Wednesday, June 12, 2013

DH special collections librarian or special collections DH scholar?

Is Juli McLoone a special collections librarian who works in digital humanities, or is she a digital humanities scholar who works in a university's special collections library? That's one of the questions I was posing to myself yesterday as McLoone led a presentation concerning digital collections for Fellows in our program. I chose not to pose my question to her just yet, for not knowing allowed me to linger on the issue a little longer and consider multiple possibilities.   

The question of whether we view DH as adjective or noun, first or second, reminds me of those sometimes intense debates in African American literary history about "black artists" vs "artists who were black." One of the most notable examples, of course, was Langston Hughes signifying on Countee Cullen. And perhaps, even further back, the more fitting analogy in this case would be some form of double consciousness, in this case, the DH'er and archivist.

As far as I could tell based on past observations -- 2010, 2011, 2012, and yesterday -- McLoone is as comfortable guiding people through an archive and items in special collections at UTSA as she is leading a group to and through various digital collections. These days, I suppose, high digital competency is fully encoded into the DNA of contemporary folks in the field of library science. In this regard, McLoone and her co-presenter research services librarian Tara Schmidt would likely not separate and classify their activities as DH over there and library work over there the way that I was doing with my question. For them, it is more of a fusion, both/and rather than either/or. 

AALCI 2013


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