What is the Triangle Digital Humanities Network?


Thank you everyone who attended the second Triangle Digital Humanities Institute on May 22-24th. Today I am at the CUNY Graduate Center to report on the events of the first two Triangle Digital Humanities Institutes. The experience has made me reflect on the past and future of the Triangle Digital Humanities Network (TDHN). Here’s a little information about its history and what I believe it will continue to offer in the future.

First, let me be clear: I did not create the Network. It has been re-created many times, and I am excited by how it might be re-created going forward. I would love to hear more from the folks who were there at the beginning, but I would most love to hear from those who have new visions for the future.

Original TDHN header

The Triangle Digital Humanities Network started as a partnership between Duke, NC State, UNC, and the National Humanities Center that goes back to at least 2013. The header above is from the original website (triangledigitalhumanities.org) that can be seen from the Internet Archive. The site mentions six people (all from NC State) and six projects (all from NC State except the Blake Archive). The network has always focused on finding projects and helping people learn new skills through institutes. One of the earliest posts on the TDHN blog was a promotional post for the National Humanities Center’s Summer Institute in Digital Textual Studies for 2015-2016 featuring Matthew Jockers and Willard McCarty.

By 2016, the site had been updated to include the new logo above and include more information including a new calendar feature and information on a new certificate program that would span across the institutions. Unfortunately, the “About TDHN” does not resolve in the Internet Archive snapshot. I would have loved to hear how the organization was described at the time. It’s clear though, from this site, that the website was intended to serve as a kind of social hub, similar to a site like HASTAC which began at Duke in 2002 by Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg. This version of the site featured tabs for people, projects, a blog, and a wiki. The site was powered by Commons in a Box, started by CUNY.

By 2018, the TDHN website had already changed again. This was the website that preceded the one you’re reading now. Here’s how the TDHN described itself:

The Triangle Digital Humanities Network (TDHN) is a joint project of Duke UniversityNorth Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the National Humanities Center.

University faculty, students, and staff at institutions across the ‘Research Triangle’ combined with the National Humanities Center are involved in developing, supporting, or learning more about ongoing digital humanities scholarship are welcome to join the collaborative. The purpose is to advance the development of digital humanities projects, create a more integrated network of support and collaboration among scholars, technical experts, and others interested in the use of digital technologies for humanities research, teaching and dissemination, and to facilitate professional standards and training for students engaged in digital humanities work at the graduate level.

There was an impressive description of the certificate program that spanned UNC, Duke, and NC State. There are 15 people listed in the network, many of them are familiar faces in digital humanities in the triangle today, but quite a few have also moved on to other projects.

The current version of the TDHN site was launched in October of 2018 when I came to UNC and I started working with Claire Cahoon, Kristina Bush, and Anna Dallara. In many ways, TDHN has come a long way. With a new vision of radical inclusivity, we sought out new community connections (now about 150 people) that span over a dozen institutions. Our projects tab mentions over one hundred local projects. On the other hand, TDHN has always been an organization that is re-inventing itself, always a little precarious and very grassroots. The flavor of the organization has really depended on who was at wheel at the time. I can fill in some of the history as I experienced it, but I would really love for those people that were there at the beginning to help describe how it began.

The concept for the Triangle Digital Humanities Institute was born out of my experience with Network Detroit and the Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners. The opportunity really began though with the creation of CUNY’s Digital Humanities Research Institutes sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, a series of 14 digital humanities institutes created across the nation. When Hannah Jacobs at Duke heard about the concept for the institute, she immediately jumped on board. To my amazement, she put together an incredible inaugural institute at Duke before I could even begin to sort out how to organize one at UNC.

Early in the conversation about the second institute at UNC, I partnered with Matt Cook at the American Institute of Pakistan Studies and Mary Lagdameo at the Carolina Asia Center to bring interested scholars from Pakistan to share their learning with their home communities in Pakistan. This was a tremendous logistical challenge, and I am incredibly grateful for their leadership that made it happen.

The UNC Institute was not without hiccups, but I think the result was a fantastic way to bring together a burgeoning local DH community. In the words of Levar Burton, “you don’t have to take my word for it:”

Thank you! I wish we had more time, but I am grateful for the time we had!

Great, very informative and the pace was perfect for a complete novice.

I learned a lot!

It was well organised and planned.

Oh my! I enjoyed learning about all of the projects presented during the short presentations.

Keep up the good work!

We had incredible support to make this institute possible. Thank you to all our instructors:

  • Doug Barnum
  • JJ Bauer
  • Kristina Bush
  • Claire Cahoon
  • Brett Chambers
  • Emma Davenport
  • Lynn Eades
  • Grant Glass
  • Laurie Godwin
  • Jennie Goforth
  • Erica Hayes
  • Thomas Herron
  • Matt Jansen
  • Nathan Kelber
  • Jo Klein
  • Winifred Metz
  • Brian Moynihan
  • Maggie Murphy
  • Mia Partlow
  • Matt Turi

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this evolving organization. I am sorry to leave the triangle, but let me tell you a little secret: this organization is always changing because the people involved are becoming well-trained and well-connected to find new jobs. (From the list of instructors above, at least one third have started (or will start) new positions this year.) What is the Triangle Digital Humanities Network? It is a community, but it is also a way to supercharge your career, to connect you to an incredible number of people and learn new skills that can take your work to new levels.

If you want to grow, TDHN is a great place to be. The evolving community is what makes TDHN exciting, and I can’t wait to see what the community will do next. A bright new group of talented people has stepped forward and will meet on July 9th to discuss what’s coming next. I’ll be following the conversation and offering any help I can. Please get in touch at triangledhnetwork@gmail.com if you’re interested in helping us write the next chapter.

Nathan Kelber is starting a new position this June as the Digital Humanities Fellow for the JSTOR labs at ITHAKA in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We wish you the best in your future adventures, Nathan, and thank you for all of your work with TDHN for the past year!