Sustaining the Digital Humanities

Host Institution Support Beyond the Start-up Phase

Published June 18, 2014

Nancy L. Maron, Sarah Pickle

As more and more scholars experiment with building digital humanities (DH) resources, how are their host institutions approaching the challenge of supporting these diverse projects over time?

In this study, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ithaka S+R explored the different models colleges and universities have adopted to support DH outputs on their campuses.  This final report, Sustaining the Digital Humanities: Host-Institution Support beyond the Start-Up Phase, and the accompanying Sustainability Implementation Toolkit, are intended to guide faculty, campus administrators, librarians, and directors of support units as they seek solutions for their institutions.

Over the course of this study, Ithaka S+R interviewed more than 125 stakeholders and faculty project leaders at colleges and universities within the US.  These interviews included a deep-dive phase of exploration focused on support for the digital humanities at four campuses—Columbia University, Brown University, Indiana University Bloomington, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. This research helped us to better understand how institutions are navigating issues related to the sustainability of DH resources and what successful strategies are emerging.

Our final report describes three models—service, lab, and network—that represent different approaches to supporting digital humanities work.  Profiles of the four deep-dive universities show these models in action and highlight the opportunities and challenges these campuses face as they work to create coordinated strategies for supporting the digital humanities.

The toolkit offers concrete instructions for campus decision-makers embarking on an assessment of the DH landscape at their institutions. This includes interview guides, survey questions, and general guidance on conducting a landscape assessment on campus; suggestions for analyzing the data to help surface service overlaps and gaps; and a facilitation guide for hosting discussions on what a campus-wide strategy should address and include.

Ideally, this report and the toolkit will help key campus stakeholders engage in productive conversations about the value that digital humanities resources deliver, about the direct and institutional costs required to undertake and to support them for the long term, and about the most effective ways to marshal that support across the span of the institution. We believe the findings may also aid university administrators and decision-makers as they create systems that can support faculty and their digital projects in ways that bolster the mission and aims of the institution.

 

 

  • Richard Detweiler, President, Great Lakes Colleges Association
  • Martin Halbert, Dean of Libraries, University of North Texas
  • Stanley N. Katz, Director, Center for the Arts and Cultural Policy Studies; Lecturer with rank of Professor, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies
  • Maria C. Pantelia, Professor, Classics, University of California, Irvine; Director, Thesarus Linguae Graecae®
  • Richard Spies, Former Executive Vice President for Planning and Senior Advisor to the President at Brown University, Former Vice President for Finance and Administration at Princeton University

 

Ann J. Wolpert, who was the Director of Libraries, MIT, was a valued member of the advisory council.  She passed away in October 2013.

 

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