NEH Awards Cooperative Agreement to Dartmouth College and University of Maryland for Best Practices in Crowdsourcing Workshop

December 9, 2014

The Office of Digital Humanities is pleased to announce the award for a cooperative agreement to fund a workshop, “Engaging the Public: Best Practices for Crowdsourcing Across the Disciplines.” The project is a collaborative effort among the NEH, Dartmouth College, and the University of Maryland to explore how “crowdsourcing” can encourage wide audiences to engage in humanities projects by participating in and contributing  to research. The NEH has funded a number of successful crowdsourcing projects on a variety of topics: transcribing historical collections of menusvaudeville theatre archives, Coptic papyri, and lost records of the US War Department as well as community contribution of digital materials related to September 11We are also pleased to announce that the workshop will be co-funded by our colleagues at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, who have had a long-standing interest in new methods for public engagement with research. Sloan will be working with us to help make this a truly inter-disciplinary discussion bringing together perspectives across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. 


“Engaging the Public: Best Practices for Crowdsourcing Across the Disciplines,” which will be hosted by the University of Maryland in May 2015, will investigate how “crowdsourcing” works as an effective means for generating knowledge and connecting the public with cultural heritage resources. By bringing experts from the sciences together with their colleagues in the humanities, the workshop will seek to build intellectual and networking bridges between crowdsourced projects across disciplines and investigate how projects across the disciplines can inform each other. The workshop will examine concerns such as how institutions might best adopt and employ crowdsourcing strategies for increasing public engagement, integrating data into existing collections, and increasing knowledge in the humanities and related domains.  


The project is directed by Mary Flanagan of Dartmouth College and an NEH grantee for the “Metadata Games” project, which encourages the public to engage with historic photographs and help to tag them with descriptive metadata.  It is currently being used by the Dartmouth Library, as well as 40 collections represented at 9 institutions, with recent partners such as the American Antiquarian Society and the British Library. The workshop builds on the work of the IMLS-funded Crowdsourcing Consortium for Libraries and Archives (CCLA), also directed by Flanagan. The project directors from the University of Maryland are Neil Fraistat, Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and Andrea Wiggins, Assistant Professor in the UMD iSchool. Fraistat is the project director of the NEH-funded Shelley‐Godwin Archive that leverages public participation in curation and encoding. Wiggins is the PI of an NSF-supported study investigating barriers to citizen science participation and data use for education and sustainability in partnership with Smithsonian Institution.


We are very excited to be partnering with Dartmouth College and the University of Maryland in this workshop to promote inquiry and conversation about humanities research driven by “citizen scholars,” particularly as it supports the new agency-wide initiative, "The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square." 

Funding information

Funded via Digital Humanities Cooperative Agreements & Special Projects HC-229771-14. The New York Public Library's ""What's On the Menu"" project was funded by a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant (HD-513011-11). The Keith/Albee Vaudeville Theater Collection project receives funding from a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant (PW-51553-14). A Digging into Data Challenge Grant (HJ-50178-14) funded the ""Resurrecting Early Christian Lives: Digging In Papyri In A Digital Age"" project. A Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant (HD-50927-10) funded the development of an open software tool for crowdsourcing documentary transcription, using the Papers of the War Department as a test case. The September 11 Digital Archive received funding through a Save America's Treasures grant (PT-50191-11). The Metadata Games project was supported by a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant (HD-50849-09) and a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant (HK-50021-12). The Shelley-Goodwin Archive received funding from a Humanities Collection and Reference Resources grant (PW-50939-11). Wiggins’ study, “Collaborative Research: Infrastructure and Technology Supporting Citizen Science Data Usage and Distribution for Education and Sustainability” is funded by a NSF CyberSEESs award (NSF CCF-1442668).