Five Good Qualities of a Good Digital Humanities Project

As we approach our final project, it is important to take time to understand what constitutes a good digital humanities (DH) project.

In order to find the most accurate descriptions of a quality DH project, the website digitalhumanities.org seemed like it would be a pretty credible source.

From this website:

1. Since Humanists study human artifacts, they are studying basically what it means to be human, as artifacts are produced by us, the humans. With this in mind, one must understand the difference between an artifact created intentionally, and an artifact created as a result of human activity. For example, any artistic work (novels, paintings, scores of music) are all results of human activity, as emotions of humans/events in human history create/influence these arts. Documents, court records, birth certificates, memoranda, sales receipts, deeds: these are all intentional man made artifacts.

A good DH project will differentiate these two, especially within an archive. This is important because when dealing with digital humanities it is important to preserve these attributes of which made it a humanity work in the first place.

When digitizing anything for the sake organizing many works into one source (example: archive), in my opinion it should be the author’s first priority to preserve the authenticity and human value of these works.

These next points are simply based upon my experiences with archives and other DH projects we have encountered this semester:

2. There should always be an explanation of the DH project. A bio about the author, an explanation of the purpose of the article, perhaps a short word about why the project was made should be included. This makes it easier for other DH scholars to understand the reason for the creation of such a project, and allows for more communication between the author and the reader. Communication is another benefit of all things DH, we are able to ask each other questions at the click of a send button as we never could in the past.

3. Search tools easily accessible. There’s nothing more frustrating then trying to find information on a DH project that you know is there, but the search option is just giving you the right results. Search tools should be able to identify key words typed into it, and where those words or phrases appear in the entire project itself.

4. Because DH is a lot about visual learning, aesthetics play a big part in the quality of a DH project, almost as much as the information quality. Aesthetics should be eye-catching, but not overwhelming, staying neat.

5. Descriptions for each work in an archive (using archive for example). Each work should have an explanation, description, relevance to the rest of the archive, and data cited (where its from, etc.). It is important to have all information concise and credible, or else the archive is obsolete.

DH Scholars can ask questions easily through the presence of all of these attributes mentioned. When information is given thoroughly, there is no need for questions that ask “But where is this information…” “How is this relevant?”

The absence of questions that are mundane and that shouldn’t have to be asked in the first place, can make room for questions that will progressively add to the constant DH conversation.

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