Victoria Abella/Staff Writer
FIU hosted an event series, “Digitizing the Americas: Exploring Cuba through Miami, Media, and Technology” which consisted of lectures on campus, workshops and various museum visits between Jan. 7 to Jan. 16, 2019. Digitizing data and archives preserves history and the data curation aspect is facilitating archives to be more accessible to research.
Hadassah St. Hubert, postdoctoral fellow in data curation for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, hosted the Introduction to Digital Humanities as well as conducted the Digital Cuba Timeline Project Workshop. In the introduction session, she explained that digital humanities goes beyond coding.
“Digital humanities is not always about your technical knowledge, it’s also about data curation and how you make this information from an archive accessible and readable for people, not only to scholars but the wider public who are interested in general,” said St. Hubert.
In the workshop she conducted at the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, participants were split into groups to create a hands-on digital humanities project. Using the digitization tool TimelineJS from Knight Lab, a free tool used by media outlets such as CNN and TIME, the participants made a timeline of various important Cuban figures and events within two hours. With the samples already provided, they pieced together information on people such as Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo.
“It also helped them work on their storytelling skills, because I provided the samples beforehand so that way they didn’t have to go and do some research…[instead they’d focus on] making decisions on what to include, what not to include,” said St. Hubert.
St. Hubert emphasized that hands-on training is the best way to learn how to use digitizing tools.
“When I spoke to the participants afterwards, they actually mentioned that sometimes it’s great to just have some time to actually work on a digital humanities project,” said St. Hubert.
Getting to troubleshoot in the workshop was effective not only for the attendees who walked away with practical knowledge they could employ in their work, but also be able pass on to students, according to St. Hubert.
“Giving just a small assignment like this to their students can greatly improve learning in the classroom,” said St. Hubert.
Group projects are a common occurrence for college students. An efficient strategy to completing one would be to divide the work by assigning tasks or points to cover to a student with the matching strength. At the basis of research projects in general is gathering the actual content. Data curation has a great impact on this.
Having a PhD in History and working in an archive, St. Hubert related to the theme of “Digitizing the Americas.”
“My specific postdoc actually focuses on how do you make these library collections more accessible… even though you put stuff online, it doesn’t mean that it’s easily searchable…it’s important to aggregate that information together in a collection rather than people just trying to figure out how to use the search function and they might not be able to see everything that’s available because it’s not put together in a particular way or not coded or tagged specifically in a way for people to search it,” said St. Hubert.
St. Hubert began her work about six years ago, working as the associate editor for a digital humanities project, “Haiti: An Island Luminous,” by the Digital Library of the Caribbean and former PhD History student at FIU, Adam Silvia. “Haiti: An Island Luminous” is a tri-lingual website that combines rare books, manuscripts, and photos scanned by archives and libraries in Haiti and the United States with commentary by over one hundred (100) authors from universities around the world.
As she was earning her PhD, she worked with archives and experienced the Digital Library of the Caribbean when she did troubleshooting in Haiti for research in 2012.
“Now, 30 percent of their [Digital Library of the Caribbean] four million documents is Haiti related as a result of the intervention of scholars and specifically after the earthquake the need to make information from Haiti a little bit more accessible for Haiti scholars,” she said.
Digitizing media along with data curation will help future scholars and researchers more readily access archives and datas to contribute to research projects and more. Thanks to this, Cuba’s history is preserved in a structured fashion.
For students who want to learn more about the Digital Library of the Caribbean, you can email email@example.com.
Photo by Pietro Izzo on Flickr.