Digital humanities and libraries


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This file contains the outline of a presentation describing how digital humanities computing -- specifically, text mining -- can be applied to library "catalogs". The contents of this file were used in a "lightning talk" at the Code4Lib Conference, 2011.

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Digital humanities and libraries

  1. 1. Digital humanitiesWe are living in an age where we feel like we are drowning in data and information.But according to Ann Blair this is not a new problem. In her book, Too Much toKnow, Blair chronicles in great detail the ways scholars since the 3rd Century havedealt with information overload. While they seem obvious in todays world, theywere innovations in their time. They included but were not limited to: copying texts(St. Jerome in the 3rd Century), creating concordances (Hugh St. Cher in the 13thCentury), and filing wooden "cards" (Anthanasius Kircher 17th Century). St. Jerome Hugh St. Cher Anthanasius KircherDigital humanities investigations and specifically text mining computing techniquescan be viewed as modern-day processes for dealing with and taking advantage ofthis apparrent abundance. Digital humanists use computers to evaluate all aspectsof human expression. Writing. Music. Theator. Dance. Etc. Text mining is aparticular slant on the digital humanities applying this evaluation process againstsets of words.Text miningThe balance and heart of this presentation elaborates and illustrates on theseideas. It is broken down into the following bullet points: sizes of texts - "How big is this book?" and Dickens compared readability scores - Robert Gunning, J. Peter Kinciad, Oliver Twist, and David Hume interactive concordances - Roberto Busa, St. Augustine, Pastoral instruction, and Letters of an Irish Catholic layman visualizing concordances - Thoreaus Walden and Rivers comparing and contrasting texts - Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and a "good man" various coefficients - "How colorful is Sense and Sensibility?" or "How great is this book?"
  2. 2. Digital Humanities Forum - Crivella West and JSTOR Robert Gunning J. Peter Kincaid Roberto BusaLibrarianshipIn my mind, the combination of digital humanities computingtechniques and the practices of librarianship would be amarriage made in heaven. By supplementing our collectionswith full text materials and then enhancing our systems tofacilitate text mining, we can not only make it easier forreaders to find data and information, but we can also makethat data and information easier to use and understand. AsRanganathan said, "Save the time of the reader."Links S. R. RanganathanThe following links provide a good overview of the breathand depth of digital humanities scholarship: Digital humanities from Wikipedia Companion to Digital Humanities Digital Humanities QuarterlyEric Lease Morgan <>Date created: January 26, 2011Date updated: January 26, 2011URL: