In the era of technology and digitization, Digital Humanities is slowly gaining importance as a field between the social sciences and computer science. As an emerging field, Digital Humanities is still trying to find its place in universities and schools, where most of the future humanists will come from.
The Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario introduces this year a new Digital Humanities curriculum called “Bachelor of Social Work”. It focuses on teaching the students how to gather and analyze digital data with courses ranging from history to Big Data, and consists of a set of mandatory courses plus options, including for example programming. The curriculum is designed toward an undergraduate employment based on data collected in the Career Center. The students have the opportunity to participate in real Digital Humanities project during their studies, for which they are rewarded with course credits. For instance, they can participate in the digitization of archives of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies to make them publicly available, which is a great experience to work between humanities and the digital world. The cost of implementing the educational program was of course a main concern, as there was no funds available to hire new professors. It required an effort of multiple faculties already involved in the digital humanities, which modified the initial program.
A more research oriented curriculum is given at the Hamilton’s College’s Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi). It has been offering a research and fellowship program since 2011, the Culture, Liberal Arts, and Society Scholars (CLASS), which focuses on Culture, Liberal Arts and Society, and their intersection with the new digital technologies. It is designed in three phases as shown in Fig. 3.
One of the many projects done so far by the CLASS students is a three dimensional modelling of the British Columbia site, including models of some excavated artifacts. An other one was related to the study of Indian sacred cities (Buddhist Bodhgaya and Hindu Gaya). They helped their supervisor in his research by organizing the collected data into meta-data.
A curriculum in Digital Humanities is a good thing, but probably not achievable by all universities. So what about engaging students in a short Digital Humanities project? This paper is a perfect application of this idea. The Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) developed, with the University of Iowa Libraries, a short four-week project using DIY History, a crowd-sourcing tool for handwritten documents transcription (as of today, more than 48’000 pages were transcribed this way). The project involved undergraduate students in transcribing a handwritten document, analyze it based on historical background and point out some interesting elements. At the end, they have to write a blog post about their work and present what they did in front of the class. This first approach to primary source research and digital humanities received a mostly positive feedback, students feeling as researchers during the project.
It is great to have a big collection of digital archives, for research and history purposes, but if nobody uses it, it is worthless. That is, Digital Humanities needs new researcher and people involved, and we know where to find them. Being it job oriented, research oriented or even through short projects, Digital Humanities is slowly gaining importance in universities. Chances are its presence in universities will keep increasing in the future. The Digital Humanities scholars of tomorrow are the students of today.
1. Smith, David; (2014) Advocating for a Digital Humanities Curriculum: Design and Implementation
2. Simons, Janet Thomas; Nieves, Angel David; Grimaldi, Kerri; (2014) Empowering Student Digital Scholarship: CLASS Program as a model for digital humanities scholarship in the Liberal Arts
3. Gilchrist, Matthew; Wolfe, Jennifer; McElroy, Kelly; Keegan, Thomas; (2014) Crowdsourcing in the Curriculum: Engaging Undergraduates through Collaborative Manuscript Transcription