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Recap of Presentation at the ICO Conference

March 21, 2008 | By Jennifer Serventi

On Tuesday, March 18, I had an opportunity to observe my ODH colleague, Jason Rhody, give a presentation on digital humanities at the NEH to the 2008 liaisons meeting of The Independent College Office, an organization of liberal arts colleges. At other meeting sessions, staff members from the Division of Research Programs and the Office of Challenge Grants spoke about their work.

I thought that Jim Boelkins, the Provost at Hope College did a nice job of introducing Jason. Jim reaffirmed that the NEH is not just interested in supporting work on digital humanities that orginate from research universities (although those projects are still welcome). He reminded the audience that Christian Spielvogel at Hope College received a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant in 2007 for his project to develop a web-based simulation based on the online Valley of the Shadow archive. Among the many issues that Jason discussed, one that I thought was particularly relevant to Start-Up Grants is the importance of collaboration—with your fellow humanities scholars, with computer scientists, with librarians and archivists, both in and outside of your institution. Since the Start-Up Grants emphasize innovation and the prospects for modeling, it’s important not to assume that all the necessary expertise for a project can be found at one institution.

We had a kind and engaged audience who laughed in all the right places during the presentation and asked very good questions during the discussion period—such as how do liberal arts colleges fare in the competitions for Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants? Does GIS (geographical information systems) mapping "count" as humanities computing? And are librarians eligible to apply? Jason noted that, by reviewing the list of grantees from the first three rounds the Start-Up Grants, you can see that liberal arts colleges did quite well, with awards going to not only Hope College, but also Lake Forest College, Wheaton College, and Emerson College. And the application of GIS mapping to the humanities most certainly does count as digital humanities—the NEH has supported many projects using GIS, not only through the Start-Up Grant category, but also through the Humanities Collections and Resources, Collaborative Research, and the Teaching and Learning Resources and Curriculum Development programs. Finally, Jason confirmed that librarians are indeed eligible to serve as project directors for Start-Up Grants—in fact, librarians often do a terrific job bringing together and managing all the team members that are involved in successful Start-Up Grants.

Take a look at the ODH Home for upcoming speaking engagements under Upcoming Dates and Events.