Linking Researchers with the Digital Liberal Arts

Victoria Longfield, M.S. | Assistant Professor and Digital Liberal Arts Librarian

As digital resources continue to change the face of research and teaching, Victoria Longfield helps Hope College faculty and students explore how cutting-edge tools can help them broaden and exceed their goals.

Her job title as Van Wylen Library’s digital liberal arts librarian is unusual even in this high-tech era. Hope is among just three American liberal arts colleges (with Grinnell and Middlebury) that dedicate staff or programs to growing the use of digital tools across all academic fields. Other schools’ “digital humanities” target just the subjects under that umbrella, fields such as history, philosophy, religion and literature.

“Softwares are developed, typically, for very particular niche subject areas,” Longfield notes. At Hope, professors in diverse fields are “taking those tools and finding new meanings for them in different places. An English professor might have a thousand texts on a given theme; how can we quickly analyze and disseminate that? Or another professor may want to take many events in time and display them in a way that conveys how they relate.”

There’s no need to explain that software does things quickly that might take a lifetime with paper and pen. What’s often less obvious, even to scholars, is where to begin. As faculty consult with Longfield to explore software options, digital scholarship methodologies or code for a research project, they may re-envision the process and what they’ll produce. TimelineJS, NVivo and Atlas.ti — to cherry-pick a few of the products available to Hope faculty and students — allow users to embed sophisticated content in a website, online timeline or other easily accessible platforms and create engaging presentations that can reach broad audiences around the world but just a keystroke away. Hope professors are using them to archive research, create podcasts of interviews, and build digital maps that correlate a topic with events and social movements that form its context.