New Essay: “What is ‘Digital Humanities,’ and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things about It?”

An interesting and timely perspective on digital humanities. Still, the question does still remain: aren’t digital humanities just humanities that happen to use digital tools?

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

Available here is the full text of an essay published in differences 25.1 (2014) as part of a special issue entitled In the Shadows of the Digital Humanities edited by Ellen Rooney and Elizabeth Weed. Duke UP’s publishing agreements allow authors to post the final version of their own work, but not using the publisher’s PDF. The essay as you see it here is thus a PDF that I created and formatted myself from the copy edited file I received from the press; subscribers, of course, can also read it in the press’s published form direct from the Duke UP site.

Other than accidentals of formatting and pagination this text should not differ from the published one in any way. If there are discrepancies they are likely the result of final copy edits just before printing—I’d appreciate having them pointed out. These and other comments can be entered below…

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Handling Digital Assets in Time-Based Media Art

Erica Titkemeyer, a fellow of the National Digital Stewardship Residency program, recently presented at UMD’s MITH on her initiative at the Smithsonian Institution: preservation topics related to digital assets in time-based media art. Given the complexity of digital files associated with time-based artworks, how are we as archivists, digital humanists, librarians, &c. to go about ensuring the ongoing accessibility and integrity (from both archival and artistic perspectives) of these works?

In her time at the Smithsonian, Erica has worked to develop a framework for digital preservation of  time-based media, a task which — if her MITH presentation is any indication — is crazy complicated. However, she has worked to develop a preservation methodology that is conscious of traditional archival concerns as well as specific concerns regarding software/technological specifications, complex relationships between constituent elements of a work, and features of the work’s instantiation (i.e. resolution, dimensions, display format/hardware, &c.). As emerging library and info science pros, topics like this loom large on the horizon of our discipline.

Be sure to check out her work at:

And be sure to follow her on Twitter!

And, of course, be sure to check out the other NDSR fellows and the awesome things they are doing in the field and in the area.

VRA – More than Metadata

In the Metadata course last semester, we learned that VRA was created to help Universities manage their art slide collections beginning in 1968. Currently VRA4.0 is a popular and useful metadata standard for schools, museums and commercial business (like Getty) who manage visual collections. One of the benefits for members of the association is networking through the annual conference. The 2014 VRA conference provided me an opportunity for networking, an opportunity to hear about case studies and innovations in the visual resource information management field and some interesting tours of museums in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Philip Yenawine, Co-Founding Director of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) opened the conference with a practice session. VTS is a method initiated by teacher-facilitated discussions of art images and documented to have a cascading positive effect on both teachers and students. “It is perhaps the simplest way in which teachers and schools can provide students with key behaviors sought by Common Core Standards: thinking skills that become habitual and transfer from lesson to lesson, oral and written language literacy, visual literacy, and collaborative interactions among peers.”

Matthew Israel, Director of the Art Genome Project at gave the closing plenary about this start-up company whose mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Mr. Israel likened Artsy to Pandora where users can find art like art they already like. Artsy partners with 1,500+ leading galleries, as well as 200+ museums and institutional partners from around the globe to create their online platform for discovering, learning about, and collecting art with more than 125,000 artworks by 25,000+ artists from leading art fairs, galleries, museums, and art institutions. Artsy provides one of the largest collections of contemporary art available online.

Of the sessions I attended, I found two case studies from Shalimar Fojas White from Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection most interesting. She talked about challenges choosing a content management system for data management that could work for their images and field notebooks. She also talked about her experience and challenges with a collection of 16mm films reformatting them for online access. You can find many of the VRA session slides online at

The conference networking sessions, including a first timers breakfast and discussion session for emerging professionals, gave me the opportunity to learn more about the association and meet with both new and seasoned professionals in the visual resource field. I also took advantage of several tours coordinated by VRA. We got a look behind the scenes at the Harley-Davidson Museum & Design Archives at their custom automated compressed shelving for storing motorcycles 3 rows high. The Milwaukee Riverwalk tour offered a chance to look at some of the public art, architecture and historic sites in the city.

The networking and conference session were a great way to learn about the VRA and learn about current issues and solutions for managing visual resources. I would definitely recommend this conference and association membership for Library students who plan on working with image collections.