Fear and Loathing – You mean I have to do this, too?

In Digital Humanities Advancement Grants each application I reviewed added Statement of Innovation and a Statement of Humanities Significance paragraphs between the Abstract and Narrative sections of the application. I found no requirement for them, but they are useful. For this grants in this category it was the only difference I found. They were bereft of jargon, but still sufficiently technical to make reading tough. The “A unified approach to preserving cultural software and their development histories” struck me as a great idea but left me wondering how they were going to create a digital method for “winnowing” material prior to archiving it, digitally, isn’t that where the problem begins. On the other hand, “Image Analysis for Archival Discovery” seemed an intriguing idea which would be very useful for a very narrow field of study, poetry in pre-digital publications. I hope they might figure out how to create and then expand their product’s utility.

As a historian, “Networks in History: Data-driven tools for analyzing relationships across time” a Level 3 grant application was the most exciting proposal I reviewed. It was both jargon free and technically oriented, but not as dry as the two previous readings, which were for Level 1 grants. I wanted to know more and found it at http://hdlab.stanford.edu/palladio/about/ .  The nearly $300K grant helped them create Palladio.  Having a tool for analyzing correspondence, authors, recipients across both time AND space is amazing and I hope I have a reason to use it someday and that it can become more comprehensive.

Panorama collage by Michele Graffieti
Panorama collage by Michele Graffieti – Screen grab from Palladio Website

Digital Projects for the Public narratives were much different and also much easier to read. “Exploring the Four Elements: Toward a Digital Environmental History of the Americas” was a Discovery Grant with a very simple concept. I thought more of the preliminary work should have been done before applying for the grant. Also, by the second proposed project meeting they were going to have their first display completed to show meeting attendees. It seemed like a grant application looking for application-sake.

I was a little more excited by the second Discovery Grant application I read, “Participatory Media.” Another simple idea and one whose value was readily apparent from the application. Their goal of centralizing all of this material for accessibility left me feeling like a voyeur raiding someone’s closet to find their home videos, photos and correspondence. I feel equating this to the Depression-era photography and interview collections is a bit of an overreach, I do think it is a valuable project.

“Walden, A Game,”  a Production Grant, is the most ambitious project reviewed. It is potentially a game-changer, pardon the pun, for historians and others who wish to introduce specific historical events to a broader audience. Having received grants from both NEH and NEA indicates that some feel this is an area worth exploring. Further research led me to a review at this site:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/arts/henry-david-thoreau-video-game.html?_r=0

As others have noted, both programs require application narratives that are broad and specific, a tough combo. It has also been mentioned, both programs will fund everything from Discovery to Implementation. The published guidelines are a strength for both, as is the variety of research each will consider.