The theory “survival of the fittest” certainly applies to visual resources curators, whose predecessors (slide librarians) had no choice but to adapt to digital collections and bid adieu to analog resources. What’s more, not only did the medium in which we create and catalog change, but also it became necessary to acquire other skills and responsibilities to remain a valued resource of the History of Art Department.
Exploring new technology to enhance and engage student learning is one of the ways in which the Visual Resources Center achieves this. For example, by researching digital humanities software platforms we can assist faculty with teaching instruction and innovative assessment methods. This is no easy feat since there are many online options; however, one particular open source software platform called “Scalar,” developed at the University of Southern California, fulfilled our criteria. It is essentially a hybrid of an eBook and a website, with user-friendly multimedia scholarly publishing tools.
Vanderbilt’s digital humanities network provides great ways to learn about new technologies and their implementation across academic disciplines. Last weekend the Curb Center hosted a THATCamp: The Humanities and Technology Camp, an “unconference” designed to bring together people from a variety of fields and skill levels with interests in digital humanities. On Friday evening, November 6, THATCampers socialized and established workshop topics for the next day. As the resident Scalar expert, I offered to host a workshop session on the digital platform and its potential use in the field of art history. An act spurred on by the reward of a book (Johanna Drucker’s Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production). It was quite interesting trying to convince text-heavy scholars of the virtues of visual media in digital pedagogy.
The highlight of THATCamp was Saturday’s keynote speaker, Elonka Dunin, who gave a fascinating talk titled “Wikipedia Tips and Tricks for Communicating with the Hive Mind.” Dunin, COO and studio director of Black Gate Games, has an impressive resumé that includes assisting the CIA by hacking Al-Qaeda source code, and achieving the elusive status of Wikipedia administrator to name but a few. Overall, this year’s THATCamp was an inspiring event and a wonderful way to connect with fellow digital humanities enthusiasts. —Millie Fullmer
*Camping out, Lake George, NY, photographed by Seneca Ray Stoddard (1844-1917)