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L-65. Digitizing the Historical Record

Andrew Stauffer & Bethany Nowviskie

This course will focus on the scholarly, theoretical, institutional, and practical issues involved in the digitization of our shared cultural heritage. It is not a training course in specific tools, standards, workflows, nor methods. Instead, we will consider what is at stake, both locally and systemically, for institutions and individual scholars who create, share, and use digital surrogates for literary and historical documents. We will divide our attention between physical texts from the UVA Library and RBS on the one hand, and digital archives and collections on the other. Students will consider topics such as markup, description, interface design, user experience and usability, visualization, interoperability, and archiving from a theoretical angle, with specific examples brought to bear from the world of print and the digital environment. Our attention will also be directed to larger pragmatic considerations, including collections-building, the creation of institutional partnerships, the discovery and re-use of content by the scholarly community, and the sustainability of digital projects.

The course will draw on materials from Britain and America (1770-1920) and digital archives associated with NINES (the Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Studies), which is both a hub for online scholarship, and a peer-reviewing organization for digital projects. We will also explore current work being conducted by the University of Virginia Library’s Scholars’ Lab, which will allow us to consider challenges and opportunities related to the digitization of non-textual information in the humanities (including historical maps and geospatial data) and the design of applications and interfaces for discovery and scholarly analysis.

The course is intended for humanities scholars, librarians, curators, and anyone else who would like to explore the implications of digitization from an academic and institutional perspective. Our goal will be to help course participants become better informed about the impact of digitization on humanities inquiry, and about the role scholars, technologists, and stewards of cultural heritage can play in mitigating risk and enabling the advancement of learning.

Readings for the course will be available online. Several exercises will require that students be ready to describe, workshop, and re-imagine a library interface or scholarly project with which they are familiar—prospective students should each offer a brief description of his or her proposed case study when applying for the course. Participants should bring a laptop to class, and will be asked to respond to a pre-course questionnaire.

Course Resources

Course History


Bethany Nowviskie joins Andrew Stauffer in teaching this course.


Andrew Stauffer teaches this course for the first time.