Humanities in the information ecosystem
Humanities in the information ecosystem
https://asa1cadmoremedia.blob.core.windows.net/asset-6a6343c6-2dc5-4fff-ad4b-af1f820bfb1e/10 - Humanities in the Information Ecosystem -HD 1080p.mov
MARIA STANTON: OK. So welcome to NISO Plus, an hour session on humanities and the information ecosystem. I'm Maria Stanton, director of production with ATLA and I'll be your moderator. Our panelists include representatives from the University of Utah discussing their collections as data program. Ithaka sharing new text analysis tools. And we'll close with the discussion of public humanities with panelists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Virginia, and the Modern Language Association.
MARIA STANTON: And we'll start with the University of Utah. So Rachel, if you would please share your screen.
JEREMY MYNTTI: Great. Thank you, Maria. So during this segment of the panel, we are going to be talking about a couple of collections as data projects that we've been working on at the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library, and then how these relate to public humanities and creative types of output. Next slide.
JEREMY MYNTTI: So the three people that will be speaking about this project are myself, Jeremy Myntti, I'm the interim associate dean for collections and scholarly communication, then we have Anna Neatrour, interim head of digital library services, and Rachel Wittmann, digital curation librarian. Next slide. The Marriott Library began our digital library program around 20 years ago, in the early 2000s, by digitizing several unique collections housed within our library of special collections.
JEREMY MYNTTI: And over the years, we have partnered with other colleges at the University, as well as many libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies around the state of Utah to be able to digitize and make their unique content available online. We're also home to the Utah Digital Newspaper Program, where we have digitized nearly all surviving Utah newspapers going back to 1850 through the early 2000s.
JEREMY MYNTTI: So with these two big digital library programs, we've been able to provide online access to around 30 million digital objects. Then about four years ago, four different colleges at the University of Utah began to collaborate on an effort to create a center for digital scholarship, which became known as Digital Matters, and Digital Matters is housed within the library. Digital Matters is an effort to explore new areas for collaborating with digital humanists and public historians.
JEREMY MYNTTI: Next slide. Many of you have probably seen the Santa Barbara statement on collections as data, which says that aims to encourage the computational use of digitized and born digital collections. So with that in mind, our digital library services and Digital Matters teams wanted to explore what we might be able to do along the lines of collections as data.
JEREMY MYNTTI: The digital library services has the expertise in creating the digitized and born digital collections and Digital Matters has the expertise in computational methods and digital humanities, so these two teams really fit nicely together to start talking about collections as data. Next slide. When we first began these collections as data projects, we had to look at the resources that we had to see what we did and didn't have to contribute to this.
JEREMY MYNTTI: We do have a large digital library program, like I mentioned, to feed the digital content into these types of projects. We also had several people who are interested in collaborating and dedicating some of our time toward the effort. But then while the library does have a team of programmers that we can work with, none of them are really fully dedicated to these types of projects since they support programming projects around the entire library.
JEREMY MYNTTI: We also really don't have any extra staff that we can assign to the project, so it's mostly our small project team to work on these types of projects. And while I mentioned that we do have a large digital library, we really don't have a super large corpora to work with. The digital newspapers projects that we support is the closest thing to a large corpus. But the OCR data from this is really not the greatest to work with since the newspapers were mostly digitized from older microfilm and the accuracy of text isn't the greatest.
JEREMY MYNTTI: So we've had to focus on some smaller collections and segments of these types of projects to be able to work with collections as data. Now I'll turn over to Anna to talk about some of the initial work that we've done around these types of projects.
ANNA NEATROUR: So I was a participant in one of the earlier collections as data forums at UC Santa Barbara. And I took a lot of inspiration from what other libraries and researchers were doing to curate and make available data sets for computational use by scholars. Many other institutions had developed interesting data sets and placed them on GitHub for anyone to access. So that was one of our first areas to explore.
ANNA NEATROUR: We decided to go with collections that would be fairly easy to work with that were uniquely related to Utah. And so in our first wave of collections as data projects, we extracted OCR from oral histories, put some georeferenced metadata from our digital library online, as well as obituary newspaper records for people to use. Next slide.
ANNA NEATROUR: This is a really simplistic summary of some of the attitudes that folks in libraries and public humanities might have towards using digital library collections. As a librarian, I'm usually dealing with multiple projects. I want to ensure that primary sources are accessible, and then move on to the next digital collection. If I try to put on the hat of a digital humanist or public historian, I might approach my work with different goals, asking, how can I use these collections in the classroom?
ANNA NEATROUR: What tools can I use to explore digital collection materials? And how should I best approach my work to encourage reuse of library collections? While working with collections as data is one way we're trying to engage with public humanities, it's just one example of what we're doing. And the idea of engaging more with a public audience can encourage many new areas of collaboration between librarians and the people who work in public humanities.
ANNA NEATROUR: I think we have many shared values around information access and outreach. Next slide. One of the things we wanted to do as part of this project was extend our own knowledge of digital humanities tools and techniques to explore our own data sets after we built them. So with help from one of our DH colleagues, we employ the technique of distant reading to develop word clouds of some of the oral histories and found that the technique actually helped us get more insights about what the oral histories were about.
ANNA NEATROUR: Because normally, when we're placing these online in the digital library, we don't have time to read 40-page oral history transcripts, so we rely on summaries and skimming when we're developing metadata. One of the things that we noticed as part of this process was that they were mining oral histories that were actually really very much focused on the topic of wine and winemaking and we haven't seen that before.
ANNA NEATROUR: So we then added these terms to improve the metadata for these items. In this case, using a digital humanities approach improved information access in our digital library. And now Rachel's going to talk about our latest collections as data effort.
RACHEL WITTMANN: OK. So I'm excited to tell you about one of our collections as data projects in more detail. This project involves the collection of minor employee records that have been digitized and transcribed by the Marriott Library. This collection of records documents the miners who worked in the Kennecott Copper Mine, also known as the Bingham Canyon Mine in the early 1900s. This mine needs no introduction to a Utah audience.
RACHEL WITTMANN: But to give everyone with us today some context, the Kennecott Copper Mine is massive, as you can see in this picture. It claims to be the largest man-made excavation and deepest open pit mine in the world. The mine was carved into a mountain range that runs along the west side of Salt Lake City and is visible from many, many miles away. And it's still an active mine and operated by Rio Tinto.
RACHEL WITTMANN: Through this collection of employee records, we can begin to piece together the story of the miners who worked in the mine and who are responsible for the grueling manual labor that created this open pit mine. So here is an example of one of the employee records. And this is one of 41,000 employee records that create this collection. They range from about 1900 to 1920.
RACHEL WITTMANN: And as you can see here, they offer very detailed information about the miners. So not only do we have names, but we have addresses, dependents if they had any, age, height, weight, eye color, hair color, nationality, education level, various positions and pay rates that they held in the mine, and also previous work history. This collection is completely online and available in our digital library, and I'll be sharing links along with this presentation.
RACHEL WITTMANN: So when we approached this collection, like Anna said, we knew we wanted to make it conducive for digital humanities research. So we created a custom metadata template that not only had the standard Dublin core metadata fields that are required for a digital library, but also individual fields for all the data fields that you see on the card.
RACHEL WITTMANN: And lucky for us, all of the cards had a consistent format of data fields. But not so lucky for us, nearly all of the cards were handwritten and often in difficult to decipher penmanship. So we focused on 10 fields for transcription, which were highlighted in yellow here. And we focused on those 10 fields because most of the time, that required to transcribe the entire card and the costs behind the time for transcription.
RACHEL WITTMANN: We hired student employees as transcribers. So while crowdsourcing was an option, we believe in paying people for their work and that hopefully, that will result in better transcriptions. We received a grant from Digital Matters that Jeremy mentioned earlier to fund an initial transcription pilot for the project. So in February 2020, we had about 7,000 of the 41,000 records transcribed.
RACHEL WITTMANN: When March hit and the pandemic, we quickly had to pivot to work from home projects for people in the library that didn't have normal projects that are conducive to working from home. So we ended up training our digital operations due to employees who are normally tasked with scanning items on how to transcribe this collection from home. And by August 2020, the entire collection was transcribed with these 10 fields, which was amazing because it was something that we never thought was possible.
RACHEL WITTMANN: So now that we have the full robust data set, we can start to do some analysis. I've done some very basic data visualization using Tableau Public and these are static screenshots. But they are actually interactive visualizations and I'll be sharing those links along with the presentation if you want to open them up and get a better view of these. So the first thing we were wondering were, where did all of these miners come from?
RACHEL WITTMANN: So we mapped the nationalities. And so for mapping purposes, we mapped to modern country names and boundaries, but some records listed territory so those were kept in parentheses along with the country. You'll notice Crete's in parentheses next to Greece and England's in parentheses next to United Kingdom. So at first glance, we can see that Americans are the majority of the mining labor force, with 11,700 miners.
RACHEL WITTMANN: Greek miners though are not that far behind, with 8,200, followed by Japan with 5,400. And this is a pretty extensive list. There were miners from 50 different countries in total counted. If you open up the visualizations, you can scroll down and see all of the counts and countries. It's really interesting to see the geographic representation of who worked in the mine and who did not.
RACHEL WITTMANN: So for example, there was only one miner who noted he was from China. And this is probably due to the Chinese Exclusion Act enforced at that time. Another thing we could look at are the nationalities that are hired over time. And I'd like to make a huge disclaimer here that I am not a historian, but we know that a lot of you are.
RACHEL WITTMANN: So we encourage you to use this data and analyze it and tell us more about these miners. But looking at this chart which charts the top 20 nationalities over years hired, you can off the bat just see that hiring tends to dip around World War I, which makes sense especially in the American population which are the orange segment of this chart. Greeks come to the mine in 1909 and remained a consistent significant portion of the miners till 1920.
RACHEL WITTMANN: Japanese and Austrians come in 1910. People from Crete come in 1912, and Albanians start in about 1913. And I'm sure all of these waves of different nationalities being hired can be tied back to political situations in the home countries at the time and the different waves of immigration into the United States.
RACHEL WITTMANN: Another thing we did, since we had all of the height and weight data, we were able to calculate the body mass index for the miners and then compare them among the nationalities. So Americans don't usually fare well in the international arena of BMIs. But among miners in the early 1900s, they were a bit leaner with a 23.4 BMI. So looking at this chart, you can see a lot of these numbers are very close to one another so it's not like a landslide.
RACHEL WITTMANN: But the leanness of the American miners might be because they were tended to be younger. The overall average age of the miners was 30 years old. And there was a number of young miners with the youngest being 15, and those were Americans, and the oldest miner was 77 years old from the United Kingdom. But again, this is just very basic analysis and we're eager for the public to use this data that is available on our GitHub repository Anna will tell you more about.
ANNA NEATROUR: Great. So developing projects under the idea of collections as data has helped us create new workflows and think about library collections in a new way. We're trying to think of ways of making our collections accessible beyond the traditional digital library repository, and we're committed to maintaining this focus in the future. Next slide. We've written an article about these projects that's available now.
ANNA NEATROUR: We also have our data sets available on GitHub if you want to experiment with them. So if you're in public humanities and find these data sets interesting, we encourage you to explore them and get in touch with us. Thanks very much.
MARIA STANTON: Thank you so much. That was very interesting. And I will admit, with my genealogy hat on, I think there's a lot of different groups and audiences that will be interested in that data. It's just fabulous and it's so great that you're putting that out and making it available to the public to use. And so now, we are going to hear from Amy with Ithika about new text analysis tools.
AMY FRITH: Thank you, Maria. I am very excited to speak with you all about Constellate, which is a new text and data analytics service from JSTOR and Portico. It's a platform for learning and performing text analytics, building data sets, and sharing analytics course materials. As a quick reminder, Portico and JSTOR are members of a family of services offered by Ithika for the academic community, including the library and publisher communities.
AMY FRITH: I suspect JSTOR is well known to all of you. Portico's often a little less known. We're a dark archive. We calculate that we are preserving about half of all published scholarly research. At least at last count, it was about a little over half of cross [? refs. ?] And we were so pleased that 42 of Portico's participating publishers have agreed to contribute content to Constellate.
AMY FRITH: I'm going to give my really quick definition of text analytics just so we have a wee bit of a baseline. Text analytics is when researchers use the written word, articles, books, research reports, image captions, poems, short stories, plays, chat transcripts, every Facebook post you've ever written, as data to be analyzed, rather than words to be read. Why are we doing this? JSTOR has run a service named Data For Research for many years and it lets users download non-consumptive data sets of JSTOR content.
AMY FRITH: So we have that experience under our belts. Portico and JSTOR have also both gotten requests for a more robust service from both libraries and publishers. We spent several years now developing new prototypes and talking with faculty, researchers, librarians, students, and publishers. And what we learned from our discussions is that the greatest challenge for researchers is learning text analytics.
AMY FRITH: There's a massive hurdle facing those who want to perform text analytics. There exist a few really neat tools where you can load in the text, hit a button, and get a dozen visualizations. And while that is sufficient for some researchers, for many, it whets their appetite, and they want to do more. The problem right now is that the next step for those users is to both learn statistics and how to program.
AMY FRITH: Ted Underwood, who is a professor of English at the University of Illinois, likens the scenario to researchers being presented with a deceptively gentle welcome mat followed by a trap door. We've also learned that the more advanced researchers who need full text and the publishers who are trying to meet their needs are both struggling. To meet the needs of these more sophisticated users, publishers are shipping around data sets via FTP or on external hard drives.
AMY FRITH: Some of it implemented click through agreements that provide users with a digital token that they can use to download PDFs one at a time, provided that the researcher has already identified the DOIs of all the articles they want. And sometimes, this need is being met by web scraping which serves nobody well. None of these solutions are particularly efficient for any of the parties.
AMY FRITH: So enter Constellate. We're going to take a quick walk through our website-- can you get to the right screen? There we go. --and take a demo. Feel free to follow along if you want, tdm-pilot.org. We'll stress test it. See if a hundred of us hitting it simultaneously takes us down.
AMY FRITH: One of the things I want to point out is that Constellate is built around three pillars. We've got our learn and teach pillar, a build pillar, and an analyze pillar. We do provide a suite of tools for learning and teaching text analytics. Our vision for this space is that it's a real collaborative community space. So we want to see people taking some of the code from our topic modeling code, combining it with topic modeling code developed by the University of Utah, and combining it and coming up with new analyses.
AMY FRITH: And we'd like to build a space that encourages that collaboration and also discovery. That's our vision. At the moment, what we've got are lessons and essays that we've written. So we do have some essays in here about why you might want to learn text analytics and both of your humanities person. Also, if you're coming at it from a business point of view, we also have lessons.
AMY FRITH: So you can come in here and I'm going to kick off this lesson. And it's going to open up in my browser and it's running in the cloud. One of our goals is to really break open the black box. One of the things we heard over and over as we were talking to people is that if you're going to start doing real research, you need to understand what you're doing. It can't be all hidden from you.
AMY FRITH: So we're building out the set of lessons and these are running in what are called Jupyter notebooks. And they're a great way to package together code, data, documentation. You can embed videos. So this is my colleague Nathan here. But all of our tutorials are like this, where there's an introduction to describe everything that's going on.
AMY FRITH: The space is very interactive. So I can come in here and like any good introduction to programming, I could start typing things, print Hello World, and get some results. This one. It's not particularly exciting but there you go. If you don't know what you're doing, you can come in and start at the beginning and then work your way up to intermediate lessons.
AMY FRITH: These are also notebooks that can be used for teaching. In fact, we teach an introduction to text analytics class, and we just work through these notebooks. We have lesson plans built around them and do it at a distance over webinars. And it works. It works really well. So that's our learn and teach pillar.
AMY FRITH: We also have our build pillar. And one of the things we want to do is make it easy for users to build data sets of interest. You can see I was preparing copper mines in Utah. We'll come back to that. As you're building your data sets and doing filtering on the left-hand side, you're going to see your visualizations change on the right.
AMY FRITH: We do have anchor collections which contain almost all of JSTOR and then those 42 publishers from Portico. We've also brought in a couple of open collections, including the digitized newspapers from Chronicling America. Let's go back to copper mining in Utah. You can filter on subjects that interest you, pop up here and get some more visualizations.
AMY FRITH: And so now, I'm going to try this. I've not done this before. It wasn't until I saw those countries. So let's see, United States, Greece, and in Bulgaria. So this are just references to these countries. So just the count of these words across this corpus on building about copper mining in Utah.
AMY FRITH: And I can see that the United States is most mentioned the most frequently. Interestingly enough, it's not following the frequency we saw previously where the actual count of people of each nationality. So Japan is referenced considerably more than Bulgaria or Greece. Bulgaria was at the bottom of that list, but Greece was the second one.
AMY FRITH: So there's something in there to think about, why are scholarly literature is not actually mimicking the actual data? That'd be a good thing to investigate. We also have a new chart here, which is charting the top five categories that your content is occurring in over time. And then, we have a tree map telling you all of the categories.
AMY FRITH: When you've got a data set you're happy with, you can hit Build. And it takes us a little bit to build it on the back end. When it's built, you can get access to it here. You've noticed we've kind of slipped into my analyze pillar a little bit already. When you download a data set that's JSON. If you are working with open content which are either the open collections we've brought in or early journal content from JSTOR, just pre 1924 content-- And also a chunk of open access books in JSTOR.
AMY FRITH: Any of that when you download a data set, we're actually going to send you the full text. For anything that's rights restricted, you can download a nonconsumptive data set. And we follow the existing data for research model of unigrams, bigrams, and trigrams, which are one word phrases and their frequency, two word phrases and their frequency, and three word phrases and their frequency.
AMY FRITH: Once your data set's built, we can give you one more visualization and we have a word cloud. So we're actually looking at a data set built from the South Asia open archives, which is an open community collection hosted at JSTOR. And I have colleagues who assure me that what we are looking at is mostly Bengali with a little bit of Hindu. And there's some English in there as well. So this is a South Asia collection.
AMY FRITH: So once you do this, it's built. We can give you a little bit more visualizations. The other analysis though is if I choose to analyze, I can come in and pick any of these notebooks. You can also choose to run your own notebook and open them up. And I'm going to open up the tutorial one. We're going back to that same place, the analytics lab, to do some work in it. I'm not going to work through this one.
AMY FRITH: If you're looking for one to play around with, I really like the word frequencies notebook because it's a really good exemplar of how we're trying to introduce learning. The first time you run through it, we give you the count. You count the top 25 words and they're all meaningless, the, and. And so then in the directions, we say, Oh, you probably noticed that that's not very helpful because you need to remove stop words and do data cleanup.
AMY FRITH: And here's how you do that. And then you do it and you run your accounts again. And you get much more meaningful words. And one of the reasons I like to demonstrate that is because out in the real world, data is wild, and woolly, and dirty. The first thing anybody does is clean it up. And we don't want to hide that from our users. We want them to know.
AMY FRITH: So where are we headed? [? Ithaca ?] is a not-for-profit, mission focused organization. And our goal is to make Constellate as accessible as possible to as many schools and people as possible while covering our operating costs. Our current vision for how we might do that is for a three tiered subscription service where we provide a free tier service, which is pretty close to what is currently available at Constellate that expands upon the self service aspects of DFR.
AMY FRITH: Please be aware that our intention is to offer this level of free service no matter what our business model. Then, there would be a second affordably priced core tier that lets small, medium, large schools teach text analytics on campus. We especially want to enable smaller and less affluent libraries to work in the space. This is a tier suitable for those schools that primarily want to teach workshops on text analytics or integrate text analytics into classes.
AMY FRITH: And then, in advance tier, it's suitable for schools with power users who need to work with lots of rights restricted full text or need access to significant compute cycles. Well this is our current thinking. It's only a possibility. And we're open to other options that will help us be as accessible and equitable as possible. It may be that an open source software model where schools pay for services is a good fit or maybe we can tweak the subscribe to open model to fit our service.
AMY FRITH: Maybe we need to make some tote bags and go the NPR pledge model. Our primary goal is to be as impactful as possible. So our next step is the beta evaluation period. We've worked with a number of libraries over the past year to test our platform. And we've learned enough now to share it more broadly. So now we're going to roll into a beta evaluation period to help us ensure that the platform is as useful as possible to as diverse set of schools as possible and a cost and effort that's sustainable to both [? Ithaca ?] and our schools.
AMY FRITH: We'll continue to offer our free tier of service, but beta evaluators get some goodies like direct lines of communication with us and the ability to send folks on their campus to our workshops. In return, we're going to ask are our beta participants to answer our really frequent emails and do some teaching or research with the tool. We really want to understand what success looks like at our schools and what our costs are to support it.
AMY FRITH: And I'm happy to speak with librarians or faculty about the beta program, just demo the tool and chat. And I'd also love to talk about the platform with any publisher who's got an interest. Just drop me a line. My last note, and this is more of a JSTOR labs next step than a Constellate one, but you all might be interested. In partnership with the University of Virginia and the University of Arizona with generous funding from the NEH, JSTOR labs is coordinating two institutes, each of which will host a series of workshops in 2021 and then in 2022 with a goal to help create a national community practice for teaching and learning text analytics based on open content infrastructure.
AMY FRITH: Each Institute will host workshops by master teachers on advanced methods and engage executable code environments with educational materials designed for humanities learners. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 Institute hosted by UVA will be virtual with our plans being that the 2022 version is going to successfully be held in Tucson next summer.
AMY FRITH: So finally, if you're interested in a demonstration of Constellate, want to discuss the beta program, want to discuss putting your content into Constellate, want to talk about copper mining in Utah and where the overlaps occur, or want more information on the TAP Institutes please drop me a line or follow up in the Q&A. Thank you so much. - Great.
AMY FRITH: Amy. Thank you so much. And it's wonderful to see that the Constellate tool has a tier that'll be openly available for researchers to experiment with because we all know the text mining can yield real riches to your example, comparing the copper mines in Utah to your data set to the other data set and sort of figuring out what the differences are and how that can drive researchers.
AMY FRITH: It's just fascinating. Now, we will turn to our public humanities discussion. And Ellen McClure from the University of Illinois at Chicago will be starting our discussion.
ELLEN MCCLURE: OK. Here we go. All right. Hopefully everybody can see my presentation.
SPEAKER 1: It's not sharing Ellen.
ELLEN MCCLURE: It's not sharing? OK. Let me try again.
SPEAKER 1: No. It was.
ELLEN MCCLURE: OK. Oh I see. Sorry about that. This is why we have editing. Let's see. Let try this. I'm sorry about that. Is that sharing?
ELLEN MCCLURE: Are we good?
SPEAKER 1: Yes.
ELLEN MCCLURE: OK great OK. Wonderful. Sorry about that. I'm the director of the Engaged Humanities Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And I'll just speak really briefly about what the Engaged Humanities Initiative is before moving on to address some of the questions specific to this conference and to digital humanities. So the Engaged Humanities Initiative-- This is the home page of our website.
ELLEN MCCLURE: So there's four first-year seminars and writing workshops with 20 students each. This is all funded by a million dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation. So the first year seminars of writings and workshops with 20 students. Then the students go on to take one of two second-year seminars in the fall.
ELLEN MCCLURE: That's when the funding starts. Most of the funding is for the students to support their research projects. And the funding is to attend humanities related lectures, workshops, and events on and off campus. And then, we get the students ready. I've actually instituted the course to actually do this specifically. And I can get into that more later.
ELLEN MCCLURE: To help the students formulate a research proposal, identify faculty mentors, and get ready for their first summer of funding, they receive $3,500 per student with 20 projects once we've approved their proposals. And they can use that money for archival work for internships or for study abroad to work on their projects, which they do with a faculty mentor. We help them find faculty mentors.
ELLEN MCCLURE: And then the funding repeats during the third year, the summer after the third year, and in the fourth year. There's two aspects to the projects, more of a formal research project that they can use in preparation for applications to graduate school. But also very much a part of this is how to present their research to various audiences and how to make it meaningful for their communities.
ELLEN MCCLURE: And this is really at the heart of this. So we also have a lecture series. We have a lecturer who comes and we're funded for that one per semester. We've had some wonderful speakers. And there's a working group that reunites faculty, staff, and increasingly students to talk about issues like grading or other issues in humanities research.
ELLEN MCCLURE: What I really want to get to really is the fact that this is all about uniting the amazing research faculty at the University of Illinois Chicago that has a really strong research profile for the faculty with a really unique student body. Just over half of our students are Pell-eligible. Most of Pell-eligible students come from families who earn less than $30,000 annually or some between $30,000 and $60,000 annually.
ELLEN MCCLURE: 35% of our students are first generation college students and our students are the public. Most of our students' work and it's also a majority minority institution. We're a Hispanic serving institution and a [? PZ ?] institution, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander, and Native American. The engaged humanities is very much not theoretical at UIC. And one of the great joys and what we really think of as engaged humanities is really engaging with the students.
ELLEN MCCLURE: Who are they? What speaks to them? What are they interested in? Helping them follow their passions. It's true for all students, but especially for our students, helping them make the shift from consuming information and receiving, teaching versus really realizing how very much that they bring to the table and having that shift so that they think of themselves as information creators rather than just information consumers.
ELLEN MCCLURE: And part of this is really just empowering them to recognize what they bring to the table and to learn the tools to formulate that into a research project. Some of our field trips and guest speakers, you can find the list there from the first couple of years of the program. We're in our fourth year.
ELLEN MCCLURE: We'll be applying to renew the grant in the fall. So we have our first cohort of students entering right now in their third year, the oldest students in the program. And next year, they'll be mentoring the students coming into the program. And some of the class activities pre-pandemic-- Of course we're located in Chicago, so they're wonderful opportunities for field trips, for guest speakers, and this and that.
ELLEN MCCLURE: So one of the questions about all of this is, what can digital humanities really bring to this? I'm showing you some student showcases. The students increasingly are gravitating towards projects that are online towards podcasts, websites, things like that. One of our issues is how to train them to be able to do those. We don't have dedicated classes for that.
ELLEN MCCLURE: We have some of the students showcases sort of low tech. There are stickers on the right that one of the students whose parents are undocumented farm workers, she made stickers about the dangers of pesticides. So we're increasingly realizing traditional humanities research with books. One of my best students actually told me he had never read a book outside of an assignment from high school.
ELLEN MCCLURE: So how do we reach these students? How do we make this digital a tool rather than an end in itself? But a tool to increase engagement to empower the students and to really reach the very human stories. I like to say the humanities doesn't actually even mean that much to our students. It's really about understanding the past, telling stories about where we are now, and imagining a future, and how we can make impacts in the community and use the digital to serve the human and to augment those wonderful stories.
ELLEN MCCLURE: I really enjoyed the Utah miners cards. Each one of those cards is an incredible story. And how can we use the digital to uncover those stories, enrich the humanities, and empower our students. And I'd be happy to say more as necessary. Thank you.
SPEAKER 1: Thank you, Ellen. We will now welcome Kirt from the University of Virginia.
KIRT VON DAACKE: Thank you. I speak to you today as the leader of two public humanities projects at the University of Virginia seeking to come to terms with slavery and racism in the school's past.
SPEAKER 1: Kirt, we can't see your slides.
KIRT VON DAACKE: You can't see my slides?
SPEAKER 1: No.
KIRT VON DAACKE: Oh. good Lord. It says I'm-- Did I-- Ai, yai, yai. OK. Can you see them now?
SPEAKER 1: Yes.
KIRT VON DAACKE: OK. Holy cow. That's what I get for predicting that this would happen. Right? [LAUGHS] OK. Let's try this again. I speak to you today as the leader of two public humanities projects at the University of Virginia seeking to come to terms with slavery and racism in the school's past.
KIRT VON DAACKE: These two commissions are service commissions, the president's commission on slavery in the University and the president's commission on the University in the age of segregation. They were broadly charged with conducting two large scale research projects with educating the University students as well as the broader public and with considering appropriate memorialisation. So my work sits at the nexus of public history, digital humanities, and deeply community centered public humanities.
KIRT VON DAACKE: I think the work I have led demonstrates the power and importance of public humanities expanded methodological approach, how to do research, how to make the evidence visible and accessible, how to interpret, how to educate, and on what platforms that work will take place. It also speaks to the centrality of a public community centered approach to community focused truthtelling. This work has required continued engagement with a broad array of stakeholders and an even broader universe of audiences.
KIRT VON DAACKE: It has been so much more than what I as a historian was initially trained for, a single scholar's encounter with the archives, and the resulting scholarly contributions to disciplinary conversations. I hope that elements of the two commission's work have done just that. But I think this work has expanded well beyond. I think the public humanities demand such an approach.
KIRT VON DAACKE: For eight years and counting, I have led a team of scholars and administrators in a process that involved a massive research project, continual community outreach, education at the collegiate and K through 12 levels, organizing scholarly conferences, and also, alumni educational engagement. It's involved creating public history installations, designing new museum spaces, creating meaningful rituals of remembrance, editing and publishing scholarly reports and books, creating an article series, designing and creating public facing websites, and participating in both design and construction of a significant memorial to enslaved laborers here at UVA.
KIRT VON DAACKE: That's a brief synopsis of a body of work that frankly cannot be accurately condensed into a few minutes, despite my attempt to do so. But I nonetheless hope that what I've shared here speaks to the breadth and complexity of the work that I think exemplifies the best of the public humanities. It is grounded in scholarly research and analysis, but it is ultimately sought to make the truth telling public humanities process fully transparent, and that's the website you see here, as part of an iterative process driven by community engagement.
KIRT VON DAACKE: So come up with ideas, share them with the community, return and reshape them based on those conversations. It is also sought to make the research materials accessible, visible, and understandable. We have done that through the digital humanities creating a huge digital archive of university materials where records have been scanned, transcribed, and tagged to track person, place an event down to the granular level.
KIRT VON DAACKE: And this is built largely on work done by students as paid interns on the project. This is also included at that same project creating a 3D model of the early University that highlights the experiences of the enslaved in this landscape and tries to replicate the University as it would have looked about 170 years ago. The project is also sought to engage the community and students as active participants in shaping how we interpret the past and how we come to terms with and make amends for that past.
KIRT VON DAACKE: Simply put, this is public humanities as a community engaged practice. And it is also sought to make changes to the 21st century built landscapes by creating in situ interpretation and dispersed memorialisation that educates and directs viewers back to the digital sites. Finally, we have worked to use current digital technologies whenever possible and some of these are old school.
KIRT VON DAACKE: We created a paper walking tour map that's available at the visitor center. Pre-pandemic, they were leaving the visitor's center at the tune of at least 1,000 a month. But this has now been in conjunction with the library become an app that invites viewers to learn and to engage with all the public humanities and digital projects we have created.
KIRT VON DAACKE: I hope our conversation will allow us to talk more about this. But I'll close with brief commentary on how public communities projects of this scope and scale unfold. They unfold with clear leadership and coordination, but more importantly, they require the commitment of a lot of people. For me those include specialists and database website and app design, architecture specialists scanning buildings and working from original architectural drawings and blueprints to create those 3D models, archivists working to decolonize the archives and lead me and other researchers to previously undiscovered caches of material, designers working with scholars on creating memorials and eye catching informative interpretive panels and exhibits, and so much more.
KIRT VON DAACKE: The end results of this work, the traditional published materials, the websites, the maps, the apps, the exhibits, and panels are together I hope impressive even if they cannot adequately document the efforts of the team who brought it all to reality. And I'll end with the most important part of this. This work has created a sea change in student and faculty knowledge here about our past and has created educational materials that already outlive our work.
KIRT VON DAACKE: This public humanities work has begun to change how the university engages with the community. It is embedded in and how the university thinks about its impact upon that same community. The work has ultimately been imperfect and incomplete but because it has been public and complex it has produced significant change to date. Thank you.
SPEAKER 1: Thank you, Kirt. We will now turn to Paula from the Modern Language Association. Paula, I'm sorry. You're on mute.
PAULA: Somebody had to do that. So we waited until the end. I will wrap up by talking about the role of a disciplinary association in relation to these questions of public humanities and humanities information because it's different from the campus based or [? Ithaca-based ?] projects that we've looked at so far. What a disciplinary association, a national association, can do is really threefold in relation to this. We're a member organization and so primarily our public is our members first of all.
PAULA: So serving our members with information services comes first. And we do that in a number of ways. Among them, including our information commons, the MLA Commons, in which members exchange information. And we push out information to members. That is part of the larger Humanities Commons many of you may be members of. The Humanities Commons is a free and open membership organization that any humanist or anybody interested in the humanities can join and get access to many MLA materials as well as other materials free and publicly available.
PAULA: So the MLA Commons for exchanging information amongst members and the Humanities Commons are digital ways of pushing out preprints, offprints, data sets, teaching materials, especially when we went virtual. When everybody's teaching went virtual in the beginning of the pandemic, we pushed out a lot of templates for online teaching as well as resources through these means.
PAULA: So membership services, services to the profession-- The MLA produces the largest database for humanities research in the world. The MLA international bibliography, you're probably familiar with it, we have over three million entries that are indexed by professional indexers that are of trusted publications and resources. This database is available through research libraries and non research libraries all over the world.
PAULA: And that's our primary method for pushing research materials out from the MLA. But probably most important for the purposes of which we're talking about today is that the public humanities and digital humanities is the work that we're doing in relation to changing the profession. We have a committee at the moment at the Modern Language Association charged with looking at the way public humanities projects.
PAULA: The projects that have been described in today's session, for example, would get looked at by retention promotion and tenure committees on campuses. How would new kinds of digital research and public facing work, like the work in Virginia, how would that be counted in a scholar's portfolio when it comes time for retention, promotion, and tenure. This is absolutely key for our discipline.
PAULA: And this is where disciplinary society can use its credibility to make a difference in campus recognition of the kind of scholarship that we're talking about today. So influence, sharing of the information, and then providing curated information are ways that disciplinary association works with the things that we've been talking about today. And I'm looking forward to entertaining some questions about the role of a national association in this information ecosystem.
PAULA: Thank you.
SPEAKER 1: Wonderful. Thank you, Paula. And I want to thank all the panelists again. This has been a wonderful conversation. And I look forward to our further discussion with the attendees. Thank you very much. [MUSIC PLAYING]