GW Awarded $500,000 Digital Humanities Grant

GW, Prairie View A&M, Davidson College and Rice University collaborate on project funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

July 5, 2016


By Brittney Dunkins

The George Washington University will host students, faculty and researchers from GW, Rice University, Davidson College and Prairie View A&M next month to launch a new experiential research project in digital humanities.

The event is the start of “Resilient Networks to Support Inclusive Digital Humanities,” a $500,000, two-year research project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to advance cross-disciplinary research in the digital humanities across a network of institutions.

GW will work with Rice University, Davidson College and Prairie View A&M on the research.

“Digital resources and platforms increasingly shape how culture is created and communicated,” Dean of Libraries and Academic Innovation Geneva Henry said. “This presents an opportunity for humanities scholars and students to develop and help to shape a critical understanding of digital culture.”

The project is the brainchild of Ms. Henry and Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ben Vinson. It hopefully will help institutions foster partnerships and provide experiential learning in digital humanities scholarship, Ms. Henry said.

In a letter of support, George Washington University President Steven Knapp also punctuated the importance of digital humanities in continuing GW’s progress in becoming a modern research institution.

“The “Resilient Networks” model will encourage innovation through collaboration across academic disciplines and institutions, bringing together students, scholars and librarians to share methodologies and technological tools with the goal of advancing knowledge,” Dr. Knapp said.

But what, exactly, are digital humanities?

The Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University defines the digital humanities as the collision of the humanities and the digital world, which are meant to explore “a universe in which print is no longer the primary medium in which information is produced or disseminated.”

According to Ms. Henry, digital humanities is the application of computational techniques by humanities scholars to enable a deeper analysis and understanding of digital humanities content.

For example, GW Professor of History Tyler Abinder leads a project tracing the mobility of Americans in the 19th century by researching the economic activity of 10,800 immigrants who opened an account at New York’s Emigrant Savings Bank.

Researcher and GW Associate Professor Diane Cline visualizes the relationships of Socrates outlined through close readings of his contemporaries. The project will use geographic information systems (GIS) to develop visualization of Dr. Clines’ “social network analysis.”

And Christopher Brick, editor and principal investigator of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers project, leads a digital archival project that makes the preserved letters, articles, speeches and other materials of Eleanor Roosevelt more accessible.

The project also will offer undergraduate and graduate students hands-on research experience in an increasingly critical area of scholarship and opportunities for mentorship, Ms. Henry said.

“By receiving digital technology training, working intensely on project development and assessment and working alongside faculty and librarians, interested students will be better poised for pursing a career suited to their particular expertise and academic interests,” Ms. Henry said.