Yale News

Digital humanities research projects have been on the rise at Yale, a phenomenon that coincides with the installation of the Franke Family Digital Humanities Laboratory in Sterling Memorial Library.

While the University has boasted a digital humanities lab for three years, the renovation of the Franke Family Reading Room, which is set to be completed in October, will provide an upgraded workspace for members of campus who wish to utilize resources to complete projects relating to the field.

According to Catherine DeRose, manager for the University’s lab, digital humanities utilize a wide range of techniques to create projects that bring innovative technologies to “long-standing historical and cultural questions.”

DeRose said that over the past few years, an increasing number of undergraduate and graduate students have expressed interest in digital humanities projects.

“We think there are as many answers to [what digital humanities is] as there are humanists at Yale who are working in the new way,” said Peter Leonard, director of the digital humanities lab. “We’ve been on a multiyear journey to listen to students, undergrads, grad students [and] faculty members in the humanities who have come to us for assistance or help or conversation about digital humanities work.”

The new lab will provide an open space of roughly 4,000 square feet to be used as a workspace and as a meeting space for workshops and consultations. The lab will include workstations, monitors and a research cube for computing.

The lab and the field of digital humanities more broadly have attracted graduate researchers like Amanda Hall GRD ’21 to Yale. Hall leads a team of undergraduate researchers in conjunction with the lab to create a digital humanities project about Pauli Murray LAW ’65.

Her work relies on two “interventions” –– a historiographical intervention and an intervention in digital humanities. The former attempts to construct a comprehensive view of Murray’s works through methods such as analyzing the frequency with which she includes certain words and what types of personal networks she constructed throughout her lifetime. This tactic employs data as a means of pushing historical research. The second intervention problematizes what scholars have called a western view of humanity and looks to combat it through a nonlinear digital presentation of Murray’s life, according to Hall.

“The intention is to use interdisciplinary approaches infused with an ethos of black studies to build on the scholarly traditions that these historians have already established,” Hall said. “We see black studies in this project because it uses DH to ‘get out’ existentially and epistemologically of disciplinary conventions.”

Randa Tawil GRD ’20 also employs digital humanities for a research project concerning Syrian migration to the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century.

Tawil is applying tools from the field of digital humanities to discuss the story of Zainab Ameen, a woman who left Lebanon and was forcibly separated from her husband when trying to enter the U.S.

“I think that I wanted to explore [this] since my project is about travel and the contingencies of traveling,” said Tawil. “I wanted to explore [Ameen]’s story a little, and I think you can be creative in digital humanities in a way that at least for me wasn’t the same in my dissertation.”

The Digital Humanities Lab is a part of the Digital Scholarship Services offered by the Yale University Library system.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu