Stephen Ramsay on creating a Digital Humanities Centre

October 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stephen Ramsay gave a talk today at Emory University, which has been consulting experts on the creation of a digital humanities centre. Ramsay warned of one of the pitfalls to avoid when a DH centre is located in the library, as it often is:

Emory will become a great center for Digital Humanities to the degree that it allows its scholars to act more like librarians, and allows its librarians to act more like scholars.

The alternative — a “center” that is really nothing more than another service point in the library for scholars interested in setting up blogs or creating web sites — might curry some local favor. The President of the University Libraries can present that to the powers above as another way that the library serves the Emory community. And it’s not a bad thing, certainly, to engage in such service. But Emory will never do serious cutting-edge research in Digital Humanities with this model. It will, at best, become a place that is not falling too far behind.

During the year or so I’ve been involved with this project, I’ve tried to offer the best advice I can. But in the end, I’ve just repeated the secret formula for becoming a place for the care of the soul: create a space in which the conventional separations among faculty, librarians, students, and staff become malleable — even, to use a term popular among hackers, fungible.

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