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Digital Humanities Trend Report

Posted 04/11/2016


What are the “digital humanities”?

This question has been debated in numerous books, articles, blog posts, and elsewhere. (Carter, 2013; Gold, 2012; Terras, Nyhan, & Vanhouette, 2013). Various conferences, institutes, and centers discuss digital humanities issues and train new scholars in the field. Every year since 2009, scholars have been invited to answer the question, “Just what do digital humanists really do?” on the Day of DH web site (  “At its core, Digital Humanities (or DH) is an emerging, interdisciplinary movement which looks to enhance and to redefine traditional humanities scholarship through digital means” (Adams & Gunn, 2013).  Donald J. Waters, a scholarly communication program officer at the Mellon Foundation, notes that early digital humanities projects anchor the field and its tools in three broad areas: textual analysis, spatial analysis, and media studies. He further defines the digital humanities as “the application of tools and processes to the “why possible?” questions of humanistic inquiry.” (2013, p.8).

Collaborative Nature of Digital Humanities Projects

Digital humanities research usually involves collaboration of individuals with different types of expertise: subject, analytical, data management, and project management. Some universities have established digital humanities research centers, and some academic libraries are collaborating with such centers. In other cases, collaboration takes place on an ad hoc basis.

Some entries in the Examples From Other Universities section below explain which groups collaborate on particular projects. For example, the University of Alabama Digital Humanities Center web site’s Projects section includes a description of “To See Justice Done:” Letters from the Scottsboro Boys Trials. This includes an explanation of the content as well as a list of Project Contributors, which included individuals from academic departments, a university press, a museum, and the Alabama Digital Media Center.

Digital Humanities @ UNI

Several digital humanities projects are under way at UNI. FORTEPAN IOWA, for example, “features curated photos taken by ordinary Iowans across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” All images are available for free public download and can be browsed by collection, geographic area, or year. It was launched in March 2015 under the direction of UNI professors Bettina Fabos, Leisl Carr-Childers, Sergey Golitsynskiy, and Noah Doely. To mention one more example, The Postville Project “works to collect, preserve, and present the stories of Postville, Iowa before, during, and after the 2008 immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant.” This project was launched in 2009 by Luther College and UNI under the direction of Thomas Kessler in collaboration with the Luther College archivist.

Rod Library seeks to collaborate with and to support digital humanities research on the UNI campus. UNI ScholarWorks offers a platform for archiving, storing, and sharing such research.

Examples From Other Universities

These are examples of digital humanities efforts under way at universities around the U.S. They provide information about their services, describe recent projects, and explain the technologies offered to support research.

Digital Humanities Projects Around Campus, University of Illinois
Projects include Women in Print, Maps of Africa to 1900, and Motley Collection of Theatre & Costume Design.

Digital Humanities Center, Columbia University
This center offers various services to Columbia faculty and students to help them incorporate text, bibliographic, image, and video information into their projects.

Alabama Digital Humanities Center Projects, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Projects include Shakespeare au/in Quebec, Digitizing Civil Rights, To See Justice Done: Letters from the Scottsboro Boys Trials, and Scenes from the Lincoln Normal School.

Center for Digital Humanities Projects, University of South Carolina
Projects include Romantic-Era Lyrics, Van Gogh: The Life, and Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium.


Adams, J.L., & Gunn, K.B. (2013, April). Keeping up humanities. Retrieved from Association of College & Research Libraries web site:

Carter, B. W. (2013).  Digital humanities: Current perspective, practices, and research. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Gold, M.K. (Ed.) (2012). Debates in the digital humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Terras, M., Nyhan, J., & Vanhoutte, E. (Eds.) (2013). Defining digital humanities: A reader. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

Waters, D. J.  (2013). An overview of the digital humanities. Research Library Issues, no. 284, 3-11.

Rod Library Scholarly Communication Committee

This trend report was prepared by the Rod Library Scholarly Communication Committee, whose charge is to provide leadership within the Library and University to promote an understanding of scholarly communication issues, identify strategic initiatives, and to develop partnerships.  The committee maintains a guide with additional information on scholarly communication topics.  Members of the committee are:

  • Ellen Neuhaus (Chair); Associate Professor of Library Services, Digital Scholarship Librarian
  • Angela Cox; Assistant Professor of Library Services,  Instruction & Liaison Librarian
  • Thomas Kessler;  Associate Professor of Library Services,  Collection Strategist Librarian & Acquisitions Coordinator
  • Stanley Lyle; Professor of Library Services, Instruction & Liaison Librarian
  • Katherine Martin; Associate Professor of Library Services, Head, Collections and Museums
  •   Jennifer Waldron; Professor, School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services
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