Grant Workshops in Indiana

April 4, 2008


Last week I flew out to Indiana—my first trip to the state—to give two grant workshops, one at Indiana University in Bloomington (home to one of the largest student unions in the country), and another at IUPUI in Indianapolis (home to one of the newest student unions in the country). Grant workshops are truly a give-and-take affair.  We might come to showcase grant offerings at NEH and give tips about the application process, but we also benefit enormously from the communities we visit, learning about potential and existing projects, the needs of faculty and staff, and even ways that we can improve our communication and outreach. 

Part of my tour of the Bloomington campus included a visit to the relatively new Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities (IDAH), including a chance to sit in on their brown-bag lunch series.  David Shorter, one of our IDAH fellows, discussed how technology has changed both his research methodologies and publication strategies in his work with the Yoeme tribe in Northwest Mexico.  I also was provided an in-depth look at the Mellon-funded EVIA Digital Archive.  EVIA stands for “Ethnomusicological Video for Instruction and Analysis,” but as with so many tools, the potential for re-use in a variety of other disciplines--certainly cinema and media studies, but also any other field of study that uses moving images—is vast.  William Cowan walked me through the EVIADA toolset, which allows you to divide large collections of video data into smaller components (while maintaining the integrity of the whole); provides detailed annotation, analytical, and peer review tools; and functions as a robust digital repository useful for both research and teaching. 

After a very pleasant dinner at Samira Restaurant in downtownBloomington, I had the fortune to attend a free guest recital given by Jeremy Denk.  He played Charles Ives Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60, a stunning piece with four movements: Emerson, Hawthorne, The Alcotts, Thoreau.  Since I know only a little about music (we all have short-comings), I embraced the literary theme with enthusiasm, and listened (and watched) with fascination as Denk whirled through the shifting paces of Ives’ demanding piece (demands that include the use of a 14 inch piece of wood to depress a series of keys).  You can listen to and read about the "Hawthorne" and "The Alcotts" movements at Denk's website.

On Friday, I drove back to Indianapolis to meet with IUPUI faculty and staff and discuss NEH grant programs.  With a few hours left before my planned plane departure, I was able to take an impromptu tour of the Institute for American Thought, which houses a variety of scholarly editing projects including the Peirce Edition Project, the Santayana Edition, and the Frederick Douglass Papers.  I wish I could have grabbed a snapshot of the Peirce work area, which included what could best be described as clothes-lines with flowing sheaves of photocopied manuscript pages hanging from them.  This is where the editors piece together the order of Peirce materials, almost puzzle-like, and it brought to mind immediately a certain passage from Jack London’s Martin Eden:

Hand in hand with reading, he [Martin] had developed the habit of making notes, and so copiously did he make them that there would have been no existence for him in the confined quarters had he not rigged several clothes-lines across the room on which the notes were hung.

Through this image, London draws the reader back to Martin’s earlier work as a laundry-man, and in doing so emphasizes that each kind of labor (physical and intellectual) requires a certain mechanics, stressing the methodology and materiality very much present in Martin’s labor of the mind.  The practical laundry-line rig for the Peirce Edition Project was a perfect example of long-standing scholarly enterprise that Tom Scheinfeldt (at George Mason University) recently suggested was on the rise: “organizing activities, both in terms of organizing knowledge and organizing ourselves and our work.” 

Having a few hours to kick around and listen to issues in scholarly editing is wonderful in itself—at least to folks interested in such matters, including me—but (be still my geek heart) the Institute also hosts The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, with shelves and shelves of Bradbury first editions.  The Institute tour was a capstone to a productive, instructive, and thoroughly enjoyable trip, despite a flight home that included the phrases “emergency landing,” “assume the brace position,” and “let me get you that voucher.”