Digital Humanities In the Library

Digital Humanities In the Library / Of the Library: A dh+lib Special Issue

A special issue of dh + lib introduced by Sarah Potvin, Thomas Padilla and Caitlin Christian-Lamb in their essay: Digital Humanities In the Library / Of the Library, saying:

What are the points of contact between digital humanities and libraries? What is at stake, and what issues arise when the two meet? Where are we, and where might we be going? Who are “we”? By posing these questions in the CFP for a new dh+lib special issue, the editors hoped for sharp, provocative meditations on the state of the field. We are proud to present the result, ten wide-ranging contributions by twenty-two authors, collectively titled “Digital Humanities In the Library / Of the Library.”

We make the in/of distinction pointedly. Like the Digital Humanities (DH), definitions of library community are typically prefigured by “inter-” and “multi-” frames, rendered as work and values that are interprofessional, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary. Ideally, these characterizations attest to diversified yet unified purpose, predicated on the application of disciplinary expertise and metaknowledge to address questions that resist resolution from a single perspective. Yet we might question how a combinatorial impulse obscures the distinct nature of our contributions and, consequently, our ability to understand and respect individual agency. Working across the similarly encompassing and amorphous contours of the Digital Humanities compels the library community to reckon with its composite nature.

All of the contributions merit your attention but I was especially taken by: When Metadata Becomes Outreach: Indexing, Describing, and Encoding For DH by Emma Annette Wilson and Mary Alexander has this gem that will resonate with topic map fans:


DH projects require high-quality metadata in order to thrive, and the bigger the project, the more important that metadata becomes to make data discoverable, navigable, and open to computational analysis. The functions of all metadata are to allow our users to identify and discover resources through records acting as surrogates of resources, and to discover similarities, distinctions, and other nuances within single texts or across a corpus. High quality metadata brings standardization to the project by recording elements’ definitions, obligations, repeatability, rules for hierarchical structure, and attributes. Input guidelines and the use of controlled vocabularies bring consistencies that promote findability for researchers and users alike.

Modulo my reservations about the data/metadata distinction depending upon a point of view and all of them being subjects in any event, its hard to think of a clearer statement of the value that a topic map could bring to a DH project.

Consistencies can peacefully co-exist with with historical or present-day inconsistencies, at least so long as you are using a topic map.

I commend the entire issue to your for reading!

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