Marketing & Communications
BGSU unites scholars, librarians, software developers to build new toolkit
From the Wright brothers’ papers and drawings to issues of the popular “nickel weeklies” from the mid-1860s, a wealth of fascinating historical material exists in Ohio’s library collections. Much of it, including these two collections, has been digitized and is available online to the public. In addition, the amount of information that is “born digital,” such as podcasts and archives of theses and dissertations, continues to grow.
With support from a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), BGSU is helping to create a Scholar’s Dashboard that will enable easier searching within and across these collections and deliver results and visualizations that best serve humanities scholars. The “tools” will be available through the OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons (DRC), a federated collection of digital objects of all kinds that provides an infrastructure for participating libraries, cultural institutions and municipalities.
“The challenge is that there are a lot of great collections coming online, but they may all use different interfaces and search engines,” said Dr. Andrew Schocket, director of the American Culture Studies Program and project manager for the NEH grant. “This digital startup grant will help us determine what kind of tool and interface scholars want and what we need in terms of software and funding to create that.”
The funds are being used to host three “design and build” workshops, each bringing together humanities researchers, librarians and software developers from across the state to create applications that will make it easier to combine historical collections in new ways. The first session will be held Nov. 8 and 9 at the Ohio Supercomputing Center in Columbus, followed by sessions in February and April.
Schocket hopes the eventual tool set can serve as a model for other institutions and consortia. BGSU graduate student Nicki Reamer, American culture studies, will help publicize the Scholar’s Dashboard through social media and maintaining a Web presence.
Gwen Evans, now interim executive director of OhioLINK and former BGSU coordinator of library information and emerging technologies, co-wrote the grant in conjunction with others from the OhioLINK community before moving to OhioLINK last summer. The University Libraries was one of the earliest participants in the Digital Resource Commons.
“This is an exciting opportunity to get humanities scholars directly involved in designing tools to access the digital collections in the DRC in ways that they, the end users, find most compelling and useful,” said Evans. "What do humanities faculty and researchers want in digital format, and what tools do they need to use them effectively in their work and in the classroom?"
The new digital technology has opened up the potential for humanities scholars, along with other scientists, to examine and analyze data and other information in new ways, Schocket said. In 2006 the NEH began the Digital Humanities Initiative, renamed the Office of Digital Humanities in 2008.
A number of BGSU faculty in various disciplines are involved in data-intensive research; at the Big Data Day symposium earlier this fall they made connections with one another for possible collaborations.
In addition, this summer, Drs. Jolie Sheffer and Ellen Berry will host an international digital humanities workshop on campus. Watch Zoom News for more information on that.