One topic that stood out to me from our first class was how organization and classification systems allow users to effectively find what they are looking for. As collections grow we need ways to find the specific items we would like to reference. One place I know there is still a huge need for some sort of organizational systems is in the Digital Humanities (DH). Digital humanists (often) produce digital projects instead of traditional publishing documents, such as books or articles. These products are not catalogued in institutional libraries or formally by any larger organization. This makes it almost impossible to effectively find projects on topics you are interested in, unless you are already aware of their existence.
This was brought to my attention last semester in Roxanne Shirazi’s Digital Humanities class (INFO 657). She assigned us to research the history of DH in a chosen field. This was in part to show us how hard it is to find examples of projects, especially projects that are still in working order. I chose to research Classics, and luckily there is an organization, The Digital Classicist, that operates a wiki that contains a directory of Classics DH projects.
Even this had its limits though. Projects are listed alphabetically and on the main directory page there is no information listed expect the projects title. If you were looking for projects that dealt with certain themes, years, medium, or analytical methods you would have to do a lot more digging.
This assignment lead the class to brainstorm ways that DH projects could be made more readily findable. Could the creation of a master list of keywords, which could be added to a project’s code, be feasible? Should these be catalogued in academic and/or public libraries? If so, what happens if the code starts to fail and the project begins to degrade? (The preservation of DH projects is another topic that also needs more attention.) Could ADHO (Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations – the global DH organization) organize a movement towards a global catalogue of DH? Effectively finding these projects is even harder when you are looking for projects made outside of Europe/the US and in languages other than English.
One of the strengths of DH is how accessible the projects are, as they are not stuck behind publisher’s paywalls or only available in university libraries. So what can libraries do to make sure people can actually find this work?