies with my roommates, and playing video games. Asides from being a DHA, I am President of Carleton’s Ghost Club and work in the Off-Campus Studies Office.