Dr. Shearer explains that one of the many unique aspects of the SpokenWeb project is the interdisciplinary collaboration between the literary scholars who work in the archives and the archivists who manage the collections.
“Usually we have conversations about the archives separately,” she says. “This project brings together our expertise to work on the digitization, cataloging and study of cassette and reel tape media formats.”
The lab is also committed to providing undergraduate students with research and mentorship opportunities. Hiring students to work on projects and events is a central goal. Students organized literary events and readings as well as attended national and international conferences in collaboration with faculty researchers.
“Having a dedicated workspace like the AMP Lab for Humanities Research is extremely valuable, a space where students can learn practical skills in digital preservation and can become part of the international research community. Internships allow students to engage creatively with archival materials, by curating exhibitions or producing podcasts, for example.
“We want the lab to be a meaningful community while students are here at UBC Okanagan, as well as a launching pad for their careers; our students often work in cultural heritage institutions like galleries, libraries, archives, museums or in education after completing their lab placements,” says Dr. Shearer.
The role of the library
Thanks to the digital humanities, connections within the literary community are now explored, expanded and discovered through digitized materials. Libraries, and especially archives, play an important role in this area due to the unique skills and knowledge of librarians and archivists in digitizing, cataloguing, preserving as well as making artifacts searchable and accessible.
“What I find most fascinating about my role is supporting people interested in research in the humanities using technologies such as interactive websites, designing searchable databases or learning automatic,” says Mathew Vis-Dunbar, Data and Digital Scholarships Librarian at the UBCO Library.
He adds that when it comes to text and analog material, people tend to convey information through speech.
“As a humanist, part of what you do is engage and interpret through discourse. And when we move into a digital environment, the way the discourse is presented to us is often mitigated by algorithms programmatic.
“Resources in the archives have something for everyone – if there’s a story to be had in a discipline, there’s probably an archive repository out there that could provide some of that source insight. primary.”
Digital Humanities Librarian Donna Langille has a strong focus on digital storytelling. Working closely with UBC Vancouver, Langille helped develop the Digital Toolkit Workshop Series to answer questions about tools like those used for open source publishing and creating digital exhibits, and on what may be most appropriate to use for a certain project. The workshops address a number of digital tools as well as issues related to their confidentiality and reproducibility.
“This is an introduction to these tools,” she says. “So how do we help people feel comfortable with these tools, ask questions about them, and know what they can do with them.”
Digital archives are another area of shared interest between digital humanities and the library. Archives, simply defined, are traces of activity.
“Archival culture is one of the best institutional services for digital humanists, as it has been refined, interpreted, and made accessible to scholars and the public. This makes it easier for researchers to collate and understand potential datasets, allowing them to dig deeper,” says archivist Paige Hohmann.
Hohmann says any discipline can consult archives and find materials for their research. She has spent time in classrooms across multiple disciplines introducing the basics of archival research to undergraduate students so they know this resource exists.
“Resources in the archives have something for everyone – if there’s a story to be had in a discipline, there’s probably an archive repository out there that could provide some of that source insight. primary,” says Hohmann.
The Digital Dark Ages
The work of digital humanists and archivists is never done. This is because all files physically live on a server somewhere, and sometimes sections of files fall into what is called “bit-rot”. Dr. Murphy explains that it is now necessary to have active preservation strategies for digital files.
“People are in what we think is called the digital dark age, from the 1990s until today. Since the beginning of the internet, so many websites have disappeared, for example,” she says .
There are tool sets available to archivists to combat bit rot, leading to mid-term trust for digital records, but this remains an active area of research in the profession.
So what does all of this mean for the preservation of our history? There’s a lesson here about the importance of continuing to engage with our history and the importance of the humanities, of telling stories and understanding stories, and why that’s important.
“There is value in using a humanistic lens on technology. This is not the invasion of scientific approaches to humanities, but rather a reassessment of ways of doing humanities,” says Dr. Murphy.