Library gets $695,000 grant to build digital humanities center

Seed Money Will Help Establish Digital Humanities Center

Published 03-30-2011

Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a two-year grant of $695,000 to the Emory University Libraries to establish a cutting-edge, collaborative digital humanities center.

The grant will provide startup funds for the Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) in the Robert W. Woodruff Library. The proposal plan calls for DiSC to establish a site for transdisciplinary collaboration, drawing faculty members and graduate students into new collaborative working relationships with librarians, and launching four large-scale and four smaller-scale seed projects that will draw on the Library’s collections and services in new ways.

“We are grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for this award and for its continued support of digital humanities at Emory University,” said Rick Luce, vice provost and director of the Emory Libraries. “DiSC’s most pioneering contribution as a digital scholarship center will be its ability to build new relationships between librarians and scholars, giving them the opportunity to work together on projects in a shared scholarly partnership.”

DiSC will be prominently located on the third floor of the Woodruff Library, in the space formerly occupied by the circulation desk, which is now combined with the service desk on the second floor.

“The library is the intellectual commons and meeting place for scholars from a variety of disciplines,” Luce said. “Not only do we have world-class collections to draw upon for this work, we are staffed with experts in scholarly communications, metadata, publishing, intellectual property rights and preservation. The library is a hub of digital activity on campus, an intellectual melting pot where scholars and librarians work across disciplines to share projects and ideas.”

While there are other digital scholarship centers across the country, most use a vertical approach, gathering scholars working within the same subject such as history or English.

“We’re doing an across-the-board, coffeehouse approach where people and ideas can mingle and bear more fruit than in isolation,” said Joan A. Smith, chief technology strategist at the Emory Libraries and principal investigator for the grant. “In the library, we have an environment where people and ideas from all disciplines intermingle. It’s that confluence of scholars and scholarship that we hope will enrich the space.”

Smith describes DiSC as a place where scholars can collaborate with technologists to build a digital scholarship project, analyze data or explore new ways to combine humanities-based research with information technology. “DiSC is a place where transdisciplinary work can be done, bridging humanities and technology to discover new insights,” Smith said.

Because the grant begins April 1, DiSC and its staff will operate from a temporary home in Woodruff Library until its third floor renovations are finished, ideally by early September, Smith said.

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