IATH's Tenth Anniversary

UDO presentation, 1/10/03

I. What we do at IATH

The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) was founded in 1993, with a three-year, $1.2M grant from IBM (mostly unix equipment, and one systems administrator) and a commitment of resources from the University of Virginia. The mission of IATH has always been to support faculty research in the humanities that uses information technology as an analytical tool. We have also always put a great deal of emphasis on scholarly communication--on sharing the results of research, over the Web. Since humanities research projects tend to take years to complete, we have also always placed a significant emphasis on non-proprietary data standards and on information architecture--in other words, on designing projects to survive rapid change in hardware and software, while still capturing and conveying the richest possible expression of the object of attention and what the scholar knows about it.

At present, we take one new fellow in residence each year, for a two-year residency. These fellows are UVa faculty in the humanities, and they are provided by their department with one half-year of teaching release during the two-year residency, and with student research assistants. IATH provides a direct budget of $10K/year to each fellow-in-residence project, and (more importantly) access to shared resources and staff. We also have associate fellows (no release time, no office space), and networked associate fellows (same)--in both cases, we work with the fellows as we can, and we emphasize grant-writing to enable sustained project support at a higher level.

Space for IATH is provided by the Library (we live in Alderman). The permanent budget comes from the Provost's office, and as director, I report to the Vice Provost for Research, though I also have an appointment in the English department, as an Associate Professor. The staff consists of ten people, including programmers, graphics and design experts, database and xml experts, administrative support, grant-writer and technical writer. IATH's technical infrastructure consists of about a terabyte of disk, half of which is on our main server, a four-processor Sun 420R. Other servers are, at this point, mostly Suns; we also run a dozen or so PCs (now mostly Windows 2000), an NT server and domain controller, and a half a dozen Macs, now mostly OSX. Nightly backups, security, and basic systems administration is provided by the campus computing organization (ITC); application and user support is provided by IATH staff.

Projects you may have heard of that have emerged from IATH include:

  1. The Rossetti Archive
  2. The William Blake Archive
  3. The Pompeii Forum project
  4. The Boston Backbay Fens Project
  5. The Valley of the Shadow
  6. The Walt Whitman Hypertext Archive
  7. Salem Witch Trials project
  8. The Samantabhadra Collection, part of The Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library

These projects and other at IATH come from humanities schools (arts and sciences, architecture, engineering, education) and departments (English, History, Religious Studies, Art, Architectural History, Landscape Architecture, Technology Communication and Culture, Curricular Development, etc.) across the university, in some case (Blake, Whitman) have been initiated by scholars at other universities (Rochester, UNC, UC-Irvine, William and Mary, Nebraska, Iowa), working with IATH through the network.

II. Outside recognition of this work

III. Impact at the University and Beyond

IATH has generated approximately $7 million in grant funding and gifts in kind during its ten-year history. Much of this funding has come from Federal agencies and private foundations, and has gone to support faculty research and teaching across the University. IATH has also given rise to, or assisted in, a number of related initiatives and programs at UVA in the field of humanities computing, including:

  1. the Virginia Center for Digital History
  2. the Electronic Imprint at the University of Virginia Press
  3. the new MA program in Digital Humanities, offered through the Media Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences
  4. in partnership with the Library's Digital Library Research and Development Group, IATH received a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its project called "Supporting Digital Scholarship." This work seeks to investigate technical and policy problems raised when libraries collect born-digital scholarly research.

IATH and the Electronic Text Center co-host the TEI Consortium (along with the University of Bergen's Humanities Information Technology Centre, Brown University's Scholarly Technologies Group, and Oxford University's Humanities Computing Unit). The Text Encoding Initiative is an international and interdisciplinary standard that helps libraries, museums, publishers, and individual scholars represent all kinds of literary and linguistic texts for online research and teaching, using an encoding scheme that is maximally expressive and minimally obsolescent.

IV. Planning the Tenth Anniversary

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Institute, we plan evaluate our past work and propose future directions for the field of humanities computing. To do this, we will hold a two-day symposium September 25th-27th, 2003. Representatives from academia, industry, government and foundations who have helped support the Institute or are engaged in humanities computing for research, education, and publication will be invited to help plan the event and to participate as speakers and panelists. The symposium will also be open to UVA alumni and individuals from other universities, cultural institutions, libraries, museums, and publishers. The symposium will offer an intellectual context for exploring cross-cutting issues including scholarly communication, electronic publishing, open-source software, and tools development for research and teaching.

The outcome of the symposium will be a long-range plan for future activities of the Institute, including the potential for development of new cooperative and collaborative activities with other universities and with national research centers, libraries, and museums.

We are particularly interested in attracting University alumni to this event, as our guests, and as a first step toward endowing the activities of the Institute and involving alumni more broadly in the full range of digital humanities activities at the University of Virginia.