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New Report—Sustaining the Digital Humanities: Host Institution Support beyond the Start-Up Phase

Digital Humanities has captured the imagination of many faculty, staff and students in recent years. Experts in the field, from veterans of Digital Humanities Centers to library digitization units, know well the challenges that digital projects can pose, just to keep content and software up to date and relevant. As more scholars experiment with building digital humanities resources, how are their host institutions approaching the challenge of supporting these efforts over time?

Ithaka S+R has just published Sustaining the Digital Humanities: Host-Institution Support beyond the Start-Up Phase, undertaken with generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The final report explores the question of sustainability from the institutional point of view: while many libraries and digital humanities centers think deeply about supporting digital outputs, is there a campus-wide strategy concerning who gets to build what, the resources they have access to, and the systems in place to support complex digital research resources once they are built?

The final report suggests that while many faculty report building things, not everything thought of as a “DH” project could or should pose significant sustainability challenges. Some are smaller, private experiments, some are easily executed using existing platforms and templates. Yet even for those significant digital research resources that do have long-term goals and merit ongoing support, few if any institutional strategies take into account the full range of activities needed, from project set up and management, to preservation, long term hosting, upgrading, and dissemination, some approaches to managing this are beginning to emerge.  The report outlines examples of good practice, and suggests three archetypes—service, lab, and network models—that illustrate campus-wide approaches to addressing these issues.

Since each campus truly will need to develop and adopt the strategy that fits them best, the Sustainability Implementation Toolkit offers useful tools to help understand one’s own campus landscape, identify areas of overlaps and gaps, and to bring together key stakeholders, including senior administrators, to engage in a productive discussion about new, coordinated systems, that take into account the range of project types and needs, as well as the resources available to support them.

We hope you will find the report and toolkit useful and welcome your feedback.

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