For 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.
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