Mellon grant advances Berkeley’s Digital Humanities

With a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, UC Berkeley will be making major advances in the integration of digital tools and technologies in humanities scholarship and teaching.

“Digital tools and methods such as data visualization, GIS, statistics, and text mining can have a transformative effect on research and teaching in the humanities, particularly with the mass digitization of texts and artwork. But they are unfamiliar to many humanities scholars and learning to use them effectively requires an investment of time and resources,” said Anthony J. Cascardi, UC Berkeley’s Irving and Jean Stone Dean of Arts and Humanities and principal investigator on the grant.

The Mellon project is part of the larger initiative, “Digital Humanities @ Berkeley.” For more information, including upcoming events and calls for proposals, visit the initiative’s website.

“This grant will enable us to offer intensive summer training workshops for faculty and students, to introduce them to a range of tools and methods, while providing the critical frameworks for reflection on their impact,” said Cascardi.

Artwork by Terrance Lindall for "Paradise Lost" is featured on a website for a digital humanities project, "Milton Revealed," directed by UC Berkeley emeritus professor of English Hugh Macrae Richmond.

Artwork by Terrance Lindall for “Paradise Lost” is featured on a website for a digital humanities project, “Milton Revealed,” directed by UC Berkeley emeritus professor of English Hugh Macrae Richmond.

As part of the grant, a new fellowship program will also provide opportunities for faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to develop proficiency in the use of digital materials and tools, and to apply those skills to their research. Furthermore, the project aims to reach undergraduates by creating courses that integrate digital humanities tools and methods.

“Humanities courses teach students critical engagement with texts and media. Incorporating digital tools and methods into the curriculum will give students experience applying more traditional humanities skills in contexts that are grounded in new technologies, and this in turn will serve them particularly well in the contemporary world,” said Cathy Koshland, UC Berkeley’s vice-chancellor for undergraduate education.

According to Cascardi, the grant will enable students and faculty in the humanities to participate in other digital efforts on campus including the Berkeley Institute for Data Science and the D-Lab, which principally serve data-intensive research in the social sciences.

Additional support for the initiative for digital humanities from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research will fund faculty research, and expand the technology consulting for faculty and students in the humanities provided by UC Berkeley’s Research Information Technology (Research IT) and Office of the Chief Information Officer.

“For scholars undertaking a digital humanities project for the first time, it’s often difficult to know what questions to ask, or where to turn for resources,” said David Greenbaum, director of Research IT.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to work with scholars at all stages of project development, to help them work through challenges such as tool selection, recruiting research assistants, technical development, and research data management,” said Greenbaum.