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Digital Scholarship Profile: Temple University

Digital Scholarship Center

Established in 2015

Staff: 9, including 2 Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) postdoctoral fellows and 4 full-time graduate students

DSC opening ceremony, September 2015. Photo by Dustin Fenstermacher.

When Temple University Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Center (DSC) first opened its doors in August 2015, it was the culmination of extensive collaboration by diverse units across campus representing a broad span of disciplines. As the university announced, this collaboration included the Boyer College of Music and Dance, College of Liberal Arts, Center for the Humanities at Temple, Computer and Information Services, Fox School of Business, Klein College of Media and Communication, Tyler School of Art, and University Libraries.

The official launch of the center on the ground floor of the Samuel L. Paley Library was preceded by a yearlong incubation period, which allowed ample time for partners to explore and begin to map out their vision for Temple’s future DSC. From the outset, this process was marked by a willingness to experiment and recalibrate as necessary while maintaining momentum towards achieving strategic goals. Evidence of this commitment can be found in the deliberate decision to open the center in its current temporary location, knowing that it will be relocated once Temple’s new library opens in 2018. This trajectory was also clear when, in speaking with Matthew Shoemaker, librarian and coordinator of digital scholarship service development, and Peter Logan, academic director of the DSC and professor of English, ARL learned that many of the digital projects showcased on the DSC’s website had been in development well before the August 2015 launch of the center.

Logan described the physical layout of the space. The DSC includes a data-visualization room equipped with nine monitors arranged to make a 9′ × 12′ video wall; this room can be configured in seminar format as needed. A makerspace provides the option to do 3-D scanning. There are also two smaller breakout rooms. Hardware includes ten laptops and a mixture of high-end desktop PCs and Macs and the space is set up so that the layout of the hardware can be easily reconfigured. In addition, the DSC is the home to a high-storage-capacity server to support “big data” projects or data visualization. (This server is expressly not intended to address long-term data preservation needs). Lounge seating is available where people can congregate. Logan noted that students and faculty alike are taking advantage of these resources.

DSC staff, September 2015. Photo by Dustin Fenstermacher.

The DSC team is currently comprised of nine staff members (though a nice touch is the recognition of “alumni,” former staff members who have moved on). Logan and Shoemaker are joined by two CLIR postdoctoral fellows, an IT staff member who manages the server and equipment and provides support for virtual reality and other activities, and the team is rounded out with four full-time graduate students and two or three part-time graduate students. Funding for students is shared by the library and the respective college.

Currently, the DSC serves as the primary locus of digital scholarship support for the university. Logan pointed out that opportunities to collaborate abound, especially with the Center for the Humanities at Temple (CHAT). Having been based at CHAT previously, Logan underscored the importance of incorporating digital research methods into professional development workshops for graduate students and for early-career faculty.

Shoemaker and Logan are intent on developing strategies aimed at introducing digital scholarship methods into the curriculum. Currently, they are developing a graduate certificate program and considering a possible certificate for undergraduates as well. Logan explained that with the center being launched relatively recently, there is an inevitable “work-in-progress” aspect to planning and programming, as the team works to gauge the landscape. The deliberate choice at the outset to adopt a pilot approach works in the team’s favor, as they are able to seize opportunities as they arise and to respond nimbly.

An example of just such a work in progress is the collaborative program that the DSC has undertaken with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching to jointly offer an Innovative Teaching with Makerspace Technology Grant for Temple faculty. The grant could be as high as $3,500/month to cover materials costs, depending on the number of students in the class and technologies used. The grant program announcement describes the requirements and benefits, including:

The Digital Scholarship Center’s Makerspace provides a hands-on environment in which students can work with a variety of digital fabrication tools, virtual reality and electronics technologies in order to explore and develop new ideas. The Makerspace tools at the Digital Scholarship Center, such as immersive media technology (virtual reality), 3D reconstructions, text-mining, mapping and GIS software, can be embedded in assignments and projects…

Not surprisingly, library liaisons play a critical role in this landscape as well, providing vital linkages between faculty members and the center’s team and expertise. A number of disciplines, particularly in the arts and humanities (dance, music, history) have expressed interest in working with the DSC; the team anticipates that this interest will certainly expand as word gets out and faculty take advantage of opportunities such as those provided by the technology grant described above.

Shifting perspective from the teaching and learning lens to focusing on the faculty research arena, Logan described the tiered approach that the center adopts with faculty. First there is the Libraries’ Faculty Fellowship program. The program is meant to serve as a catalyst to encourage “innovative research or creative agenda[s] with a substantive intersection between new media or new technology and the arts, humanities, and cognate fields.” The inaugural call for proposals was issued in January 2016; two fellows are selected each year. The terms of the fellowship make it very attractive: “DSC Faculty fellows will receive one course reduction for the year, technical consultation and assistance, help with project management, a dedicated research assistant, and a $1000 research fund for project expenses.”

The DSC provides other levels of support to faculty, determined by the faculty member’s particular requirements. Logan noted that these arrangements are approached on a case-by-case basis with efforts to do so in a contractual fashion using memoranda of understanding.

DSC opening ceremony, September 2015. Photo by Dustin Fenstermacher.

Graduate students can avail themselves of two distinct programs, depending on their level of familiarity with digital scholarship. Those who are new to digital scholarship tools and techniques can apply to the Temple Digital Scholars Program, which represents yet another collaboration between the Temple Libraries and the Center for the Humanities at Temple (CHAT). The process is competitive; last year’s program had eight participants. Successful applicants are trained to apply digital research methods to humanistic or artistic material for their own research or creative projects. The program features a mix of in-person meetings and individual work. At the end of the year, students present the results of their work to the scholarly community. Additional benefits of participating in this program include the opportunity for students to participate in HASTAC, an international online collective; they also receive a $500 scholarship.

The second DSC program for graduate students, which is also competitive, is geared to those who are more advanced. It provides one year of full-time support for the winning applicants, who divide their time between advancing their own research and assisting in the DSC. Three of these awards are made each year.

Given the multiplicity of supports offered to faculty and graduate students, the DSC team characterized their work as a combination of service-based in tandem with collaborative ventures. The Faculty Fellows program is highly collaborative in nature while the Temple Digital Scholars Program is more service-oriented. A large portion of the service component is comprised of project design and project management help.

When reflecting on notable challenges that have confronted the DSC team, Shoemaker and Logan agreed that they would like to intensify efforts to reach undergraduate students more effectively. Nevertheless, word is slowly but surely getting out to the community at large.

Featured Projects

LGBTQ Video Game Archive

by Adrienne Shaw, Digital Scholarship Center Faculty Fellow

lgbtq-game-archive-screenshotIn addition to offering links to and summaries of information about LGBTQ content in games, with the help of the DSC I am creating an Omeka site cataloging all of the primary sources used in this research. Then we are making digital-archive-quality copies of those original sources (from webpages to videos), which will ultimately be housed at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. The Omeka site will be the publicly available catalog for the digitally stored copies of all of the primary sources used in the LGBTQ archive.

Gen Con Event Program Database

by Matthew Shoemaker, Librarian and Coordinator of Digital Scholarship Service Development, DSC

Gen Con program cover, 1980For this project, DSC staff are digitizing programs from Gen Con’s past. (Gen Con is a culturally significant gaming convention first held in 1967.) With the programs in digital form, we are able to convert the event information into CSV files for research use and ultimately a publicly searchable database. Most of the programs contain a wealth of information, including game descriptions, who ran the games, and game genre. With the events broken down by their different information fields and normalized across the years, researchers will be able to apply a variety of digital scholarship techniques, including textual and network analysis, to learn more about how gaming has grown and changed over the years as reflected through Gen Con. Articles and exhibits based on the research performed on the database and on the content of the programs will be made available through the accompanying exhibit site. The database and exhibit site are expected to go live in July of 2017.

Knowledge Change in Historical Editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica

by Peter Logan, Academic Director of the DSC and Professor of English

Title page of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., vol. 1, Edinburgh, 1788–1797.What can historic reference works tell us about the changing shape of knowledge over time? This project will track changes in key cultural concepts by applying textual analysis tools to historic editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica from 1797 to 1911. By looking at the language used to explain major scientific and cultural concepts, we can identify broad patterns in the transformation of knowledge, including the migration of ideas from one field to another. The trends we look at represent three different conceptual foci: linguistic characteristics, intellectual history, and the sociology of knowledge. Similar research in the past has been blocked by the absence of reliable transcripts of the older editions. This project thus includes the creation of a reliable and standards-compliant data set of text from four major editions of the Encyclopaedia spanning the 19th century. Once complete and made freely available through the existing repository of Temple Libraries, the data set will allow researchers in the humanities to pose their own questions about knowledge in the 19th century and will permit other scholars working on specific topics to document the reception history of relevant scientific and humanistic ideas by comparing them in the different editions.


When envisioning the future Digital Scholarship Center, resident in its new home in the new library, Peter Logan wants the DSC to be a bona fide research center in its own right, generating new research that is integral to the creation of new knowledge in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. He hopes to see many more examples of collaborative projects with other research centers across Temple, so that the DSC becomes fully integrated into the larger research network.

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