Supporting Research in Digital Humanities

What is DHSI? 

The Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) is an annual digital scholarship training institute that is organized for its community by the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab and takes place at the University of Victoria (UVic) campus. Every summer, DHSI brings together faculty, staff and students from the arts, humanities, library and archives communities as well as independent scholars and participants from areas beyond. DHSI provides a community-based environment for discussing and learning about new technologies and how they influence teaching, research, creation and preservation in different disciplines. Around 800-900 participants come together for intensive coursework, seminars, and lectures, where participants share ideas and methods as well as develop expertise in advanced technologies. 

People gathered around a reflection pool with waterfall on the campus of the University of Victoria on a bright sunny day
The University of Victoria campus offers many beautiful spots for attendees to network or simply enjoy the temperate June weather.

With an alumni community of 7,500, DHSI’s activities are supported by over 75 partners & sponsors and a growing pedagogical partnership and international training network. It is coordinated by the Canadian Social Knowledge Institute (C-SKI) at UVic. 

Described by one participant as an event that “combines the best aspects of a skills workshop, international conference, and summer camp,” DHSI prides itself on its friendly, informal and collegial atmosphere.  

How is W&M Libraries Involved? 

William & Mary Libraries is happy to be a sponsor of DHSI. As a sponsor, we provide funding to cover the registration costs for up to 5 faculty and graduate students interested in DHSI.  Many library staff have attended the institute in the past as a professional development opportunity for their work in digital scholarship and related fields. This sponsorship also allows us to support the work of W&M faculty such as Elizabeth Losh who is a frequent instructor at the institute.  

DHSI 2023 Experiences 

Last year, we sent 5 faculty and graduate students to DHSI 2023 which allowed attendees to attend both an in-person and virtual week. One person elected to attend DHSI only in-person, and the remaining four attended both in-person and online. Instruction & Research Librarian, Rachel Hogan, interviewed them about their experience.

Are you a graduate student or faculty member? And in what department/program?  

Nicole Brown (NB): I am a graduate student in the American Studies Department at William & Mary (PhD) 

Liz Moran Clayton (LMC): Elizabeth Morán, Faculty, Art History. 

Claudia Garcia Mendoza (CGM): Graduate Student (Ph.D. Student). Arts and Sciences/ American Studies 

Rachel Hunnicut Rosengarten (RHR): PhD Candidate in American Studies 

Lidia Ponce de la Vega (LPV): I am a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Environment and Sustainability Program (ENSP). 

Students in a class on text analysis. The presenter is showing a slide titled  "Duchamp, Outsourcing Chance to Machines"
While attendees register for a week-long course on a specific topic, a number of drop-in workshops and presentations are also offered throughout the week.

How did your experience differ from what expected when you filled out your application?  

NB: If anything, it was more incredible than I had expected! 

LMC: I had very little idea of how broad ‘digital humanities’ really is. 

CGM: Since it was my first time visiting, I was not sure what to expect. I probably had a bit more reading than what I expected. 

RHR: I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, so I didn’t have any preconceptions about the experience. Prof. Liz Losh, who teaches at DHSI and directs my graduate program, had told me that DHSI was an extremely welcoming and supportive community, and she was totally correct. 

LPV: The experience was much more comprehensive than I anticipated. The courses and activities were thorough and there was time and space for each participant to engage in individual and group projects. 

Did you enjoy the experience, and would you recommend it to others?  

NB: I had a wonderful time working and learning with colleagues from across the world. It was very grounding to be present in Victoria amongst such a welcoming community of scholars.  

LMC: Yes, highly. 

CGM: I really enjoyed the experience. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Digital Humanities, and to those who have not thought about DH but have considered using any digital tool in their research. 

RHR: I had a great time; I learned a lot, enjoyed meeting other participants, and would love to attend another summer institute now that I’ve had a solid introduction to DH. 

LPV: I truly enjoyed this experience. I would certainly recommend it to everyone, regardless of their familiarity with the digital humanities. The course facilitators, speakers, and presenters cover topics that are accessible and of interest to people from diverse backgrounds, knowledge, and skills. The sense of community is another highlight. There were many opportunities for networking and collaboration in a very welcoming environment. 

Were you able to do other things in Victoria besides attending the lecture?  

NB: I was able to hike, sightsee, and go whale watching on my days off and evenings. Vancouver Island is incredibly beautiful and diverse; it was a gift to experience this.  

LMC: Yes, I went for several walks in parks and beaches. 

CGM: I did not have much time to travel and visit places, but I did walk around the inner harbor. My workshop instructors planned a field trip to a pop-up museum in China Town, which was a great instructive and tourist experience.   

RHR: Definitely—I visited some museums, spent a lot of time walking around the city and seeing some sights, and treated myself to a few very good dinners. 

LPV: Yes! I was able to visit several landmarks in Victoria. The cultural offerings are great, but the natural spaces and landscapes are truly fantastic. Victoria is breathtakingly beautiful 

Large group of students talk and share their projects in a bright, glass-walled atrium
Attendees share and discuss their class projects at the end of each week-long session.

What was it like going through the institute online?  

LMC: Online was not as fun as being on campus, simply because it was so wonderful to be with both faculty and graduate students on a beautiful campus.  However, I did enjoy the online week. 

CGM: I had a very good experience online too. Although zoom can be exhausting, the sessions were only half a day, and the instructors were very good at modulating discussion. The conversations and the time were used very productively. 

RHR: It was certainly less hands-on than in-person; it felt like a return to pandemic Zoom classes, but was interesting nonetheless. 

LPV: It was a bit hard to transition from a wonderful in-person week to an online course back in Williamsburg. However, the course facilitators were wonderful and were able to make the Zoom sessions engaging and dynamic. There were some DHSI attendees who stayed in Victoria for the online week, and there were in-person events planned for that time as well. I wish I had known this in advance; I would have loved to take the online course while in Victoria and attend all the extra events. Regardless, the online week was just as fruitful as the in-person one 

Is there anything else you would like to share about being awarded free registration to the institute or you experience attending the institute?  

LMC: This experience was amazing, and I would love to be able to do it again, since there are so many different classes.  Additionally, I have used some of the things that I learned in my own classes. 

CGM: It was a great opportunity to network, and to learn. 

RHR: Overall, a great experience! 

LPV: Having the opportunity to attend DHSI for the first time through the support of William & Mary Libraries was a fantastic and highly valuable opportunity. I attended DHSI with very specific objectives in mind related to one of the projects I am working on. However, DHSI far exceeded my expectations and now I am applying what I learned to all of my research projects and to the course I am currently teaching. I am very grateful for this opportunity. 

DHSI 2024 

DHSI 2024 is coming this June with the first week happening June 3-7 and the second week happening June 10-14. Look forward to another blog post in the fall about our 2024 scholarship recipients and their experiences!