Summer students offer digital art history workshops

By Emily Hagen and Keri Mongelluzzo
submitted by: John Russell

As Digital Art History (DAH) assistants at the University Libraries for the summer of 2018, we began to engineer a workshop series for our fellow graduate students on digital methods and
tools for humanities scholarship. Having recognized the growing influence of digital methodologies in the humanities, we sought to provide an opportunity for dialogue with our colleagues on the benefits of digital scholarship. As co-organizers, we envisioned a workshop series that would serve as a forum for graduate students to gain hands-on experience with digital tools.

A survey of graduate students in the Department of Art History guided the development of the content and format of the proposed workshops. The feedback received from the survey indicated concentrated interest in data visualization and digital mapping. From June to August 2018, we outlined a series of three workshops to address an introduction to the field, data collection and management, and digital mapping. Taking advantage of our collaboration, we divided responsibilities. While Emily consulted key resources to compile a digital resource guide, Keri completed a sample dataset on gallery sales from the Betty Parsons Gallery for workshop participants to use and subsequently gain a working understanding of best practices for data collection and metadata organization.

The first workshop, held on Sept. 28, 2018, introduced the values and best practices of DAH, engaging students in a broader discussion of trends in the field. This introduction was followed by a workshop dedicated to data collection and management as well as metadata organization on Oct. 22. In this data-driven workshop, we discussed the process of creating an in-progress dataset of the historical locations of  pigments—begun during our tenure as DAH assistants—and allowed time for hands-on experience with the data visualization tool, RAWGraphs. The series culminated on Nov. 9, when participants focused on digital mapping. Using the test dataset compiled by Keri (available through ScholarSphere: The Betty Parsons Gallery Sales and Purchases, 1946–1981), participants practiced uploading data as a map layer nd performed analysis using the ArcGIS Online tool. For a similar tutorial, see Emily’s ScholarSphere page for the Roma a piedi: A Digital Itinerary.

Attended by graduate students in Art History at the master’s and doctoral levels, the workshops supplemented traditional methods training and challenged participants to reformulate their
own research questions in terms of data. One participant, Olivia Crawford, noted the ways in which the workshop series “helped to demystify the burgeoning, and sometimes intimidating, field of digital humanities by providing attendees with crucial resources and practice exercises.” A doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant in art history, Crawford stated “The fall
2018 series reaffirmed my understanding of DAH and its lexicon, and I am more confident in pursuing or collaborating in interdisciplinary projects. As a young professional, I appreciate campus programs that help prepare students to become stronger researchers and employees.”

In concert with the University Libraries and the Department of Art History, we hope to further digital scholarship initiatives by connecting graduate students with resources at Penn State and
beyond.