DHi Co-Directors Janet Simons and Angel David Nieves

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Hamilton College a second $800,000 grant for its Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi). DHi is a research and teaching collaboration in which new media and computing technologies are used to promote humanities-based research, scholarship and teaching – including curriculum development – across the liberal arts.  The Mellon Foundation awarded the DHi its first grant in 2010.

“Hamilton College has played a pioneering role in the emerging field of digital humanities,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Patrick Reynolds. “This second grant from the Mellon Foundation recognizes our faculty’s leadership in this field, impressively synergistic partnerships with instructional technology professionals, and desire to share what they’ve learned with their colleagues at other institutions.”

The latest grant will allow DHi to pursue scholarly programs and continue developing its model for a sustainable digital infrastructure that includes programming, site design and data management. The model will have common core elements but will also be customizable. The goal is for the infrastructure to be something that an investigator from any discipline could use.

“This second award from Mellon permits Hamilton’s continued leadership in the digital humanities among its liberal arts college cohort,” said DHi Co-Director Angel David Nieves.  “DHi has quickly become a model among its fellow northeastern colleges, empowering undergraduates as real collaborators in humanities-based research.”

Professor of English and Creative Writing Doran Larson, who has developed a prison writing archive using the DHi's resources, is among faculty members who have collaborated on projects with the DHi. “The American Prison Writing Archive will digitize non-fiction essays by prisoners and prison workers writing about their experience inside,” Larson explained.

“As the first national repository of witness to the conditions inside the largest prison system on earth, the APWA grew out of the overflow of essays submitted for a book. The DHi at Hamilton turned a storage problem into an opportunity,” he said.  “With DHi’s vision and support, the APWA has already gained enthusiastic endorsement from top researchers in the field of prison studies, across the nation and Europe.”

Under the second grant, the DHi proposes to implement a model in which three to six liberal arts colleges collaborate in the development and maintenance of digital scholarship infrastructures with interdisciplinary focus.  Also under the new grant an innovation lab will promote a broader umbrella effort under which interdisciplinary research and curriculum will develop further with faculty and students.  Collaborative working groups led by faculty are based on research interests, and also a part of the lab.

The Games Studio is proposed as a student-driven laboratory and project development space that focuses on gaming and interactive media as tools to help Hamilton’s students and scholars explore a range of academic projects, including simulation and virtualization, diversity and social justice issues, and narrative and creative expression. 

“The award will allow us to implement a series of new programs that will help us strengthen our work to build a sustainable digital infrastructure, advance research collaborations among faculty and students, and broaden our reach to include other international and global partners for our many projects,” concluded DHi Co-Director Janet Simons.

The $400 million campaign marked the most ambitious fundraising initiative in the College's history.

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