In Remembrance of Sabra Statham

Still life by Alexander Calder. From the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Image found on DPLA.

Still life by Alexander Calder (1898-1976). Smithsonian Institution, via the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

This post was written by Linda Friend, Head, Scholarly Publishing Services, Patricia Hswe, Digital Content Strategist and Head, ScholarSphere User Services, and James O’Sullivan, Digital Humanities Research Designer.

It’s been two months since our colleague Sabra Statham passed away on March 20. As a department, we wanted to pay homage to her through 100 Digital Discoveries, especially since she was a passionate advocate for digital collections.

“The Best Qualities of a True Scholar”

My office was right next to Sabra’s so we saw each other pretty much daily. Besides working on projects together, we shared the dramas of long daily commutes in the Pennsylvania winters and the challenges of keeping old houses comfortable and dry. Her family and her music were vitally important to her and I know she has left a deep void in many of the lives she touched. As an academic, she epitomized the best qualities of a true scholar. As a work colleague, I remember her best for her absolute devotion to the People’s Contest initiative. She kept in touch with colleagues across the country and brought back ideas of how others were combining technology and culture to deliver successful digital projects, and she was instrumental in having the Libraries consider potential software solutions that had not been attempted before. Her positive influence for the Libraries and the university will be felt long after her passing. I miss her for her contributions, and most of all for herself. — Linda Friend.

An Affinity for Leading Projects

My most vivid memories of Sabra are as a colleague who was absolutely committed to the projects she managed – in particular, the People’s Contest and the German Broadsides Project. The dedication is perhaps all the more impressive, given that Sabra was not a specialist in American history, or in German literature. But, as a researcher who herself worked with primary sources in music, she got the point of scholarship, a perspective she never lost sight of in her role. As I mourn her passing, I miss her passion for fulfilling our mission behind digital projects and digital scholarship and her affinity for leading these activities. She was a fervent champion of the Digital Public Library of America, too, and relished her role as a Community Rep. I consider myself deeply fortunate to have worked with her and to have had her as a colleague in Publishing and Curation Services. — Patricia Hswe.

Ambitious and Resourceful, A Significant Contributor

Not only had she a major interest in digital scholarship, but Sabra also had a very diverse academic background. Thus, she is a great loss to our unit, and indeed Penn State as a whole. She was ambitious and resourceful, as evidenced by the wonderful projects to which she was a significant contributor, and very positive in all of her professional dealings. My big regret is that I never heard her play any of her instruments – it is clear from those who knew her well that I have missed out on something special. — James O’Sullivan.

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