AERI Institute 2009

Seminar B: Curriculum Development in Digital Humanities and Archival Studies

Tuesday, July 7

Chairs:  Dr. Joshua Sternfeld, UC Los Angeles, Center for Information as Evidence,  Dr. Johanna Drucker, UC Los Angeles, Department of Information Studies, Stephen Davison, UCLA Digital Library.

Original Description:  As scholarship in the Digital Humanities continues to grow – whether through historical and literary digital collections, cultural heritage sites, scholarship, or artistic works — the need for enhanced dialogue with archival specialists has become imperative.  The digitization of cultural artifacts as well as the production of born-digital works demands a comprehensive approach that takes into account issues of interpretation, access, ethics, and preservation.  This workshop will identify the common theoretical and practical ground necessary to engage humanist and archival scholars at the pedagogical level.  What analytical skills and knowledge is necessary for archivists to interact with Humanities disciplines, including History, Literature, Archaeology, Music, Film and the Visual Arts, and vice versa?  How will research spaces facilitate collaborative, interdisciplinary cohorts that utilize new media technologies while adhering to archival and preservation standards? The seminar will function as a group workshop to construct topics, projects, assignments, and learning objectives that might form the basis of a course or unit on this topic.

Objective:  Many scholars now acknowledge that the needs of the Digital Humanities necessarily coincide with the needs of information and archival science, yet arguably little work has been done to envision exactly how future scholarship, research, and teaching might coordinate a more productive dialogue or collaboration.  By convening this curriculum development seminar, we hope to make a statement to the wider academic community that the continual and consistent joining of these disciplines and knowledge areas will be critical in their co-development, especially at the pedagogical level.
There are few opportunities in which such a diverse group with an equally strong background in archival and humanistic practices and theory can engage one another and address their interests and concerns in an open and inviting forum.  For this reason, Johanna, Stephen, and Josh would like to emphasize that they have constructed a flexible framework in which the final direction and outcome for the day will rely largely upon the input of all participants.  The day has been divided into four sessions of approximately equal length (about 1 ½ hours) that will move from a more general series of discussions in the first half of the day towards a more focused generation of practices, activities, lesson plans, and pedagogical methods.  The key in each of these steps is to keep in mind where the intersection between Archival Studies and the Digital Humanities lies, which entails the difficult yet rewarding task of considering learning objectives from multiple disciplinary perspectives.
Ideally, by the end of the day, the seminar should accomplish two purposes:
1.    To construct the outline for an open source model with which educators, researchers and students from both Archival Studies and the Humanities may contribute pedagogical materials for others to use and share.  The chairs of this seminar believe that there is not – and should not – be one single method with which to address both fields simultaneously.  The nature of the Digital Humanities necessitates a more adaptive, flexible, and collaborative attitude towards fulfilling learning objectives.
2.    To consider how the ideas generated in this limited forum may propel future collaborative work in the possible form of Web 2.0-generated networks, traditional and non-traditional publications, conferences, sessions for future AERI, and other forms of academic conversation.


Session 1:  Introductions and General Discussion

•    Participant Intros – Background, Experience with Humanities projects, areas of expertise

•    Joshua Sternfeld – Digital History (~10 min)

o    Discussion of Current Examples

o    Discussion of Recent Course: Design of a History Website

o    Key Issue: Teaching Historical Contextualization in Digital Scholarship and Preservation

•    Johanna Drucker (~10 min)

o    History of digital humanities collections, archives, etc.

o    Institutional issues facing collections etc.

o    Pedagogy for humanists and archivists–some needs, challenges, desires

•    Stephen Davison – Digital Libraries and Archives (~ 10 min)

o    Appropriate strategies for building collections: issues around quality, quantity, context, selection, etc. How to best serve the needs of the scholar.

o    Description of selected digital library projects with online publication or Web 2.0 components.

•    General Discussion

o    The state of graduate education combining Archival Studies and one or more Humanities disciplines

o    Which knowledge areas of both fields are most important for the other field to acquire?

o    Where are the shared interests and knowledge?

o    What are the most critical problems facing the Digital Humanities from an information or archival perspective?

o    What common technical skills/knowledge must both archivists and scholars possess in order to facilitate a working dialogue?

o    Should courses combining archival theory and scholarship remain discipline-specific (Literature, History, Music, etc.) or would a more general Digital Humanities approach be better served?

Session 2:  Review of Digital Collections/Libraries/Archives

•    Question:  Are there key definitional differences between a digital collection, archive, or library, and if so, how would these differences affect pedagogical methods?

•    Discussion of recommended sites and readings (see below for list)

o    Evidence (or lack thereof) of close collaboration between archivists and scholars

o    Examples of best practices and areas that could use improvement

o    Discussion of technical requirements and knowledge necessary to produce sites

Session 3:  Generation of activities, assignments, and final products that could be employed in the classroom

•    Small Group Work: Basic Areas of Competence and Knowledge essential for archivists working with digital humanities materials

Session 4:  Wrap-up, Concluding Remarks – Where do we go from here?

o    What might a collaborative open source site containing pedagogical materials contain?  Which areas require the most attention?

o    Logistical next steps that should be taken:  creation of a wiki; development of Zotero bibliography; publications; outreach to other scholars and associations

o    Determine key points to report back to the rest of AERI (later that evening – 6:30-8:30)

Recommended Sites and Readings

We would like participants to come to the seminar with a common base of knowledge.  We have compiled a set of short readings and noteworthy online digital collections to visit prior to our seminar.  We will also provide access to our group Zotero bibliography where you may add additional readings, sites, and other materials.  We also encourage you to bring your own examples of sites that you have come across either in your teaching or research, as well as any syllabi that you or others may have produced.

Recommended Readings

Johanna Drucker.  “Blind Spots:  Humanists Must Plan Their Digital Future.”  The Chronicle Review (The Chronicle of Higher Education).  April 3, 2009.  Accessed online at:

Robert Darnton.  “The Library in the Digital Age.”  New York Review of Books.  Volume 55, Number 10.  June 12, 2008.  Accessed online at:

Martyn Jessop.  “Computing or Humanities?  The Growth and Development of Humanities Computing.” Accessed online at:

Recommended Digital Archives and Collections

The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti:  A Hypermedia Archive.

Perseus Digital Library.

The Valley of the Shadow.

History Engine:  Tools for Collaborative Education.

The Red Hot Jazz Archive.

Other Suggested Collections and Sites to Explore


The British Library Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

The Schøyen Collection.


The Poetess Archive.

Making the History of 1989.

Online Exhibitions of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

American Memory.

Other Suggested Readings (See also our own Zotero Group Bibliography “Archives and the Digital Humanities” at

Schreibman Susan, Siemens Ray, and Unsworth John eds. (2004). A Companion To Digital Humanities. Blackwell Publishers.

Hockey, Susan. (2001), Electronic Text in the Humanities: Principles and Practice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: