Sustaining Digital Humanities Center, Labs and Institutes


In this two hour tutorial, the facilitators will raise questions that are germane to digital humanities centers, labs and institutes regardless of location, size, or stage of development. These begin with the general question of how can digital humanities support institutional goals, such as cross-department collaboration, diversity and interdisciplinary research, while at the same time being distinctive and forward looking. The intention is to facilitate discussion about these key issues and others, such as the cultural context in which centers operate, and the opportunities of working within different national research systems and what can be learned from these. Our goal is to encourage participants to share their very different experiences.

Among discussion points will be funding and sustainability, which kinds of funding arrangements are possible, and what models exist to inform those starting a new center, lab or institute or retooling an existing center, lab or institute. This will lead to a consideration of the difference between infrastructure and operations funding vs. funding for research or pedagogy. Other discussion points include the importance of building a digital humanities community, ideas for ensuring wide engagement, the value of creating policies and a governance structure, and developing partnerships and connections through professional associations and diverse communities. We will also spend some time discussing how centers can be a catalyst for developing skills in graduates for new careers, international exchanges, visiting scholarships and postdoctoral research fellowships.

Through our connections with centerNet, the three facilitators have worked with centers, labs and institutes all over the world and in many different stages of development. We will be discussing such aspects of sustainability as the importance of people, the need for resources, clarity of vision, and the value of collaboration and networking. We are also leaving time for the attendees to raise their own questions about sustaining or starting digital humanities.

Reviewers noted that the authors’ centers have enviable institutional situations. This, however, was not always the case. CDRH started out with one staff person and funding was totally within the Libraries’ budget. It took 7 years for the staff to grow to four and then to attract the interest of the administration.

Bibliography: Among readings that are germane to the tutorial are ones such as:

Fraistat, Neil, “The Function of Digital Humanities Center at the Present Time,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Marron, Nancy and Sarah Pickle, Sustaining the Digital Humanities: Host Institute Support beyond the Start-Up Phase, Ithaka S+R, June 18, 2014.

O’Donnell, Daniel Paul, Katherine Walter, Alex Gil, and Neil Fraistat, “Only Connect: The Globalization of the Digital Humanities” in A New Companion to Digital Humanities, pp. 493-510, 2016.

Postdoctoral Laborers Group, “Postdoctoral Bill of Rights, version 1.0” Humanities Commons, April 9, 2019.

Siemens, Lynn, “Formation of a DH Lab,” THATCamp Caribe, November 2012,

Unsworth, John, “Digital Humanities Centers as Cyberinfrastructure,” NEH DH Centers Summit, 2007.

Zorich, Diane, A Survey of Digital Humanities Centers in the United States. CLIR, Nov. 2008.

Who should register: This tutorial is aimed at new center, institute or lab directors wanting advice or established center directors considering how to retool their center. Registrations will be capped at 15 people in order to encourage discussion.

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