Mellon Grant Interim Report 2015

Dickinson College received a $700,000 grant in December 2012 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for use over approximately four years to support faculty and curricular development in the digital humanities. The Mellon Foundation provided project funding to support the following: 1) a one-course reassigned time for the faculty chair of a digital humanities advisory board to guide the initiative; 2) a postdoctoral teaching fellowship to help introduce the latest digital technologies, link Dickinson’s efforts to a larger community of scholars, and assist our Library and Information Systems (LIS) staff in defining needed future capabilities; 3) competitive internal grants for faculty to incubate significant expansion of existing digital projects and/or pilot the use of new tools in teaching and research, including providing student-faculty research opportunities; 4) an intensive program to better train undergraduate students for robust collaboration with faculty on complex digital projects; 5) a virtual “digital studio” to provide accessibility, visibility, and outreach for the best work being done at Dickinson in this field, 6) workshops with representatives of all humanities departments and with key all-college committees to enhance their capacity to support and evaluate digital work in the humanities and across the curriculum; and 7) work toward defining learning outcomes expected for Dickinson students with regard to digital humanities skills.

Here are some excerpts of the report prepared for the Mellon Foundation on activities completed in the second year of the grant, prepared by Chris Francese, Patrick Belk, and Cheryl Kremer:

Digital Humanities Advisory Committee

Over the past year our Digital Humanities Advisory Committee (DHAC), which is the key planning committee for this initiative, continued to meet regularly to guide and oversee all aspects of the project. The committee is currently comprised of seven faculty members: Chris Francese, Asbury J. Clarke Professor of Classical Studies (Chair); Susan Rose, Director of Community Studies Center and the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology; Matthew Pinsker, Associate Professor of History and Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History; Lynn E. Helding, Associate Professor of Music; Gregory Steirer, Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies; Sarah Kersh, Visiting Assistant Professor of English; and Patrick Belk, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. Also serving on the committee are five administrators who have a strong interest and/or connection to digital humanities work and to this grant project: Patricia Pehlman, Director of Academic Computing; Jim Gerencser, College Archivist; Todd Bryant, Language Technology Specialist; Ryan Burke, Web Development Specialist; Sarah Sheriff, Director of Online Marketing; and Cheryl Kremer, Director of Academic and Foundation Relations. 

The chair of DHAC (Professor Chris Francese) receives one course reassigned time each academic year through this grant to coordinate this multi-faceted initiative. Over the past year, he has used his reassigned time to organize and lead the committee’s work, to regularly update a robust portal for Dickinson digital humanities efforts, and to maintain an active blog with news and notes about ongoing DH projects and events.

Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow

Our first Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, Matthew Kochis, accepted a tenure-track position at another institution last fall. We conducted a successful search for his replacement and hired Patrick Belk (Ph.D. in English from the University of Tulsa, 2012) who began at Dickinson in August 2014. Professor Belk organized and executed our second successful Digital Boot Camp in January 2015, established a Textual Studies Lab, collaborated on a number of faculty-led projects, and taught a course called Early Science Fiction in the Magazines (ENGL 101) for 22 students in the spring semester of 2015.

Professor Belk has maintained an active scholarly career during his time at Dickinson.  In February 2015 he delivered the manuscript for his first monograph, Empires of Print: Adventure Fiction in the Magazines 1899-1919, which will appear in print from Ashgate. He also continues to enhance the award-winning digital archive of early twentieth-century pulp magazines, The Pulp Magazines Project, using funding from our Mellon Foundation digital humanities grant to hire students to help him tag and create metadata for his magazine scans in TEI-compliant XML. In November 2014 he delivered a paper at the Modernist Studies Association Conference entitled “Baroness Orczy’s Eldorado (1913) in Africa.”

Our postdoctoral fellow also has been busy helping Dickinson faculty develop their own digital humanities projects and ideas. An excellent example of this work is a project with Jacob Sider Jost, Assistant Professor English, who is developing a web site entitled “18th Century Poets Connect,” which documents patronage, printing, and literary affiliation networks using data compiled over many years. Professor Belk helped Professor Jost and his student research assistant Mary Naydan ’15 reimagine the possibilities of his data, and he built an elegant interface in Drupal. He also helped faculty in the Departments of History and English—in addition to forging a new and productive partnership with Associate Professor of Computer Science Grant Braught to help steer senior computer science majors towards collaborative digital humanities projects for their senior theses. On the strength of his work with the Boot Camp and with faculty development, he has been invited to serve as a consultant for Guilford College as they plan to make the most of their own Mellon grant.

Professor Belk also helped to organize a two-day visit by Cliff Wulfman to Dickinson in April 2015. Wulfman is the co-founder of the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton, which has attracted an extraordinary amount of interest. During his visit to Dickinson he presented on the topic “Thinking Big: Five Steps to Successful Digital Project Development.” Approximately 60 people attended, including representatives from other colleges in our surrounding area (among them Gettysburg, Bucknell, Lafayette, and Franklin and Marshall Colleges).  

Finally, Professor Belk also worked with Professor Francese to submit a proposal to Dickinson’s Space Utilization Committee advocating for a physical space for textual editing distinct from Dickinson’s existing Media Center. As a result, the college was able to commit space until the end of summer 2015 for a Textual Studies Lab, which is currently located in a room within our Waidner-Spahr Library. This space contains three work stations equipped with software for XML editing and OCR processing, and a digitization cradle manufactured by Professor Belk himself.

Digital Humanities Fund

Another major component of our digital humanities grant has been to review and award internal grants to support Dickinson faculty members interested in beginning or advancing their digital humanities efforts. The following is a list of grants awarded to Dickinson faculty through our Digital Humanities Fund since our last report, the vast majority of which have involved students in substantive ways.

Art and Art History

Melinda Schlitt

  • reassigned time to support work on curating images for a multimedia edition of Vergil’s Aeneid in development with Dickinson College Commentaries
  • student assistant to support work on curating images for a multimedia edition of Vergil’s Aeneid

Anthropology/Archaeology

Christofilis Maggidis

  • student summer assistant and rental of 3-D scanning equipment for documentation of finds and architectural remains at Lower Town in Mycenae, Greece

Classical Studies

Chris Francese

  • student summer assistant to gather notes and images for a multimedia digital edition of Vergil’s Aeneid
  • two academic year student assistants, one creating descriptions and metadata for images from an important illustrated Aeneid editios of 1502 in support of the multimedia Aeneid digital edition, and a second for the creation of a Database of Latin Grammar in Caesar’s De Bello Gallico
  • consultant Megan Ayer (Ph.D. Classical Studies, University of Buffalo) to edit and complete the digital version of T.D. Goodell’s School Grammar of Attic Greek (1902)
  • consultant Derek Frymark to complete running vocabulary lists for the whole of Vergil’s Aeneid based on Henry Frieze’s Virgilian Dictionary

English

Jacob Sider Jost

  • student assistant to support “Patronage, Print, and the Economics of Eighteenth-Century Poetry.” The resulting web site is called “18th Century Poets Connect.”

Wendy Moffat

  • student assistant to help create a searchable database for images and documents for her book project, A Disbelief in Obstacles: Three Prophetic Americans and the Great War [Site here.]

Greg Steirer

  • Atlas.ti software licenses for a student and an educational instructor to assist with a book chapter entitled “Bioware and the Politics of Video Game Authorship” (in progress)

French and Italian

Nicoletta Marini-Maio

  • student assistants to help develop the online, open-access peer-reviewed journal project entitled “gender/sexuality/italy

German

Sarah McGaugheySarah Bair (Education), and Todd Bryant

  • three student assistants to help create online language lessons for blended learning to be used with The Mixxer, the Dickinson-based social networking website for connecting students in foreign language courses with native speakers abroad who are studying English
  • travel to CALICO, the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, on May 6-10, 2014 at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

History

Crystal Moten

Emily Pawley

  • reassigned time to help oversee work on the Dickinson history web project [Site here.]

Matthew Pinsker

  • faculty consultant John Osborne to help supervise the development of the main House Divided research engine
  • two student assistants to help develop the multi-media projects and video tutorials for the new Lincoln’s Writings website
  • support for an E-book publication series, videotaped panels/exhibits, and Voice of Lincoln podcasts
  • stipends for advisory board members (David Blight, Catherine Clinton, Eric Foner, Harold Holzer, James Oakes, and Anne Sarah Rubin)

Karl Qualls

  • student summer assistant to support research on Russian immigration to the US in Prince Gagarin, the website: Russian Americans

Political Science/International Studies

Ed Webb and Todd Bryant (Academic Technology)

  • three student summer assistants to work on the creation of two historical simulations in Minecraft, one covering Europe and the Americas in 1492 and the other covering Europe and Africa beginning in 1876.

Sociology

Susan Rose and James Gerencser (College Archives)

  • three summer student assistants to work on digitizing student files for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School project
  • two student assistants for the academic year
  • three student assistants in spring for one week of work in the National Archives
  • consultant Krista Gray to develop Drupal site
  • three student assistants in fall
  • consultant Blair Williams to process ledgers and other bound materials

Digital Boot Camp Program

Our second successful “Digital Boot Camp” was held from January 5 through 16, 2015 to provide training for students interested in working with faculty on digital humanities projects. Eleven students participated: Victoria DeLaney ’17 (English/Spanish), Jackie Goodwin ’17 (Environmental Studies/Sociology), Wesley Lickus ’17 (Environmental Science), Nick Bailey ’16 ( International Business & Management), Andrew McGowan ’16 (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology), Harris Risell ’16 (English), Anna Leistikow ’15 (International Studies), Melissa Pesantes ’15 (Italian Studies/Anthropology), Katherine Purington ’15 (Classical Studies), Olivia Wilkins ’15 (Chemistry/Mathematics), and Maurice Royce ’16 (Computer Science). 

These students completed online tutorials at home during the week of January 5, 2015 and convened on campus for further instruction and to work on their own projects. Training included ArcGIS, Drupal, XML, and discussions of metadata and other DH principles. Other instructors included Michael D’Aprix, Daniel Plehkov, Leah Orr, and Don Sailer. Most of the student projects represented collaborations with faculty members, academic departments, or student organizations on campus. The projects can be viewed at http://dh.dickinson.edu/belkp/. There also was a well-attended showcase of this work in the HUB Social Hall on campus on January 27, 2015 at which these students had a chance to present and explain their projects.

Digital Studio

The Digital Studio that highlights the many digital projects headed by Dickinson faculty has been expanded to accommodate new projects as they become established. The Dickinson Digital Humanities blog, maintained by Professor Francese, is also very active—with 25 posts since the last report. The majority of these are based on reports submitted by faculty of work carried out with the support of the grant. There have been essays by Dickinson faculty members discussing various aspects of their work and announcements of DH-related campus events. The website also displays guidelines for faculty interested in applying for funding and a definition and discussion of the concepts behind the digital humanities.

Workshops and Defining Learning Outcomes

As explained in our last interim report, Jeffrey McClurken conducted a workshop for our faculty in January 2014 as a first step toward defining learning outcomes for Dickinson students with regard to digital humanities skills. At the conclusion of that workshop, faculty participants were encouraged by the Provost to return to their departments to discuss the possibility of convening smaller departmental workshops to work more intensively on specific learning outcomes relevant to their disciplines. We agreed to provide internal funds (as cost sharing) for several of these follow-up workshops.

Two departments have conducted workshops since our last report (History and Spanish & Portuguese). The Department of History met twice over the summer of 2014 and had very good discussions. They plan to bring in an outside consultant to campus this spring and will provide a final report on their progress later in the year. The Department of Spanish & Portuguese also met twice, in the summer of 2014 and again briefly during winter break. They have developed proposed learning outcomes for two courses in their major. Students taking Spanish 231 will “develop their ability to locate and assess the quality of a range of written and digital sources” and students in Spanish 305 “will learn to annotate a text digitally in closed and collaborative formats. Students will write for various digital platforms with an awareness of audience and scope.”

Plans and Goals for Upcoming Year

Next year we plan to conduct our third Digital Humanities Boot Camp in January 2016, and the Digital Humanities Advisory Committee will continue to solicit proposals and award internal grants to our faculty for digital humanities scholarly projects, professional development activities, and summer and academic-year student collaborators and assistants. 

With regard to technology, we hope to implement an XML database, with Fedora platform and Apache Solr search application for faculty projects that involve the creation of TEI-encoded texts for digital scholarship and research. Professor Francese also plans to guide the establishment of the Textual Studies Lab in its new form under the auspices of the Archives and Special Collections of the college (not using Mellon funding.)  Finally, the Digital Humanities Advisory Committee also hopes to sponsor a “DHAC-a-thon” modeled on the NEH-funded “Digging into Data Challenge and Pennsylvania State University’s “HackPSU.” The goal will be to invite teams of two to three undergraduate humanities majors to explore and create visualizations using data spreadsheets provided by our Archives and Special Collections and from other Dickinson projects. A small cash prize will be offered for the best work as judged by DHAC members.

Dickinson remains profoundly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for support of this comprehensive initiative in the digital humanities. As this interim report indicates, this grant continues to harness the creativity of our faculty and students, creating many new opportunities for faculty and students to create useful digital humanities resources. We expect to continue to leverage the Mellon Foundation’s generous support to continue exciting new projects and collaborations in the year ahead.

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