HTRC Team to contribute to “BLACK DH” Digital Humanities project

Stephen Downie
J. Stephen Downie, Professor, Associate Dean for Research, and Co-Director of the HathiTrust Research Center
Glen Layne-Worthey
Glen Layne-Worthey, Associate Director for Research Support Services, HathiTrust Research Center

J. Stephen Downie, iSchool professor and co-director of the HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC), and Glen Layne-Worthey, associate director for HTRC Research Support Services, along with partners in the University of Illinois Library, have been awarded $17,456 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities. The team will contribute to the University of Kansas project, "Building Literacy and Curating (Critical Cultural) Knowledge in Digital Humanities (BLACK DH)."

A three-year project, BLACK DH will address how digital humanities' reach into scholarly research and production can be paired with discussions of race and access to marginalized materials and experiences. Leading the project for the University of Kansas is Professor Maryemma Graham, who has focused her distinguished career on gathering and promoting African American literature. Graham founded the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) in 1983 and has built upon that effort ever since.

"One essential element in the creation of a diverse and inclusive digital humanities community is what the BLACK DH project rightly calls 'critical cultural knowledge' of the DH field," explained Downie. "We're so happy that Professor Graham chose HTRC to share our critical cultural knowledge and long expertise in the field with this community of emerging scholars."

BLACK DH will also create an online platform, B2 Digital, to house the 4,000+ titles making up HBW's digital inventory. It also will provide a repository for completed and in-process digital projects related to the Black experience, as well as important but little-known collections along with digital humanities training webinars and resources.

To provide public access to B2 Digital resources in a digital library site that the B2 team builds, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library staff will develop a web interface integrated with the Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN), a digital publishing initiative for archives, historical societies, libraries, and museums that want to make searchable digital collections of primary source material.

The HTRC team, who will serve as advisors on the BLACK DH project, will create and present a digital library workshop curriculum customized to meet the needs of the BLACK DH participants and the scholarly materials with which they will work. Team members with decades of digital humanities experience will also serve as formal mentors to early-career scholars in the BLACK DH cohort.

"HTRC staff have been invited to join a team of specialists in digital humanities and African American studies from around the country who are discussing ways to encourage early involvement in DH work in the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) community and for Black students and scholars generally," said Layne-Worthey. "We've developed a needs assessment survey for those communities and, after it's administered, we'll work with the results to develop some recommendations for the project."

For the past two years, the HTRC team has worked with Graham on a project, Scholar-Curated Worksets for Analysis, Reuse & Dissemination (SCWAReD, pronounced "squared"), which received $500,000 in funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. That project focused on developing new methods for creating and analyzing digital collections, with an emphasis on content related to historically under-resourced and marginalized textual communities.

HTRC, co-hosted at the iSchool and at Indiana University's Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, enables computational analysis of works in the 17.5 million-volume HathiTrust Digital Library to facilitate non-profit research and educational uses of the collection.

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