DH2013 Reflections

The Digital Humanities 2013 Conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ended yesterday, and I am still thinking through all I heard and saw. The conference was a major success with over 500 participants and panels on cyberinfrastructure for humanities, prosopography, digital humanities curriculum building, and lots more.

The highlights for me included Ryan Cordell‘s talk on undergraduate digital humanities and pedagogy, Allison Booth and Worthy Martin on the Collective Biographies of Women, the ChartEx Digging into Data project, and the welcome, important, and long-overdue panels on diversifying the digital humanities (thanks to Liana Silva-Ford, Miriam Posner, Adeline Koh, Roopika Risam, Tressie McMillan Cottom et al. and the stirring closing keynote by Isabel Galina).

We held an informal but exciting meeting on The History Harvest project with Ryan Hunt and Kim Martin from University of Western Ontario. Their DHMaker Bus has similarly democratizing DH ambitions. Scot French has been leading the RICHES project at University of Central Florida and is adapting the History Harvest into the public history program. And Justin Schell, just starting at the University of Minnesota Libraries, is interested in the possibilities for the History Harvest there.

Another highlight of the conference was the opportunity to brainstorm in informal conversations with so many digital humanities scholars. I was able to meet with Jen Guiliano and Trevor Munoz at MITH as we consider the next steps for our joint effort to digitize the case file records of the District of Columbia district court in its first decades–1808-1830. Talking further with Lea VanderVelde, we explored broader ideas for the Early D.C. Law and Family project (“O Say Can You See”). Among other ideas, we discussed linking her St. Louis court records, collaborating on a comparative article, and digitizing and annotating the full run of Blackstone’s Commentaries in U.S. legal history. After John Buckley’s presentation on prosopography, he issued an open invitation to discuss shared or “open” models of prosopography ontologies, and I look forward to that conversation.

The experience of the DH2013 Conference was in many respects exhilarating because there was so much energy, so much good scholarship, and so much hacking and collaborating. But the conference was also characterized by a welcoming and open spirit shared by the digital humanities broadly. The CIC universities sent graduate students to the conference through a bursary provided in part by University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the CIC will likely become a leading force in digital humanities production. It was exciting to see the new special interest groups (SIGs), poster sessions, and one-minute lightning rounds for pedagogy. Thanks to Bethany Noviskie for her leadership in putting the conference program together and to all who came to Lincoln, Nebraska for the conference!

About William Thomas

William G. Thomas III is a professor of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the John and Catherine Angle Professor in the Humanities. He teaches digital humanities and digital history, 19th century U.S. history, the Civil War, and the history of slavery.
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