First-of-its-kind national training program expands the voices, perspectives, and visions represented in the practice and production of digital scholarship
Brown University Library, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has developed a training institute for scholars who wish to pursue interpretive projects that require digital expression and digital publication but may lack resources and capacity at their home institutions. Centered on inclusion and accessibility, Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing: Resources and Roadmaps – an NEH Institute on Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities provides multi-pronged, far-reaching support via an intensive summer program for scholars from less well-resourced institutions, and a digital hub that makes all course materials publicly available.
“I’m excited to see our program to advance born-digital scholarly publication expand beyond its initial focus on Brown faculty authors,” says University Librarian Joseph Meisel. “There are amazing scholars with outstanding ideas across the breadth of higher education, and the institute is showing how support of this kind can make a real difference in helping them realize these terrific projects for the benefit of students, scholarship, and the wider public.”
A highlight of the hybrid summer program, which took place July 11-29, was the arrival on Brown’s campus of the 2022 cohort, which consists of 15 outstanding scholars representing a wide range of humanities disciplines, geographic areas, and career stages. Nine of the participants currently teach at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Their rigorous and compelling born-digital publication projects bring to the fore the history and future of Black philanthropy in the U.S.; forgotten radio recordings of African writers in exile in London in the 1960s; and the diary of Lillian Jones Horace, the first published African American novelist in Texas and one of the first Black publishers in American history. Foundational research examines the relationship between the life insurance industry and the transatlantic slave trade; the use of emerging media technologies by multiethnic American poets to create new forms of racial representation and political critique; and Indigenous community activism in relation to Pacific Island climate justice, to name just a few. The full list of cohort projects is available here.
“The institute served as the catalyst I needed to kickstart my research agenda,” says La Tanya L. Rogers, Associate Professor of Literature & Drama and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Honors Program at Fisk University. “The institute’s cohort model was instantly disarming and supportive. Alongside new friends and colleagues from across the country, I shaped my digital manuscript, chapter by chapter!” Dr. Rogers adds, “As a direct result of the encouragement that I received during the institute, I have an invitation to submit my manuscript proposal and sample chapters to one of the publishers who served on the institute faculty!”
The institute curriculum consolidates the successful path to university press publication formulated by Brown University Digital Publications. Taught by internationally recognized digital humanities scholars, librarians, and technologists, authors of born-digital publications, and leading university press directors, acquisitions editors, and production managers—all selected for their expertise and demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion—participants gained an expanded skill set and rare networking opportunities. Cohort communication continues well beyond the three-week summer program; virtual check-ins planned for late fall and early winter extend individualized problem-solving and project management support.
According to Ashley Robertson Preston, Assistant Professor of History at Howard University, “the NEH institute at Brown University was transformative! I learned so many great concepts that I am now introducing to my students at Howard University and implementing within my work as a public historian.” Dr. Preston adds, “the program’s dedication to diversity and inclusion was very apparent, and it was refreshing to meet scholars from the various universities and from different backgrounds.”
In a further effort to help bridge a digital divide that, without intervention, puts digital publishing—as a future of scholarship—at risk of becoming the preserve of elite institutions, Brown has made publicly available the full curriculum. Anyone can access the course outline, recommended readings, and captioned recordings of all faculty presentations—over 18 hours of foundational knowledge informed by the most current thinking on critical issues—via the institute website. This dynamic hub for digital scholarly publishing provides a continuous and active web presence for Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing: Resources and Roadmaps.
“By demystifying and streamlining the digital publication endeavor,” explains Allison Levy, Director of Brown University Digital Publications and the institute’s Project Director, “Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing aims to expedite and broaden the dissemination of knowledge on both the local and global levels. First, the hope is that participants will impact change at their own institutions by sharing the institute curriculum with colleagues and inspiring others to pursue digital publication. Second, by facilitating the issuing of contracts and the road to publication, the hope is that new ideas and perspectives will reach readers in a timely manner, in turn, inspiring readers to impact change in their own communities.”
“The institute was an amazing experience and exactly what I needed to further my interest in digital humanities,” says TaKeia N. Anthony, Interim Dean of the Whitney Young Honors Collegium and Graduate Studies and the Academic Support Liaison for the Center of Excellence for the Study of Kentucky African-Americans (CESKAA) at Kentucky State University. “The warm welcome, enthusiasm, and assistance from the Brown University team has encouraged me to pursue digital publishing and introduce the option to my graduate students who seek to enter the academy.” Dr. Anthony, who is also Associate Professor of History, adds, “I am grateful for the summer institute for bringing such dynamic scholars together. I have met and stayed connected with scholars whom I may not have met had it not been for this experience. We are a digital publishing family!”
Questions about the institute can be addressed to Allison Levy, Director of Brown University Digital Publications ([email protected]).
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at neh.gov.
About Brown University Digital Publications
A collaboration between the University Library and the Dean of the Faculty, generously launched with support from the Mellon Foundation with additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Brown University Digital Publications creates exciting new conditions for the production and sharing of knowledge. Widely recognized as accessible, intentional, and inclusive, Brown’s novel, university-based approach to digital content development is helping to set the standards for the future of scholarship in the digital age.
The National Endowment for the Humanities and Brown University together: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this press release and in the Born-Digital Scholarly Publishing: Resources and Roadmaps Institute do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.