Rebecca Frost Davis
Program Officer for the Humanities
National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE)
The digital humanities first flourished at doctoral research universities, but as the field has developed, its methodologies, topics of research, and disciplinary approaches have emerged more widely, even at small liberal arts colleges, whose primary mission is teaching undergraduates. For them, digital humanities helps scholars think how the digital revolution affects and changes the disciplines, and liberal arts education in general. They also help students develop and practice important liberal arts skills, such as critical thinking and effective communication within the changed information environment of the digital age. While early engagement in the digital humanities at these colleges often took the form of isolated grant-created faculty projects, more recently, several small liberal arts colleges, including Hamilton College, Occidental College, and Wheaton College, have taken steps to engage with the digital humanities at the institutional level. These institutions face significant challenges in sustaining large-scale, collaborative digital projects typical of the field.
This briefing will present findings of ongoing research into how digital humanities fits into the culture and structure of these small liberal arts colleges, and it will explore how they cope with limited staff, infrastructure, and funding. These cases demonstrate the value of engaging undergraduates for promoting digital humanities, popularizing digital methodologies, engaging the public in digital efforts, reenergizing traditional humanities disciplines, and training future digital humanists. They also offer models for inter-institutional collaboration that will be important in the development of major cyberinfrastructure projects for the humanities.