The Humanities Matter Tour project planning at DHSI 2014

You may have heard of the Humanities Matter Bus Tour. Myself, Ryan Hunt, Beth Compton, and Alex Gil ran a Kickstarter campaign to buy a bus, and tour from Virginia, up to Montreal, and across to Victoria for THE digital humanities event of the summer in beautiful Victoria BC. Along the way, we’d be recording interviews with people from all walks of life about the reasons that the humanities matter, culminating in a 3 part documentary to be released the following year.

Despite tremendous support (we raised $10 000 of the $15 000 we needed, but Kickstarter is all or nothing) we didn’t meet our goal. Since then, however, numerous humanities advocacy groups have come forward with interest in the project, and we’re giving serious thought to doing the tour in Summer of 2015.

This week, the team is together out at DHSI, and are looking to chat with DH folk who are interested in participating in the tour in any way. If you can organize a stop along the tour, help out with video production, have ideas of what we can do on a bus across the country, have a DH tool that needs testing by a variety of user groups… we want to talk to you! If you are feeling as crazy as us, and want to #getonthebus for some of the tour, you should definitely find one of us and let us know.

Because DHSI is intense, and finding one of us might be difficult, we are going to get together for a planning session about the tour this evening (Wednesday June 4th) at 7pm (location TBA). If you’d like to join us, please tweet at @humbustour or email to let us know.

With 48 hours to go, a summary of the Humanities Matter crowd-funded campaign

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 11.17.38 AMFor the past 28 days, I have been one of a small group of scholars who have been actively trying to draw the attention of academics, publishers, museum staff,  librarians, and the general public to the need for humanities education. All of the reasons humanities scholars do what we do have been brought to light by a variety of top scholars in the digital humanities, including Ray Siemens, Cathy Davidson, Alan Liu, and Stefan Sinclair, who spoke just last week about 4Humanities and Grassroots Humanities Advocacy.

The reason we’ve been so active for the past four weeks is because we are running a crowd-funded campaign on Kickstarter to raise money for a summer project: The Humanities Matter Web Series and Travel Blog. Those of you who have heard of this already will know we are planning on traveling through the US and Canada to interview people about the importance of the humanities. Those of you who haven’t heard of us yet can find out more about the project by clicking here, here, or here.

Today I want to take the time to tell everyone just what making a donation, however small, to this campaign, will enable us to do. This is not just about getting on a bus and touring from city to city, but about making connections, building bridges, and crossing the divide between academic and public humanities.

When Alex Gil and I first conceived of this idea last summer at DH2013 in Nebraska, the tour was very much centered on the bus. The vehicle played such a central role because Ryan Hunt, Beth Compton and I had just undertaken a similar crowd-funding campaign to purchase a bus for the London, ON community, which, starting this month, will act as a mobile makerspace and technology classroom and will allow the three of us DHMakerBus co-founders to take the knowledge we’ve learned in academia and engage the public in digital humanities. Alex loved the idea of the bus, and we both planned to be at DHSI in Victoria this June, so it seemed like a great idea to organize this trip. We spoke to Ray, who thought the idea of having the bus at DHSI was fantastic, and Stefan, who wanted the bus to visit Montreal, and there was no stopping us. John Simpson, who had been eager to hold a Eurekamp (more about this shortly) in Victoria for some time, saw the bus team as the perfect opportunity to make this happen. Bethany Nowviskie of Scholar’s Lab agreed to throw the bus a party to start off the tour. The wheels were set in motion.

Ryan and Beth were skeptical after the 21 hours we traveled in a van to Lincoln, but they quickly came around to the idea and we soon had a motivated team moving forward. I knew we needed a goal that was larger than driving across the country. Much like the original bus, we wanted to do something good, stand up for something we believed in. After seeing their infographic and reading about their goals, we reached out to the 4Humanities Collective in October, and focused the tour on advocating for humanities education.

Since we launched our campaign, we’ve had a tremendous outpouring of support. Volunteers have agreed to set up visits at various cities, national councils have written to us to organize visits, 127 people have donated over $7000 to help us buy video equipment, hire drivers, and house the team for the duration of the journey. Ryan has written a fab blog post that appeared on Active History, Hybrid Pedagogy, and even the website for the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The word is out there, but perhaps it isn’t clear just what we will miss out on if this trip doesn’t happen.

If this campaign is not fully funded by 1 pm EST on Wednesday March 5th, we’ll be missing out on these wonderful opportunities:

#1) Children’s Camp at DHSI:  For those of you who have ever traveled to DHSI and wanted to bring your children with you, a successfully funded campaign would enable us to make that happen. Through the handiwork of John Simpson, we’ve partnered with Philosophy for Children at the University of Alberta to run a Eurekamp for the week alongside the adult courses. Eurekamp is an inspirational, multi-disciplinary summer camp, which would allow the DHMakerBus team to explore the world of making on the beautiful UVic campus with a group of 7-12 year olds. If you have a child and are considering having them with you over DHSI, these inspiring videos should help convince you that you’ve made the right decision.

#2) Charitable donation of the bus:  As we are always looking for ways to give back to the communities that we work with, the DHMakerBus team wanted to find a group in Victoria that could benefit from having a bus. When Ryan (native to Victoria) went home for the holidays, he got in contact with Richard Leblanc of Woodwynn Farms. Richard and his team work with the homeless in Victoria to give them a ‘hand up’, including life skills, encouragement, and a sense of community. The whole team immediately fell in love with the idea of helping out this wonderful charity, and Robyn Travis, our BC liaison, helped to get Richard on board. By helping get the bus project going, therefore, you are helping this wonderful charity have a vehicle for comings and goings from the farm.

#3) Humanities Matter webseries:  And last but not least, the webseries itself. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a video that shows the importance of humanities education? And who better to ask to participate in this project than the public? If we get funded we’ll be asking our followers to help us create interview questions and topics to be covered in the three part series (history of the humanities, public humanities, and digital humanities). The web series will be open to the public to watch, share, and provide feedback. People in a location not on the bus tour can send us their own videos, podcasts, art, or writing that conveys what the humanities mean to them. Yes, we’ll be stopping at universities and academic conferences such as Congress, but we’ll also be visiting public libraries, children’s camps, museums, and music halls.

Phew. I think I’ve summed it up. We’ve put in a solid 8 months of planning and a month of non-stop advocacy. The rest is up to you. Please, help us #MakeItHappen.

To donate, click here:

To ask a question, email

There’s something about history…

Or herstory. Or our collective past. Something that makes talking about our past and the need to treat it with care and respect silence a room full of people like few other topics in the humanities.

This was the case when Jon Voss of HistoryPin spoke to a room full of librarians and information specialists at ACCESS 2013. Voss gave a great talk titled “Can one story change the world?”, taking the audience back to a diary and photos of a family member and the need to connect the past, present, and future. This is what HistoryPin allows its users to do. By uploading their old photos to the site and then pinning them to a map of the location in which they were taken, users can both create a personal archive of their past, and share their history with other users from all over the globe.

A relatively simple idea like this spawns so much creativity. Voss spoke about working with 6th graders and having them ask their parents about their family history. There are ongoing projects with museums and archives to pin their collections and make their images truly public. And its not just photos that can be pinned. Take a look at Putting Art on the Map, a collaboration between HistoryPin and the Imperial War Museum to capture information about art and artists of WWI. This site is a wonderful    place for scholars in history to come together with those in geography, art, and computing to make an interactive information space for the public. By collecting old photographs, art, letters, and memories, users of HistoryPin can help keep their personal histories alive, and embed them in a network of cultural information. Acting as memory-keepers is exactly what Voss encouraged the audience to do: “Let’s grab these stories when we can. Let’s start these conversations.” I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s do so, before its too late.

Voss’s talk also touched on a couple of topics that were repeated throughout ACCESS: collaboration and linked data. He made one of many references to the Google Knowledge Graph, showing how linked data has been put to good use, though invoked some fear (in this scholar, at least) that the benefits of linked data might one day mean never having to leave the Google page. His call for collaboration, however, was repeated in talks such as these:

Gettin Sh*t Done in the Digital Archives

Nick Ruest & Anna St. Onge

Building crowdsourced photographic collections with lentil and Instagram

Jason Casden

It’s dangerous to go alone! How about *we* do this!?

Steve Marks, Nick Ruest, Graham Stewart & Amaz Taufique

This year at ACCESS, like last, collaboration was one of the topics of almost every conversation I had. People came up to Sarah and I with great ideas for how to help with the DHMakerBus. We shared our thoughts about Makerspaces in libraries with them. This is perhaps why Voss’s talk was so well-received: librarians like to share and participate: he hit the ‘pin’ right on the head.

p.s. Librarians are rarely quiet folks, especially when we’re all in a room together. So of course, we weren’t really silent during Jon Voss’s talk. We were on Twitter:

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What do historians think of e-books?

Digging Digital Humanities

Slide from ASISTOver two years ago, as part of a directed study with Anabel Quan-Haase, I began interviewing historians about their reading habits. I was part of her graduate course on Technology and Society the previous semester, where I began thinking about all the ways that the digital tools available to today’s scholars would have changed my undergraduate degree experience (keeping in mind this was only just over a decade ago!). I knew nothing about the digital humanities at this point, and was going to attend my first THATCamp, in Chicago, just after starting this research.

My how things have changed! Over the time that it took us to complete this study, I have entered the PhD LIS program at Western, co-organized two THATCamps and a Digital Humanities Speakers Series, met an amazing group of friends at uni who have monthly DH Off Campus meetings, and am part…

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New Year, Same Blog – but better?

This blog was started as part of coursework for Bill Turkel’s Digital History course. I promised myself, that, on completion of that course, I would keep up with regular posts about my research, but, as you can easily see from the number of total posts (8, at this point), I failed to do so.

So, I am welcoming 2013 by a new promise to myself to write weekly blog posts. As I am 5 months away from my comprehensive exams (in sociocultural perspectives in LIS, text-based electronic resources, and the digital humanities) my posts will mostly focus on the various readings I am wandering through from week to week. In order to pay homage to the title How Humanists Read, I will use this space to think about the way my weekly readings link back to the ideas and debates that are circling around the use of text in humanities research at the moment.

For now, however, I ask a question to the many of you who have gone through the comprehensive exam process: What is your best advice, in one short sentence please, about how to get through it with confidence? So far, I’ve got “read somewhere that you are mildly uncomfortable”,  “take breaks to be more productive”, and  “eat well, and get plenty of rest” from various places. Respond here or send me a Tweet at @antimony27 so I can compile a list of ideas to help myself and my cohort through the next couple of months.

Thanks, and see you next… week!

Participants Needed!

How Historians Read
The book has always been the main method of research and communication by those interested in the humanities. However, the book as we know it is currently undergoing a dramatic change, both in format and in use. My current research examines how members of the History Department understand that change, how they feel about Ebooks and Ereaders, and how they perceive the Ebook will change the future of their classrooms.
If you are a historian, or a scholar whose research relies heavily on the historical method, and you would be available on the University of Victoria campus for an interview between June 3rd and June 9th, please reply to Kim Martin at

Interview information: Location: UVic Campus, specific location at your convenience Duration: Approx. 30 mins

We thank you for your time and consideration,

Kim Martin and Anabel Quan-Haase

Faculty of Information and Media Studies

University of Western Ontario

Ebook Research Invitation

Getting Out of Our Comfort Zones

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Lao Tzu

I had a coffee today with Mark McDayter, a Professor of English at Western University. Mark and I have been talking over Twitter for a few weeks now, as we both have similar interests: the 17th Century, English Literature, Poetry, Libraries and the digital side of humanities. Mark has recently agreed to run a workshop on XML and TEI for the upcoming Great Lakes THATCamp 2012, and is one of 10 workshops that we’re exciting to be holding this year. As we spoke about all the things that will be going on during this unconference, Mark asked me an interesting question: Is there something larger going on around GLTHATCamp?

I initially answered that this will be the 3rd installation of GLTHATCamp, which has been extremely successful under the careful eye of Ethan Watrall. This is true. Then we spoke about the possibility of courses in DH being offered on Western’s campus, which we have both heard a lot about, and, of course, are very interested to see get underway. I told Mark about a number of meetings that have occurred over the past year with great intentions: get-togethers, speed-dating, guest lectures. All of these were great starting points, though some of them had rather low attendance. Finally Mark made a great point: the future courses and students in DH at Western were all fine and good, but we’re all too spread out (not to mention spread too thin). I’ve spoken to people in History, Hispanic Studies, Literature, Anthropology, Geography, Media Studies, Computer Science and Information Science who all have an interest in helping students (and each other) to develop the skills truly needed for an interdisciplinary degree program to succeed. Thing is, few of these people actually know each other.

So, back to Mark’s original question: Is there something larger going on around GLTHATCamp? Well, I don’t know, but I think there should be! I think we should take this opportunity to find out just exactly what is going on around campus, and around the entire Great Lakes area.

I’m going to propose a few ways to help build a community on campus, and I really hope that, in return, others can make suggestions, offer critiques, or provide examples of what they’ve done to get people out of their comforts zones and into a Digital Humanities community.

  • Create space. This also came up in conversation with Mark, who noted the lack of a lab anywhere on campus specifically designated for DH purposes. I know of two small spaces at Western, run by Bill Turkel and Juan Luis Suarez, that are great for a few, but too crammed for many. I’m sure others exist. However, if there were a space in which we could all start coming together informally that could grow over time, that would be a great start.
  • Encourage cross-disciplinary attendance in graduate courses. Even if its just for a visit or a few weeks, having a student from another discipline has two benefits. First, the student can offer a slightly different point of view on what is being covered in class, and second, they can bring their knowledge gained from experience in another subject back to their own field. It might change the direction of the class discussion, it may change the direction of the student’s work. It may not. But it certainly won’t harm anything.
  • Co-Teach. I know university administration might hate this suggestion, but if they decide to offer an interdisciplinary degree, they are going to have to accept that this, more often than not, means having more than one professor per course. This is what DH is all about, people with great ideas but different technical skill levels coming together and helping each other out. For the beginning, the courses offered should be treated as projects. Teach together, experiment, see what works.
  • Be Creative. This one has to be done carefully. Many people are not willing to respond to posters that read “Digital Humanities Speed Dating Event”, and those who do might have to answer to their better halves! But last-minute meetings, hack-a-thons, workshops, and discussions should be part of our normal routine.

So, I’ve provided a few starting points. If you have the time, please tell me what you think!