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!


Christmas Past and Present

Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone. – Charles Schulz

It’s December 16, 1913 and, as always, I’ve left my Christmas shopping until the very last minute. I’ve spent this morning creating a list of my family of book-lovers and searching the Eaton’s Catalog to find the perfect gifts. I think perhaps I will cut out the images of these books and paste them into the cards for my family so they might know that they will be receiving these books sometime in February.

If only there was a quicker method of receiving these books, like a magic screen I could look at and just make the pages of these books appear…

Whoa. What was that? And what the H*#% am I wearing? Nevermind that! The Eaton’s 1913 catalog has transformed itself into just the screen I was thinking about, and it has a series of buttons attached to it which mirror the QWERTY typewriters I’ve heard so much about! This machine is telling me that its now December 16th, 2011… and as my new-age capacity to deal with technology sets in, all I can hear in my head is “Google it… Google it… Google it.”

For Dad

Mortars, plasters, stuccos, artificial marbles, concretes, portland cements and compositions …

Catalog #34-272

Author: Fred T. Hodgson

Place: Chicago

Year: 1906

Found this full text online at the Internet Archive’s Open Library. Although it is the same book, I believe the 300 page cloth-bound edition that appears in the catalog might be a later edition than the one available online.

For Mum

The White House Cook Book

Catalog # 34-195

Author: Mrs. F.L. Gillette

Place: New York

Year: 1887

The best online version of this book I could find was part of the Project Gutenberg project. The book has been redesigned as one long script, but the chapters are hyper-linked and the text is keyword searchable. Also included are scans of the original, showing various cuts of meat and photos of all of the First-Ladies.

For Edith and Andrew

What a Young Wife Ought to Know/What a Young Husband Ought to Know

Catalog # 34-180

Author: Emma F. Angell Drake

Place: Philadelphia

Year: 1908

Catalog # 34-181

Author: Sylvanus Stall

Place: Philadelphia

Year: 1907

These two books were both found using Google, and the search led me directly to the Internet Archive. What’s great about this site is that it allows you to download the book in a series of formats (PDF, plain text, daisy, Epub) or to simply read the book online. It also provides a good deal of information about where else the book can be found online, and about the physical document itself, so you can get exactly the gift you want to give!

For Thomas

The New Century standard Letter-Writer

Catalog # 34-200

Author: Alfred B. Chambers, Ph.D

Place: Chicago

Year: 1900

Once again, Open Library provided the best version of this book available online. Given the age of the book, I couldn’t believe what a clear set of scans were available. Reading these letters, and looking over the reasons that letters used to be deemed necessary gives one a sense of nostalgia very fitting for this time of year. I might just keep this one for myself and get Thomas a Toblerone.

For Ruth

Through the Looking-Glass

Catalog # 34-352

Author: Lewis Carrol

Place: London

Year: 1871

There are very many copies of this book available online, but because of the ease of use of the University of Virginia’s Etext library version, and because they kept the original John Tenniel drawings, I thought this was the best version for my 13 year old sister.

For Robert

The Boy Scouts in the Rockies

Catalog # ??? page N 286

Author: Herbert Carter

Place: New York

Year: 1913

Although the origin for this book is Project Gutenberg, I much preferred the layout of the ManyBooks page, which gives you information about the book, a short synopsis, an excerpt and then allows you to choose to download in one of 24 formats.

What surprised me most about my search for these books in 2011 was the ease with which most of them could be found. For anyone simply wanting to read these books from times gone by, it wouldn’t take long to find most of these online. I think, however, that one going in search of a specific edition of a book might have a much harder time in their quest. Luckily for me, my family is unaware of my ability to time travel ( as was I just a short time ago) so they should enjoy their books regardless of the edition I was able to find. Now if I can only find a way to lug this machine back to 1913…

Getting Started with Cursive – An Online Guide to Handwriting

The pen is mightier than the sword – Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839)

While having a discussion about teaching and technology the other day, it came to my attention that local schools were no longer instructing students in the art of cursive writing. Although I have heard rumours that cursive writing was being eliminated in schools in the Southern United States, the idea that my own child might not be taught handwriting when he attends school in 2 years struck a chord a little closer to home. I decided to do a little homework on what people are saying about the elimination of cursive writing from the education system, and at the same time I thought I’d complete a course assignment and create a “How To”  blog about learning to write in cursive.

The elimination of handwriting from the grade school classroom has received a fair bit of attention in the past while. Some bloggers, like myself, seem unsure of where they stand and are left wondering what will happen if no one in the upcoming generation knows the art of handwriting. The general consensus at the moment seems to be that handwriting is still an essential skill, despite the fact that it will likely not be used every day. Arguments for teaching handwriting include that the practice tunes fine motor skills, trains the brain to connect hand-activity with memory, and that it helps to connect students with their past.

My main concern when I think of handwriting not being taught is that these students will never get to discover a creative side of themselves that previous generations have taken for granted. No one’s handwriting is the same; the act of putting pen to paper is quite literally one of placing yourself on the page. I just received a Christmas card that was created online, and while I know that it’s the thought that counts, there were no signatures or notes of any kind made on the card, just a simple “Merry Christmas” in a generic font. Handwriting, and signatures more specifically, make things special, unique, and genuine. We can type all we want, but our handwriting defines us, it makes us stand out from all the others, it is an artistic skill, and for many, it is a thing of beauty. Where, then, would one start to look online for places to learn about handwriting? What sites provide the necessary information to help the next generation learn this skill at home, if they are not to receive these lessons at school? The following list will provide a starting place for adults to learn handwriting themselves, or to refresh their memories and help their children with their cursive classes.

Step One: The Importance of Handwriting – A History of Cursive

In order to understand the importance of the skill you are about to learn, it is useful to look to the past and see the ways that handwriting has played a role in many different cultures. This site: provides this very information, showing how different types of script have prevailed over others at certain points in time and detailing the difference between ideographic and phonetic systems of writing. Once you have explored the history of cursive writing, this site gives details about ways to hold your pen, where to position yourself at your desk, and provides worksheets for beginning to learn your cursive letters. Although there are instructions for creating the letters on this site, they are extremely detailed and might intimidate one who is new to cursive writing. I suggest taking the historical knowledge from this site and moving on.

Step Two: Video instruction

As the web allows for many types of communication, I suggest taking advantage of this and watching this video that details what you will need to get started with cursive writing:

While this video doesn’t provide the necessary worksheets, it suggests you look on line for them and gives you important tips such as practicing the same shape of letters at the same time to learn cursive more quickly. The subject of the video is an adult female, which helps to show that this skill can be learned at any age, and helps those who didn’t have the opportunity to learn it in grade school feel comfortable taking it on.

Once you have yourself set up with a pen, lined paper or tracing sheets, and an internet connection, you should turn to the more detailed series of videos by Susan Corbett:

There is a video available for each letter of the alphabet, and the upper case and lower case letters are covered in each video. Susan takes her time with the lessons, and clearly details how many lines are needed to create each letter and where they should be on the page. This series is intended for children who are home-schooled, and, like the video above, defines letters by their type (ex.  “climb and slide” =  I u w t , or “lumpy letters” = m n v x) to help with learning quickly. Although it doesn’t have the music or visual components that make a lot of the other available videos more ‘fun’, this video gets right to the point and is easy to follow.

Step Three: Practice makes Perfect

Now that you are familiar with the cursive style, you might find it helpful to practice on your own, without the aid of a video. This site: provides worksheets for practicing your letters and also groups them into the types of letters that you would have been learning if you followed the video instructions. Once you’ve mastered the individual letters, you might want to start writing words and sentences that interest you. Although you can copy words from a book, this often times means that you would be looking at print and focusing on making cursive from those words, which can be confusing. Instead, try making your own worksheets here:

You can put in a series of words and create a worksheet that is printable for practice. You can start with a series of single letters and work up to joining them into words, and then making them into sentences and paragraphs. And in case anyone ever asks you, and you don’t have a keyboard nearby, you can even practice writing the name of your blog!

¿Controlas sobre HTML? OR Discovering my Discomfort Zones

“A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.”
Lao Tzu

About a decade ago, an English professor asked me if I was fluent in HTML. I stared blankly at her, having no idea what those four letters meant, and answering the question as I would have if she had asked me if I could speak Russian, with a resounding ‘no’. If I had taken her advice and learned even a little bit of HTML when I was in my early 20s, I wouldn’t have been so petrified as I was when I went to the w3schools website for the assignment for this class.

I have always been afraid of failing, especially when I am forced out of my comfort zone. I know what I’m good at, and I stick to those things, because they make me feel comfortable and reinforce that I can, indeed, do some things right. Upon entering my PhD this year, though, I’ve decided to cast my fears of failing aside. This does not mean that I’m going to jump out of airplanes or perform in The Nutcracker, it simply means that I’m going to try to push myself a little bit further into my discomfort zones.

I always joke, when people ask me why I’m a monolingual Canadian (“don’t they teach you French in school?”) that I never got much past “Bonjour”. Thing is, I’m genuinely uncomfortable with the thought process that goes along with speaking in another language. My brain doesn’t seem to compute English into anything, especially verbally. To get myself past this I decided to put my best efforts into learning two new languages: Spanish and HTML.

The desire to learn Spanish has come out of a number of experiences working with the great people over at the CulturePlex at UWO. I’ve worked in their lab and also attended conferences which were organized by this team led by Juan Luis Suarez. I immediately feel out of place at these functions because the majority of people speak Spanish and I don’t even know how to greet them with anything other than an uneasy grin. When one of these students, who had just arrived in Canada, was looking to learn colloquial English in return for basic Spanish lessons, it was game on!

The HTML experience is part of the course for which this blog was originally designed. We were asked to go through the w3schools tutorial for HTML and then create a webpage that functions much like a CV (with contact information, interests, past experiences, etc) using the skills we just read about. The following chart is a comparison of my first experiences with these two languages, complete with most embarrassing moments.