On Humanities Data

Miriam Posner:

I just want to say at the outset that there are people who specialize in humanities data curation, and I am not one of those people. A number of talented people, including Trevor Muñoz at the University of Maryland and Katie Rawson at the University of Pennsylvania, have started to take a very programmatic look at the data-curation needs of digital humanists. And I encourage you to check out their important work. But you don’t have Trevor or Katie; you have me! So what I can do is share my own perspective and experience on what it means to work with data as a humanist, and where libraries can help.

I’ll start with an anecdote, and I think that anyone who consults on digital humanities projects will be familiar with this scenario. Humanities scholars will sometimes describe elaborate visualizations to me, involving charts and graphs and change over time. “Great,” I respond. “Let’s see your data.” “Data?” they say. “Oh, I don’t have any data.”