Although I felt that my Digital Scholarship Services (DSS) position was clear when I first began working as a Humanities Write Large Research Assistant, I quickly found out that my role was a bit undefined. I remember sitting in my first meeting as I was learning about the project thinking, “what exactly should I be doing?” As a part of the Musical Festival Database with Professor Charles McGuire, professor of musicology at Oberlin College and Conservatory, I learned all of the different skills associated with managing this project. McGuire works on a database that presents archival data from British musical festivals from 1695 to 1940 in an online format. Each week I learned a new concept related to date entry, research, and thought process. Even thinking about searchable data was something that I always overlooked as a researcher myself. However after learning the basics, I wanted to try something new. In our weekly DSS meetings we talk about how to share our skills with our project managers in order to make the work more efficient, while also cosidering outreach andassessment. Recently, Prof. McGuire approached me about a soft launch of the database and I thought this was the perfect time to try out these new ideas with the help of the DSS team.
As I think through issues of social media outreach on Facebook and Twitter, branding related to a scholarly database, and potential audiences, I also think about our collective conversations from the DSS team meetings and how to use all of the beneficial gathered there. Although we all work on different projects, we can all advise each other on specific areas of expertise that we accumulate throughout the process. When I approached the team about how to launch the website, we worked through ideas related to outreach. They shared information about creating surveys and how to ask the right questions when assessing a project, its effectiveness at delivery of information, and its audience. Without many up-to-date scholarly articles about how to manage digital projects, especially related to outreach and assessment, we must turn to each other and share our successes and failures in order to produce high quality results. We, as members of a team, must constantly create our own sort of literary review, monitoring how the field of digital humanities changes.
Working as a new member of the DSS team has helped me find a community outside of my department where I can discuss issues associated with humanities projects in a safe environment. They have helped me think around the traditional constructions of a dissertation. I am looking beyond the scope of a written document to a project that includes other aspects of digital humanities. Why do these projects work only for our professors? How can we use our skills learned from managing digital projects to influence our research and dissertations? Thinking about these questions helps me to feel more confident in the skills I have acquired throughout my own graduate work.
Meredith is a graduate student in musicology at Duke University. Her research interests include twentieth-century British choral music and its function in the church. Her work as part of the Musical Festivals Database is facilitated by Digital Scholarship Services and supported by the Humanities Writ Large.