Bethany Nowviskie and Andrew Stauffer

L-65: Digitizing the Historical Record

11-15 June 2012


1)    How useful were the pre-course readings? (Leave blank if you applied and were accepted late for the course, and thus did not get the list in time.)

1: I thought that they were great for preparing us for the kinds of discussions we had this week and were of the appropriate length. I did come in with a "case study" (i.e., project) in mind, but didn't do any other advance preparation. 2: A good overall of the class although some were a bit too technical. 3: I did all the optional and required readings. I found them all useful and interesting, although the Constance Malpas article on cloud sourcing was a bit long and detailed for the point it was used to make. 4: Pre-course readings were important and formed the basis of a number of sessions. I didn't have time to read the extra readings before I left but will do so on the way home. 5: Very—pre-reading allowed us to dive straight into the larger themes and issues. I wish I had time to read the optional readings—though I will after RBS. 6: The pre-course readings were very helpful in orienting me to the material we'd be reworking in class. 7: The readings were generally helpful to opening up the larger conversations, though more 'pro' and 'con' selections may have been more useful. More information (of the technical sort?) would have helped specific discussions of technical issues, techniques, design, &c. 8: I found the readings helpful, but it might have been useful to have some suggestions about digital projects, libraries online to look at. I looked at some digital libraries on my own in addition to the readings. 9: A judicious selection.

2)    Were the course workbook and other materials distributed in class appropriate and useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)?

1: Actually I wish we had gotten the workbook before class had started since it included our pre-course readings. Some extra blank pages for note-taking would have been nice as well. Otherwise, they were great! 2: Somewhat useful. A list of all of the sites discussed in class would be very helpful. 3: Yes. I will use my sketches from the design project to have a conversation about my digitization project with my co-PI when I get home. 4: Yes. 5: Yes—both useful in class and invaluable for future use. 6: Absolutely. 7: Yes, though they could have been supplemented by in-class handouts (including ones with acronyms explained!). 8: Yes, they were useful. Some more mock design examples would be useful.

3) Have you taken one or more RBS courses before? If so, how did this course compare with your previous coursework?

1: N/A 2: Yes. Favorable comparison. 3: No. 4: I've taken five or six RBS courses; this, along with Alice Schreyer's "Special Collections Librarianship" placed the most emphasis on conversation both between the teachers and amongst the class. We had a strong and varied group. 6: I've taken one other RBS course, but I'm not sure how to compare as the readings were so different. 7: No. 8: Yes. The nature of the courses were on very different topics with very different approaches so it is challenging to make a direct comparison.

4)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes?

1: I really liked the emphasis on book history and real physical books as the basis for a digital project and found all our conversations about issues of mediation and representation very interesting. 2: The discussion of the pros and cons of digitization, storyboarding projects. 3: 1) Design project, 2) Discussion of articulating goals and audiences in designing digitization projects, 3) Discussion of the role of digital humanities in the academy (faculty, research, student professionalizations, &c.) 4: The visit to the digitization lab; the class project; conveyance of BN's and AS's collective and individual experience. 5: All of it. I wished for more time. Discussions greatly expanded my vision of what is possible (and not) in digitization. 6: Very hard to identify the most interesting or relevant aspect. I really want to say all of it was, as almost every aspect of digital humanities projects/landscape that I am interested in was covered. 7: Those pertaining to new sorts of scholarship (e.g., mapping technologies) as opposed to methods of improving old sorts (communication, access, collaboration, data management, &c.) were of the greatest interest to me. 8: The information about sharing data along with larger issues of project management were very useful. Also, the sessions on GIS were fascinating, and I benefitted from hearing the instructors debate issues. 9: Scholars, scholars, scholars.

5)    Did the instructor(s) successfully help you to acquire the information and skills that the course was intended to convey? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: Definitely—I feel like I learned a lot over the course of the week and started to get a handle on both the issues and design questions that I should be grappling with as I move forward with my project. 2: Yes. For the most part. 3: Some of the technical sessions (particularly the one on linked open data) were too difficult for me, but this may not have been true for most people in the class. The course gave me great ideas, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it as a skills-acquisition course. (I'm not sure I understand better how technically to digitize something than I did before, but that wasn't really the way the course was advertised.) 4: Yes, and yes. 5: Yes—I love that we moved from big picture to small and back again several times in discussions. BN and AS navigated these shifts beautifully. 6: Absolutely. I would say they did a near perfect if not perfect job of not only conveying information and skills, but keeping me engaged throughout the entire course. 7: Yes, though I wish there were more gestures to outside literature and reflection on the skills, &c., mentioned. (Now I want to take more courses for further training with these issues.) 8: Yes, very much so on both counts.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: Even though I don't quite know how I would use it in my research just yet, I found the GIS/maps/spatial humanities day to be the most exciting and it was cool to just see what was possible. I also enjoyed the emphasis on design as something that we should have in mind throughout the planning process of a digital project. 2: Book work, class discussions of digitization and its repercussions. 3: I liked the class discussions of the readings and hearing about other people's proposed projects. 4: The instructors' grasp of their subject and their openness to all kinds of questions about digitization. It's always great to learn from people who are really expert in their field. 5: My colleagues, the large questions and the projects. The design portion helped me organize the flood of information and think about the landscape of digital scholarship, representation, and context of a particular historic/cultural moment. I gained a deep appreciation of the way research is changing. 6: What I liked best about the course was the combination of big picture and in-the-weeds style of presentation of the material. 7: The freewheeling conversation, and how it always remained tethered to practical concerns, issues, examples, and methods. 8: I liked the mix of methods used, including discussions, book handling, guest speakers, the visit to the digitization lab, and the hands-on design assignment. 9: AS talking literary criticism about his Byron project, AS's impassioned argument for libraries not to send books to the dumpster.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: The focus on UVA's library and systems was wonderful, of course, but I'd have liked a larger sense of trends and advances elsewhere as well. It may be helpful for students to critique existing digital humanities projects in point, as well as design their own. Also, please assign design work for homework! 2: Perhaps more time for working on and discussion of individual projects. 3: Sometimes the dynamic of having two instructors shut down discussion a bit as they would get into long conversations with each other. People should have been given more time to present their storyboards and receive feedback from the group. 4: More time to work on projects! (A little, not a lot.) Scheduling of guest speakers was a little wonky, but there's probably nothing to be learned from that. I think I'd like one more reading by someone besides Jerome McGann theorizing digitization. 5: A built-in way to exchange contact info—maybe an opt-in/opt-out option to share contact information with course or RBS in general. 6: Recommend not fixing that which isn't broken. 7: The focus on UVA's library and systems was wonderful, of course, but I'd have liked a larger sense of trends and advances elsewhere as well. It may be helpful for students to critique existing digital humanities projects in point as well as design their own. Also, please assign design work for homework! 9: Live the course online. In online space, decode and demystify acronyms.

8)    Did you learn what the course description/advertisements indicated you would learn?

1: I think for the second day of design drawing/wire-framing, it would have been helpful to workshop our drawings with a partner and really talk out our ideas before the Friday presentation. 2-3: Yes. 4: Yes. Very clear description. 5–9: Yes.

9)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course?

1: Yes. And so much more! 2: Yes. 3: Yes. I would have liked to learn a little more about the purpose, applications, and practice of markup language. 4: Yes. I still wish I'd taken basic computer programming in high school! 5: Yes. I learned more than I expected and imagine the new knowledge will be refined as I think about course readings, discussions, &c. in the future. 6: Yes. 7: Yes. A small, hands-on or collaborative digital project may have helped. 8: Yes. 9: Somehow I was surprised at what I ended up learning.

10)  How do you intend to use or apply the knowledge or skills learned in this course?

1: Yes. And things I didn't even know I wanted to learn! 2: Not sure. Would very much like to be able to plan a digital project. 3: I will use them to communicate with colleagues and IT professionals about a digitization project I am completing at my university. 4: I'll be using them on the digital project I'm overseeing at work. 5: On a practical level—refining a digital humanities project. On a more theoretical level—I have a framework to think more critically about the book as object, intended use of objects and representations ... 6: I hope to begin trying to build the outline of this project using a number of the tools discussed during this course. 7: I'll be pitching grant proposals and designing my own digitization projects. 8: I am considering a Ph.D. in digital humanities for which this course will be extremely helpful in planning my project. Otherwise I hope to use the knowledge in my future place of employment. 9: I need to continually think harder and more often about the researchers' point of view, not the library's confines.

11)  If your made any trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

1: N/A 2: Visit to the Digital Services Center was time well spent. Good to be able to interact with the staff. 3: Yes. I am in total envy of the digitization lab. 4: Yes! Very interesting to see the scanners and to meet the people who run them. 5: Yes—I loved seeing the optical collator BN built, also enjoyed walking through the Scholar's Lab. Both BN and AS were incredibly generous with their time and interest. 6: Yes, the one trip that we made to the special collections digitization lab was very helpful. 7: Yes. 8: Yes, our trip to see the digitization lab was extremely useful in understanding workflows and the separate pieces of a sometimes complex process.

12) If you attended the optional evening events (e.g., RBS Lecture, Video Night, RBS Forum, Booksellers' Night) were they worth attending?

1: Yup! They were all very interesting and fun. 3: I did not attend these events and appreciated that I didn't feel pressured to do so. 4: Lectures—yes. Video Night—yes. Booksellers' Night—yes! 5: The RBS Lecture was fascinating and enlightening. 6: Yes, and yes I did attend all of them. 7: The lectures were a bit 'light' and fun, but that's only to be expected given students' ranges of interests. 8: Yes, they were all interesting and enjoyable ways to spend the evenings with fellow students.

13)  We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching collections and of materials owned by the UVA's Special Collections. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: N/A 2: None. Items were properly handled. 3: None. 4: We needed some larger wedges. 6: None.

14)  Did you get your (or your institutions) money's worth? Would you recommend this course to others?

1: Oh yes. x2. I'll be back next year if I can afford it. 2: Yes. Would recommend only if I knew what they would expect to gain from the class. 3: Yes and yes!! 4: Yes and yes. 5: Yes—recommend, demand, others thinking about the historical record to take this course. 6: Absolutely, and yes I would highly recommend this course to others. 7: Yes, and yes. 8: Yes, definitely, on both counts. 9: Absolutely on the money's worth!

15)  Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year? (If you have further RBS praise or concerns, or if you have suggestions for a new course, please contact Amanda Nelsen [] or Michael Suarez [].)

1: Come with a project/something you want to work on. Be ready to learn a ton, meet brilliant people and new friends, and have your mind blown at least twice a day. Take it! 6: Wouldn't mind a supplemental course, taught by these same instructors on maps. 7: Perhaps not the best course for academics/scholars except those with projects in mind, an area interest in digital humanities, or an interest in the (soon to be) history of scholarship/sociology.

Number of respondents: 9





Institution gave me leave


4 (44%)


I took vacation time


1 (12%)


N/A: self-employed, retired or had the summers off


4 (44%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course






Institution paid tuition


5 (56%)


Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself


2 (22%)


Exchange or barter




N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

2 (22%)




Institution paid housing


3 (33%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing


1 (12%)


I paid for my own housing


3 (33%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


2 (22%)





Institution paid travel


4 (44%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel


1 (12%)


I paid my own travel


4 (44%)


N/A: lived nearby







There were one university assistant professor (11%), one rare book librarian (11%), one librarian with some rare book duties (11%), one college librarian with some digital materials and projects (11%), two full-time students working towards a Ph.D. (22%), one full-time student working towards an MLIS (11%), one member of a library research and development think tank (11%)


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

4 (44%)

Work Colleague

2 (23%)



Word of mouth

3 (33%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College: 3 (34%)

Cavalier Inn: 2 (22%)

Courtyard Marriott: 1 (11%)

Red Roof Inn: 1 (11%)

Other: 2 (22%)