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Digital Scholarship Profile: University of Florida

Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (CHPS)

Established in 2005, launched in 2009

UF Digital Humanities Working Group (DHWG)

Established in 2011

Staff: 2 faculty co-conveners, 2 graduate student co-conveners
Members: 125+

The University of Florida (UF) Digital Humanities Working Group is a decentralized, virtual digital humanities (DH) center run by co-conveners in the UF Libraries and the CHPS. This group connects across the CHPS, the libraries, and other campus units to help provide digital scholarship services as part of the overall service infrastructure and for first-of-kind projects and activities.

Panel on “Panama Silver, Asian Gold: Migration, Money, and the Making of the Modern Caribbean” at International Conference on Caribbean Literature, November 2013

Laurie Taylor, digital scholarship librarian and co-convener for the Digital Humanities Working Group (DHWG), provided a glimpse into the support for digital humanities and scholarship at the University of Florida via an interview earlier this year.

Digital scholarship is also public scholarship at UF, positioning its support within the libraries and the panoply of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (CHPS). The CHPS was founded in 2005 with the goal to take the humanities to wider audiences as well as help faculty excel in their research and teaching. The center promoted a range of activities, but did not officially launch with its full complement of programmatic activities until 2009. The center facilitates research, teaching, and public outreach through a number of programs, funding opportunities, and collaboration, specifically by sponsoring lecture series, symposia, conferences, and workshops. A significant portion of the events convened and supported by the CHPS grow and sustain interdisciplinary teaching and research. In 2011 a more specific focus on digital media and scholarship led to winning grants to support film and media acquisitions and the digitization of the full run of Planters’ Punch, a Jamaican journal preserved by the National Library of Jamaica. Support for digital research and scholarship also includes the center operating as a co-convener for the University of Florida Digital Humanities Working Group (DHWG), begun in 2011.

Regarding staff, a great deal of the core support for DH scholarship at UF comes from the library and a small but dedicated group of librarians who frequently work with others including the DHWG. With more than 125 members, the working group operates as a fluid and virtual DH center supported by the UF Libraries and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, each of which supplies a faculty and graduate student co-convener. All UF faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and members of the community are invited to join and participate in the DHWG to discuss digital humanities topics and projects. As digital humanities projects are largely collaborative, the working group promotes training opportunities and workshops, and brings participants together from the libraries and across disciplines. As a virtual center, the DHWG could be said to have only four staff: two faculty and two graduate student co-conveners. All working group members contribute time to discussions, project scoping, workshops, and other events, some of which is funded in-kind but much of which is voluntary. Funded internships may support the staffing needs of the DHWG in the future.

Digital scholarship (DS) activities at UF largely grew from collaborations between faculty and the CHPS with the libraries, especially those collaborations using materials within the Special & Area Studies Collections (SASC). Some of the earliest activities included experiments in digitizing and indexing the Latin American & Caribbean Collections, part of the SASC. This work and similar projects became the basis from which digital library activities grew, and all of the digital humanities work created since has remained deeply intertwined, according to Laurie Taylor. The libraries continue to serve as the digital collections and systems backbone for DH and DS work, and as primary connector for the UF scholarly cyberinfrastructure. Beyond helping support the DHWG, the CHPS also curates and maintains links to a variety of DH resources including: funding opportunities, UF resources and collaborators for digital projects, guides to online DH communities, training, and workshops, as well as associations, societies, and DH centers across the globe. The CHPS also maintains a consolidated list of peer review and publications guidelines for alternative and digital scholarly products, serving as an ally for those developing digital scholarship who sometimes need help establishing its value to their colleagues and departments.

At UF, the CHPS and libraries also collaborate with Research Computing to support digital humanities research and activities, with the Smathers Libraries providing a space and core for this work to the campus as a community. Laurie Taylor explains that to one extent or another much of the library, especially liaison librarians, support digital scholarship. The libraries’ Developing Librarian Project, Data Management/Curation Task Force, and Digital Collections mean that almost everyone in the library is involved in digital scholarship to some degree. The 16 librarians (including Taylor) of the Committee on Strategic Digital Directions (COSDD) in the Smathers Libraries often give half their time to digital scholarship of one form or another. Beyond these efforts the library itself offers a discipline-neutral space for fellow cultural travellers as collaborators, to come and work together from across the campus on DS/H initiatives, collections, and projects. The faculty and staff of the libraries often bridge campus units and translate such projects and scholarship for those with little or no experience, but who are interested and enthusiastic about the research and teaching possibilities of this work. This engagement often requires those from the library to go beyond technical expertise and use their “soft skills” to communicate by translating concepts and bridging disciplines, to help set up project charters and promote teamwork, and to aid in project planning and envisioning.

Digital humanities and scholarship continue to pose challenges for librarians, the libraries, and their partners at UF. Funding and staffing levels create some capacity limits for the amount of support available to the campus as a whole. While Research Computing and other units offer drive space, enterprise-level Omeka support for digital exhibits, and even blogging capability via WordPress to students and faculty, there are often more requests for support than the library can easily fulfill. The library seeks to hire more staff with expertise and passion for DH, and to collaborate with regional and other groups to support projects and scholarship. The decentralized nature of DH support is both a benefit and challenge and creates structural hurdles for scaling capacity and providing coherent support that includes recent tools and innovations.

Featured Projects

dLOC: Digital Library of the Caribbean


Launched in early 2006, the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) was established by a committee of librarians, archivists, and scholars with the goal to provide open, online access to cultural, historical, and scientific materials of the Caribbean. dLOC is also a means to ensure the long-term preservation of and access to these materials and those which will be added in the future. UF is only one of the partners involved in this effort to provide access to a collection that includes newspapers, government documents, ecological and economic data, maps, travel writing, histories, literature, poetry, musical expressions, and other artifacts that numbered 2,783,922 pages by the fall of 2015. Beyond these materials and online exhibits, UF and the other partners have been responsible for a digitization training program since 2005 that has worked with more than 390 people in 27 in-country sessions. UF also collaborates with the Title VI National Resource Center for Latin American studies at Florida International University to use these materials as part of K–12 educational outreach in Caribbean studies.

UF Digital Humanities Graduate Certificate


UF now offers one of the first-ever graduate certificates in digital humanities that is neither based in nor owned by any single academic department, but is instead run by a committee that draws from several colleges and departments, as well as the Smathers Libraries. Laurie Taylor is particularly excited by this pedagogical project because it is an example of radical collaboration, and she also sits on the DH Graduate Certificate Committee. The certificate was developed from the premise that DH/S is an expanding set of approaches, tools, and methods that serve a variety of purposes, including pedagogical, archival, methodological, professional, and even aesthetic or expressive forms that have possibilities that extend far beyond many traditional forms of scholarship. At UF, the digital humanities in particular are recognized as having great potential to bridge the barriers between disciplines and cultures.

Unearthing St. Augustine: Scholar-Curated Collection, Interface, and Tools


St. Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years. UF has partnered with the City of St. Augustine and the St. Augustine Historical Society, and accepted support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, to develop this digital collection and other resources. The digital collection makes available and accessible the contents of archival repositories once available only to those who could travel to their sites. The digital archive contains materials for the study of Florida and US history, the Spanish colonies, Native Americans, slavery, exploration, architecture and urban planning, social and economic growth, the role of missionaries in the region, and warfare of the early modern and colonial eras. More than 25,000 photographs, maps, architectural drawings and plans, government records, and transcriptions of Spanish documents and sites have been digitized and incorporated into this online archive.



The future of digital humanities and scholarship at UF is bright. Taylor and her colleagues work with others to support DS/H for the campus community and beyond. They just recently held the highly successful THATCamp Gainesville 2016, the latest installment in a regional series of training and professional development events for those interested and invested in digital scholarship. As members of the Florida Digital Humanities Consortium, the DHWG members also connect disparate parts of the university with the consortium, which is looking forward to hosting the HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) Conference in November 2017 with the University of Central Florida. The libraries continue to bring in new staff who have a passion for working with new digital technologies and the CHPS and DHWG continue to promote new projects and collections while collaborating with their colleagues from across campus to sustain a number of projects.

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