As I’ve never encountered the digital humanities outside of a liberal arts setting, it is difficult for me to fully separate the two fields. I consider digital humanities to be an extension of the liberal arts, providing new platforms for the research and accessibility to a wider audience.
The audience is a particularly important aspect of digital humanities projects, including ours. Sheila Brennan, in her essay “Public, First,” emphasizes the need for identifying a specific audience: “Doing any type of public digital humanities work requires an intentional decision from the beginning of the project that identifies, invites in, and addresses audience needs in the design, as well as the approach and content” (384-85). I think that knowing the audience the site is being built for will make my research and the site itself more pointed and purposeful.
Digital archives such as ours also need to be usable for other researchers, as discussed by Rachel Buurma and Anna Levine. They stress the importance of paying particular attention to details including categorization and the distinctions of data and meta-data, and suggest using what they coin the “liberal arts research imagination” as guidance through the process (276). This specific aspect of the project is among the more daunting to me, partly because of my lack of technological prowess and partly because it seems kind of boring, so I will definitely try Buurma and Levine’s described methods when I reach this stage of the process.
Later in their essay, Buurma and Levine give an overview of a digital archive built by students and faculty of Swarthmore College, Black Liberation 1969. They note that the site is created to allow for multiple interpretations and readings, and their description of the archive as “open-ended” struck me as particularly significant (276). While I value the importance of leaving room for interpretation, the phrase reminded me more that Geneseo will (hopefully) continue as an institution after our project is complete. The future of the college is itself open-ended, and its curriculum and identity as a public liberal arts college will likely continue to evolve, and we would be remiss to not consider this throughout the research process. While this was not Buurma and Levine’s intended meaning, I feel that it will be helpful moving forward.
Buurma, Rachel Sagner and Anna Tione Levine. “The Sympathetic Research Imagination: Digital Humanities and the Liberal Arts.” 2016.
Brennan, Sheila A. “Public, First.” 2016.