Learning Opportunities for Librarians: Embarking on a Digital Humanities Project

Abstract : In 2015, while exploring new uses of library collections for humanities-driven research, we “discovered” that our Special Collections department possessed a very small collection of letters to and from François-Marie Arouet, known by his pen name as Voltaire. Voltaire’s entire epistolary corpus is comprised of tens of thousands of letters, which have been published in major print and electronic scholarly editions. Our collection had only 30 letters and 4 sheets of poems which may have been appended to some of the letters. They became the basis for an experimental “do it yourself” librarian-led digital humanities project, with the initial goal to create a scholarly edition that could instigate a curated online projects on Voltaire. Most digital humanities projects start out on a small scale, involving a limited number of researchers and very modest funding. This paper will describe what it actually means to embark on such a project from the perspective of the libraries. The Voltaire letters project was instigated by several librarians interested in making this small cache of letters discoverable within a normative scholarly apparatus. To do that we had to decide on several issues to contextualize the letters within the digital humanities, including framing the letters within a particular scholarly and methodological structure, positioning the letters for potential use within the humanities curriculum, deciding on a digital manifestation, selecting an editorial framework, and developing a roadmap for funding. Lastly, we also needed to decide how this small project would integrate into and contribute to the much larger world of primary resources and scholarship on Voltaire and his vast intellectual output.
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Ruth Wallach. Learning Opportunities for Librarians: Embarking on a Digital Humanities Project. DH. Opportunities and Risks. Connecting Libraries and Research, Aug 2017, Berlin, Germany. ⟨hal-01665831⟩

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