Institute co-director Dr. Leah Rosenberg (Department of English, University of Florida) traces the development of the program from conception to fruition.
The seeds for the NEH institute were sown in 2012 by Professor Rhonda Cobham-Sander when she suggested that we design and teach a course—across multiple campuses—dLOC would support and that would center on materials in dLOC. Faculty and librarians at the University of West Indies (Cave Hill), Amherst College, the University of Miami, and the University of Florida collaboratively designed and taught Panama Silver, Asian Gold, Migration, Money, and the Making of the Modern Caribbean, a course designed to enhance and bring visibility to dLOC’s collections on post-emancipation migration in the Caribbean. The experience felt like a first step in building a community of scholars, librarians, and students in Caribbean studies and digital humanities.
To build this community, we organized two panels on teaching with Caribbean digital libraries at the West Indian Literature Conference in 2016; there we discussed needs and priorities for Caribbean studies scholars engaged in DH. Audience members asked for a NEH institute. In the following year, we built on these discussions by organizing “Collaborating Across the Divide: Digital Humanities and the Caribbean,” a conference to bring together scholars and artists from the Caribbean and the United States to discuss how to collaborate through digital humanities in ways that decolonize knowledge and empower Caribbean subjects. Participants, again, suggested an NEH institute and by this time we had accumulated the necessary experience and support to undertake the much larger project of organizing an NEH summer institute. We had started with two of us, Rhonda and I at a hotel restaurant by the sea in Guadeloupe; the course involved six organizers; the roundtables seven; the conference had 11 speakers; the Institute would have over forty participants and presenters. For me, the first satisfaction and surprise of the institute was reading the applications. We had over 100 applications and all were highly qualified, involved in innovative and high-quality digital humanities work in Caribbean studies and they were working all over the country and indeed the world. The community was so much larger than we had imagined.