FSU receives grant to create digital humanities center

By Ashlyn Kelly

News Editor

FSU received a $192,000 grant to create a digital humanities (DH) center for the University and greater Framingham community.

The center will be located in the mezzanine of the Henry E. Whittemore Library.

Funding for the center came from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) “Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan.”

According to the NEH website, the American Rescue Plan gave the NEH funding “to provide emergency relief to institutions and organizations working in the humanities that have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.”

English Professor Bartholomew Brinkman will serve as the inaugural director of the center, according to a University press release.

Brinkman said, “When I arrived [at] Framingham State, I was already deeply interested in digital humanities and brought the Modern American Poetry Site with me. I was interested in thinking about how digital humanities could be more present on campus.”

According to Brinkman, it took approximately six weeks to complete the application for the grant. 

There was already a good sense of what to do with the grant “in particular to help faculty and students who were most affected by the COVID crisis,” he added. 

He said a “good chunk” of the money from the grant will be used toward projects over the next year directed by six faculty fellows. 

There is also money for student interns who will work at the center and new equipment, such as  TVs, according to Brinkman. 

In addition to creating the center, Brinkman said the special collections resources in the library have been “bolster[ed].”

Millie González, interim dean of the library, said one of her goals for the grant was “to connect the analog to the digital.

“I requested museum-quality cases to display artifacts that will be digitized, and requested large digital displays,” she added. 

Marc Cote, dean of arts and humanities, said, “It’s a highly visual field often, and so to have expanded monitors and also digital capacity in general, it’ll be helpful.”

Framingham State created a digital humanities minor, which launched this academic year. 

Meeghan Bresnahan, junior history major and a student in the Introduction to Digital Humanities class, said, “Digital humanities are so important to so many different majors, and I think a center will really help our DH community grow. It’s vital to understand it now more than ever in our very technological-based world.”

Sophia Wilson, a freshman English major, said she thinks the creation of the center is “a step in the right direction.”

Donald Halsing, teaching assistant for the Introduction to Digital Humanities course, said having a space for digital humanities students to showcase and practice their work is a “great addition to the campus.

“Digital humanities is a relatively new and developing field of study,” he said. “Not many people understand what digital humanities is or how it offers new perspectives to analyze literature, transforms archival material into accessible documents, and creates new pools of data for scholars to explore.

“I hope the center offers extra help for digital humanities students in introductory courses. Mastering the DH approach to literary analysis requires a solid understanding of how to use tools that they might not be familiar with,” Halsing added.

Brinkman said there has not been a lot of conversation about how the center will serve the minor yet because the center is “relatively new.

“My hope is that this becomes a space where faculty members and students … come together and think about the role of digital [humanities] in asking new questions, and providing some different answers for humanities topics that we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” he added.  

Cote said he hopes to use the center to work with the surrounding community to do some “civic engagement work.

“I think in addition to getting outside into the communities, that also allows multi-institutional efforts to flourish, I would say, and so you can team with other universities and colleges on projects of similar nature,” he said.

Cote added the center could also foster international work. “The world languages department has an opportunity to be involved with initiatives and perhaps engage other countries.”

González said, “DH projects are innovative and cutting edge. There is a strong DH community nationally, and finally, FSU is a member of this community.”

[Editor’s Note: Donald Halsing is Editor-in-Chief for The Gatepost.]