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Reflection: Laurie Taylor and Hélène Huet

Institute co-directors Dr. Laurie Taylor and Dr. Hélène Huet (University of Florida Libraries) share on their role in designing and planning the institute and its impacts.


Our involvement in planning and co-leading the NEH Digital Humanities Institute draws on a wealth of existing collaborative experience and deeply shared goals. All three of us are passionate about supporting our home communities, which include among others Caribbean literary, Digital Humanities, and library professionals. The NEH Institute grew out of our collaborations and work in Caribbean Studies. For example: 

  • Laurie started with dLOC over a decade ago as the Technical Director, moving into the Digital Scholarship Director role specifically to build on dLOC’s existing infrastructure and collections, to enable new ways of researching and teaching in the digital age. 
  • Hélène, as Chair of and the Florida Digital Institute Consortium (FLDH), has worked on highlighting the various digital projects done in the state of Florida, such as dLOC, both on the FLDH website or via conferences and recorded webinars.
  • Institute co-director Dr. Leah Rosenberg has led library collaborations for Caribbean Studies, including serving on the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) Scholarly Advisory Board for over a decade.  
Hélène Huet (left) and Laurie Taylor (right) at podium

Through our various collaborations with different groups of people over the years, the most common requests for help we heard were: 

  • Finding specific items for digitization 
    • Often resulting in items being found and digitized; and often a bit of community building, with recommendations to contact another or a couple of others who are working on the same period, author, place.
  • Receiving training and technical assistance
    • dLOC’s technical team supports partners in digitization and digital curation technical needs, but we previously had an adhoc response to training, with webinars and one-off sessions, sometimes embedded in particular projects or events

In addition, people often shared with us how much they’d love  to have an in-person institute that would bring together scholarly, teaching, and library (and archives and all collections) expertise, focusing on the Caribbean and Digital Humanities.

Thus, we decided to design the Institute based on the grounded discussions with collaborators on what they saw as being needed, and on what we knew matched their needs in terms of technologies for teaching and research. We also wanted to make sure that the technologies we introduced would be available and usable by everyone, no matter where they lived or which institution they worked at, which means we focused on free, stable, useful technologies with productive applications to teaching and research. 

We expected a good level of interest, and that we would be able to find 26 participants as planned, even though the Institute was in Gainesville, Florida–also known as the Swamp–in the summer, with dorm accommodations and without the conveniences of a city. Surprisingly, we received over 100 applications and were overwhelmed by seeing the  fantastic work by so many people, some who are long connected and some who were new to us.

During the Institute, the engagement was incredible. We learned from and with so many amazing people. Our collective learning spanned specific applications (e.g., technologies, classes, assignments) and broad understanding of how we can best support our work together as a community of practice, to undertake changed work for individual and community good. We have read the participant reflections with joy and appreciation. We give thanks to the wonderful teams of folks supporting and taking part in dLOC and the Institute. Thanks to all for great work, and we are excited to see the things to come!

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