Digital Dickinson

Dickinson awarded Mellon Grant

Dickinson has a rich history of launching and sustaining complex interdisciplinary digital-humanities initiatives. The House Divided research engine is an ongoing collaboration between Associate Professor of History Matt Pinsker and his students that has brought the Civil War to life for students of American history since 2005.

$700,000 grant will support new digital-humanities initiatives 

by Christine Baksi

Dickinson has been awarded a $700,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a series of new and sustained digital-humanities initiatives. The grant will be used to further infuse the liberal-arts curriculum with the latest digital technologies; to conduct instructional workshops for students and faculty; and to create a virtual studio to publish and showcase digital projects, among other initiatives.

Coupled with a recent grant from the Henry Luce Foundation's Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment, Dickinson has received $1.1 million in grants for liberal-arts curriculum expansion since November 2012.

"The two grants are the product of faculty creativity in imagining new ways to enrich our students' learning experience," said Provost and Dean Neil Weissman. "They reflect Dickinson's commitment to stay apace with the best new developments in higher education."

According to Weissman, navigating and accessing digitized information is a critical component of research and other scholarly pursuits and is vital to career preparation. "Digital literacy is a key dimension of students' 21st century skill set," he said. "To that end, we must continue to enhance our digital resources and emphasize the library as the central focus of campus intellectual life."

For decades, Dickinson faculty and staff have developed and used digital technology in both scholarship and teaching. Longstanding digital projects in the humanities include The Mixxer, a site similar to Facebook that enables language classes to converse with native speakers using Skype; House Divided, a research engine for K-12 educators that brings the Civil War era to life; Dickinson College Commentaries, a project that employs digital tools to enhance Greek and Latin texts with notes, graphics, video and audio elements; and Romantic Natural History, an online tool that surveys and organizes texts, images and scholarship that link Romanticism and natural history.

Grant funding will help create and encourage further faculty-student collaboration in the digital humanities. Internal faculty grants will support significant expansion of existing digital projects and pilot the use of new tools in teaching and research, including additional student-faculty research opportunities. An intensive summer digital bootcamp will better train students for robust collaboration with faculty on complex digital projects and Dickinson will annually award students with monetary prizes for the best new-media work.

The digital-humanities initiative will be overseen by an advisory committee with the assistance of a grant-funded postdoctoral fellow in the field. Classics Professor Christopher Francese is chair of the advisory committee.

Since 2007, Dickinson has received more than $2 million in grant support from the Mellon Foundation, leading to the establishment of Dickinson's Center for Sustainability Education and, most recently, a Dickinson-led civilian-military project between select liberal-arts colleges and neighboring military institutions that identifies opportunities for long-term collaboration.

Published January 30, 2013