Fostering Community through Grassroots DH at Mississippi State University


Published on

Presented with Hillary AH Richardson (Humanities Librarian, Mississippi State University) in the ACRL-DHIG webinar, "Engaging the Digital Humanities: Collaborating throughout the Research Lifecycle," 23 March 2016.

abstract: How does a group of graduate and undergraduate students, history faculty, and research librarians, who are not beholden to assignment deadlines, grades, or even degree requirements, form a project team for civil rights digital scholarship? Miriam Posner, esteemed digital humanist and blog writer, has written, “For me, community happens when people are genuinely invested in seeing each other succeed. This doesn’t happen by being nice to each other--although there’s nothing wrong with that, per se--but by recognizing and rewarding other people’s work” (2014, “Here and There,” This sentiment, combined with a collective passion for the subject matter, served as the glue that held together the team responsible for “‘A Shaky Truce’: Starkville Civil Rights Struggles, 1960-1980” ( This project, a digital history website, features oral history interviews from locals who share stories of desegregation and integration in Starkville, MS during the late 60s and early 70s. To contextualize these stories, the project used archives in the Mississippi State University (MSU) Libraries and donated personal collections to provide tools for researchers and teachers. The project team has spent just under 2 years (and counting) developing a site that bridges town-and-gown, and tells a unique story unlike the narrative of Civil Rights History that is normally taught in Mississippi or Civil Rights history classes.

In this presentation, we plan to address a) the different stages of our project, b) DH skills needed, and c) collaboration within the library and externally in order to build “A Shaky Truce.” We will discuss how librarians were able to get buy-in from busy undergraduates, teaching and dissertating graduate students, and over-worked faculty (on sabbatical!) who had no previous experience with DH projects. Though not committed in a traditional sense (e.g. enrolled in a course with this as a final project, doing this research for a thesis, etc.), we were able to corral 11 people to conduct original research, try out various digital tools, and experiment with website design, effectively serving as project managers for this hodgepodge group of constituents. In addition to highlighting the digital tools for the site (e.g. WordPress, OHMS, TimelineJS), we will also discuss how we leveraged institutional and community resources to grow our project community beyond our university walls.

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Fostering Community through Grassroots DH at Mississippi State University

  1. 1. Fostering Community through Grassroots DH at Mississippi State University Hillary A.H. Richardson, Assistant Professor, Humanities Librarian Nickoal L. Eichmann, Assistant Professor, History Research Librarian @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann
  2. 2. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann Talking Points • About the Starkville Civil Rights Project • Stages of Building Collaboration and Community • Skills needed (and how to foster them) • Lessons learned
  3. 3. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann
  4. 4. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann [ ]
  5. 5. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann
  6. 6. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann [ ] [ ]
  7. 7. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann
  8. 8. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann Our Team • 2 Research Librarians • 1 History Professor (on sabbatical) • 4 Doctoral students (dissertating) • 3 Masters students (graduated) • 1 Honors Undergrad (volunteer)
  9. 9. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann A grassroots theme underlies both the project’s research and in our execution of it. Grassroots + DH
  10. 10. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann • Public history course / Research Question •Grant funding / Develop goals and timeline • Curate content and build the site • Community Forum • A “living website” Stages
  11. 11. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 1. Public History Course Project (Spring 2014)
  12. 12. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 2. Grant funding / Develop goals and timeline • Open-ended project to “benefit both community and the library” • Gave much-needed structure and resources to the project: • Statement of Need • Detailed Budget • Timeline
  13. 13. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 3. Curate Content & Build Site • Worked on various components separately through sub-teams •Project management •Archival research •Oral history interviews + indexing •Website design + organization of content •Crafting the narrative
  14. 14. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 4. Community Forum
  15. 15. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann How is this different? Amanda Visconti: Scenario C (researchers)(librarians) (team)
  16. 16. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann Lessons Learned
  17. 17. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 1.Sharing Research Can Be Hard
  18. 18. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 2. Project management is constant
  19. 19. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 3. Scaffolding tools helps accommodate different skillsets
  20. 20. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann 4. Universal + Local Topic = Powerful
  21. 21. @hillaryAHR @NickoalEichmann Thank you!