Libraries and the digital humanities

Inside the Shine Dome – Digital Humanities Australasia 2012

During the digital humanities conference I attended in Canberra in March, it struck me as odd that there wasn’t more library presence – both as presenters and delegates.

In casual conversation at morning tea on the final day,  Professor John Unsworth of Brandeis University in the USA (one of the keynote speakers at the conference and vice provost for Library & Technology Services at Brandeis) said he thought there was a role for libraries to be represented at a much higher level. In his opinion, the participation rate of the LIS sector at the international Digital Humanities conferences is much higher.

The conference participants list outlined delegate’s institutions, not their affiliation within that institution so it is difficult to tell what representation there was from the LIS sector. My sense is that the audience was overwhelmingly academics – stumbling upon other LIS sector representatives was luck rather than management.

I turned to twitter (as I often do) and asked

Morning tea chat with Prof JohnUnsworth Brandeis University – he says international DH conference has up to 1/3 LIS delegates?#dha2012

Some GLAM representation here but overwhelmingly academic presence, lib tweeps, what barriers were there for you in coming?#dha2012

I didn’t get a lot of response to this – but the responses I did get were around awareness. It’s an emerging field in librarianship, I get that. Although I had done some reading on digital humanities before heading to Canberra, it is the reading I’ve done in this area since that has crystalised some of the concepts for me.

Like any good LIS professional, I began with a google search and after reading many, many forum postings, blog posts, conference presentations and journal article abstracts I found  this from the wikipedia entry:

The digital humanities is an area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from an earlier field called humanities computing, today digital humanities embrace a variety of topics ranging from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital Humanities currently incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from the traditional humanities disciplines (such as historyphilosophylinguistics,literatureartarchaeologymusic, and cultural studies) with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisationinformation retrievaldata miningstatisticscomputational analysis) and digital publishing.

Being a humanities librarian at the moment, I guess it’s natural that my specific interest is in this area, but through another project I am doing with a colleague I’m beginning to examine e-research and the role of libraries in a wider context.

I told you much of this month’s #blogjune will be about data.

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