An HWL Digital Humanities Spin-Off in Pennsylvania
Will Shaw, Digital Humanities Technology Consultant for Duke Libraries, was the keynote speaker at a recent conference at Ursinus College. The event brought together faculty and students from three institutions—Ursinus, Gettysburg College and Muhlenberg College—seeking to integrate digital humanities into their curricula. The conference aim was to “develop a concrete plan to help the institutions enhance digital components in the classroom, develop new programs, hire students as digital fellows, and explore new ways for collaboration.” All three colleges are members of the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts, which is funding the initiative.
According to Meredith Goldsmith, an English professor at Ursinus, the project is a direct outgrowth of her year as an HWL Visiting Faculty Fellow. During her fellowship year, Goldsmith immersed herself in digital humanities to create a map of locations mentioned in Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence. The project was not only an extension of her scholarly research, it was also a way for her to prepare herself to incorporate digital humanities into her teaching.
When she returned home, she created the first upper-level class in the English major at Ursinus that includes a required digital project—a “sea change” in their program, she says. Students in the class use GIS techniques to make interactive maps based on their reading of 19th-century realist novels.
“One of the things we've found as students write research papers,” Goldsmith says, is that “they become good at it, but it becomes quite mechanical, whereas we've found digital humanities projects to be a way to give them new skills and give them access to more cutting-edge areas in the field.” It’s a more collaborative process and it also provides valuable exposure to computers and technology that humanities students don’t typically get.