Depth of Digital Humanities Explored through Ames Library Grant
August 10, 2022
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — This summer Illinois Wesleyan University students explored the
growing field of digital humanities, using unique tools for data research at The Ames
Library through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The Ames Library was selected as one of 200 libraries nationwide for the American
Library Association’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, an emergency
relief program to assist libraries that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ames Library launched its inaugural Digital Humanities Fellowship with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American
Rescue Plan Act of 2021, along with funds from the Illinois Wesleyan Provost’s Office,
The Ames Library, The Cargill Foundation and the Faculty Development Committee.
Online Learning Librarian Abigail Mann, who is leading the inaugural program, described
the digital humanities as a growing field that “harnesses the increased breadth and depth of data offered through digital applications
to answer old questions in new ways, ask new questions of old objects of study and
offer new ways to share information to new audiences.”
Students in the fellowship program developed their own research questions based on
datasets provided by faculty mentors. Throughout the course of the program, they collected
and analyzed relevant data from diverse sources and created a digital story to accompany
“Students will come away having learned not only technical skills with digital humanities
tools, but also students will gain valuable teamwork and collaboration experience,
the ability to communicate their discoveries and a deeper understanding of how data
comes in a variety of forms and can be used to extend our understanding of important
issues,” said University Librarian Stephanie Davis-Kahl.
Faculty members will assist participating students on research subjects ranging from
author Zora Neale Hurston to local health policy to international education. Students
will present their findings in a symposium on Aug. 12, and again for a student research
symposium during homecoming week.
Amanda Balaba '25, majoring in accounting and political science, is currently participating
in the fellowship program. She said her favorite part about the experience is exploring
the digital tools.
“I have loved learning about different functions and aspects of the WeVideo software
because I am personally interested in digital storytelling through videos,” said Balaba.
“This experience has not only equipped me with research and digital skills, but also
motivated me to explore my creative freedom through different technologies.”
Mann said having a diverse range of subjects for students to study is important because
it shows students “the different ways their own disciplines can approach the same
data set, modeling the ways in which digital humanities can open up new paths and
forms of analyses.”
The funds through this program sustain Illinois Wesleyan’s liberal arts culture, added
Mann, allowing students and faculty to “highlight the ways in which humanities research
continues to evolve and to address pressing current issues while giving students the
tools to do exactly that, hopefully throughout their academic and professional careers,
as well as in their current projects.”