A Brief Introduction to Digital Humanities
Digital Humanities is the umbrella term used to describe
multi-media content (including text, images, audio, and video) from the disciplines in the humanities that
has been made electronically available (usually via the Internet).
- Increase access for scholars and teachers alike.
- Preserve and conserve unique materials for indefinite future use.
- Can enhance and augment our current knowledge of archival objects.
While there is no substitute for handling the original object, digital humanities collections make unique materials,
such as manuscripts, oral histories, rare books, film and media archives,
held by only a few institutions (or perhaps only one) available to anyone who has internet access,
thereby increasing the number of people who can study, teach, and appreciate these materials.
N.B. Of course, if copyright is an issue, these materials can be secured to limit access as legally required.
Because digital humanities collections are increasingly being encoded using standardized markup
and image quality, institutions can
share files to create centralized databases for particular fields.
Likewise, this standardization preserves and conserves materials.
With the information electronically available, not only are the archival materials less frequently exposed to dangerous elements,
such as light, humidity, and human handling, but the object's content and a digital image
are also preserved in standardized form off-site.
Moreover, because preservation images of archival materials are taken at a high resolution, frequently
the camera captures information that has been lost to the human eye. This is particularly true of
documents that have faded or been damaged over time.
For example, when working on the Dred Scott Case Collection at Washington University in St. Louis damage to a document led to an incomplete transcription.
However, by manipulating the image, additional citations were discovered. To read more about the Dred Scott Case, click here.
Technically speaking, online journals can be considered digital humanities.
However, below are some examples of successful digital humanities projects as these collections are more typically defined:
UND's Chester Fritz Library
has some Digital Collections available. These collections primarily consist of images and the number of collections
is steadily increasing as resources permit.
The UND English Department in conjunction with the Chester Fritz Library has made the first three volumes of the UND Board of Regents Minutes available online.
The UND English Department is also working on the NEH Funded "Elizabeth Barrett Browning Project" (General Editor Dr. Sandra Donaldson; Technical Editor, Dr. Crystal Alberts), which will make EBB's work available online in TEI compliant XML.