[Editor's note: The following appeared in the CDH newsletter on January 14, 2021.]
We’ve made it to the first CDH newsletter of 2021, and I want to echo the hope of many that this new year will bring restoration and healing, overdue social change, and rapid vaccine rollouts.
Before we move ahead, though, I’m taking this moment to celebrate all that the CDH did accomplish in 2020, even as our staff and project management meetings moved to Zoom and we saw more of each others’ homes, pets, and family members than we ever expected.
The CDH has been pleased to support so many students in a time when internships and funding sources have been hard to come by. We welcomed two new cohorts to our graduate fellows program this year, as well as our first-ever cohort of summer fellows. We also had a slate of excellent summer undergraduate interns and sponsored an internship in the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab. In the summer, the CDH awarded its annual thesis and dissertation prizes, and we have also welcomed new graduate students to our team through the University Administrative Fellows initiative.
We have also been thrilled to welcome our new post-doctoral fellows, Sierra Eckert, Kavita Kulkarni, and Camey VanSant. This spring, research software developer Kevin McElwee joined the CDH and Princeton University Library teams and hit the ground running.
Through our dataset curation grants and seed grants, the CDH has continued to support digital humanities research at Princeton. In the midst of 2020’s chaos, our own work on projects has continued: the year saw us wrap up our collaboration with the Princeton Ethiopian Miracles of Mary Project (read an update on the project), commence the CDH-Princeton Geniza Project Research Partnership, and continue our work on the Princeton Prosody Archive (read the PPA's year in review).
Two project launches were among the highlights of our year. In May, version 1.0 of the Shakespeare and Company Project was officially released. The Project, which draws from the papers of the bookshop and lending library’s founder Sylvia Beach, offers “a striking new portrait of the Lost Generation and life in interwar Paris” by showing what the lending library’s “famous members read (and read in common), and their connections to various communities of readers.” The Project has received international media attention. Visitors can explore the site themselves, as well as engage with essays about and visualizations of the Project’s data. Social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram keep users connected to the Project’s updates and highlight parts of the collection through features like the “reader of the week” on Instagram. The Project also partnered with the Princeton Public Library to host a book club that read notable works from the project.
In October, CDH staff members were also thrilled to launch Startwords, a new research publication that offers “a forum for experimental humanities scholarship.” The first issue featured two compelling essays, “Data Beyond Vision,” and “Their Data, Ourselves: Illness as Information,” demonstrating the range of subjects and approaches that the publication might offer. CDH digital humanities strategist Grant Wythoff, who serves as the Startwords editor, talked more about the team’s vision for the publication in a newsletter feature introducing the project.
New projects are also on the horizon. In late July, the NEH Office of Digital Humanities announced that the New Languages for NLP: Building Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Humanities project, led by CDH Associate Director Natalia Ermolaev and Andrew Janco (Digital Scholarship Librarian, Haverford College), would receive support from its Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities program. The funding will result in a workshop series hosted by the CDH starting in 2021.
Finally, in the wake of this summer’s social justice advocacy, especially in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we have continued to evaluate how we can more effectively support antiracist work. Lead Developer Rebecca Sutton Koeser, as a member of an Association of Computers and the Humanities working group, helped to create new guidelines about using antiracist technical terminology. We have added a new resources page to our website, where we add information about antiracist and Indigenous DH work as we learn about it. Of course, this work, and our understanding of our role within it, will be an ongoing effort. As faculty director Meredith Martin said in our September newsletter, “We commit to using our unique position on campus, at the intersection of the humanities, social sciences, and computer science, to push for change. We commit to marshalling our tools, methodologies, resources, and energy in the ongoing fight for social justice.”
If these projects inspire you or if your goals for 2021 include learning more about digital humanities, consider scheduling a consultation with our staff. The CDH would be delighted to connect you with DH resources this year.