Meet the Directors: Professor Janet Jakobsen Introduces The Milstein Center’s New Digital Humanities Center

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The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning at Barnard College will be a new academic hub in the heart of campus bringing students and faculty together, facilitating collaboration, and fostering dialogue. The Milstein Center will provide a diverse range of innovative and essential resources that reflect the connections that lie at the core of Barnard’s educational philosophy. The 128,000-square-foot building has innovative facilities and classrooms including a new library, a new home for the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, and seven academic centers to support students and faculty in pedagogy, media, data analysis, movement, design, and pioneering science research. 

The Diana T. Vagelos and P. Roy Vagelos Digital Humanities Center (DHC) is a research, teaching, and learning facility designed to foster technological approaches to the humanities. Here, Janet Jakobsen—the Claire Tow Professor and Chair of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, former director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), and the Digital Humanities Center’s interim faculty director—discusses digital humanities at Barnard.

How will technology and the humanities intersect at the DHC?

The humanities have always been connected to technology—from the first technologies of writing to the development of the book to explorations of different artistic technologies, such as painting or photography. The DHC will ask: How can new digital technologies help us teach and do research in new ways, and what impact do these new technologies have on how students learn and produce knowledge? The DHC will provide support for research on the humanistic implications of digital technologies and for exploring the relationship between digital and analog scholarship.

The Versailles GardensThe Digital Humanities Center represents the crystallization of recent and exciting digital projects. For example, the Committee on Online and On-Campus Learning (COOL), established in 2012, connected digital approaches to teaching and research with the extraordinary education offered at Barnard. The unique possibilities offered by undertaking digital projects in New York City were explored in a COOL project led by Laurie Postlewate, senior lecturer in French, which connected digital renderings of the Versailles Gardens with the work of the New York Baroque Dance Company.

Another COOL project, the Digital Shange Project, was a collaboration among Kim F. Hall, Lucyle Hook Professor of English and Professor of Africana Studies, the Barnard Archives, and the BCRW. This project creates connections between faculty research and student learning, between students and an illustrious Barnard alumna, Ntozake Shange ‘70, and online engagement with worldwide scholarship, some of which is published in “The Worlds of Ntozake Shange.” The Barnard Teaches: Real Place + Digital Access program took up the opportunities of a liberal arts education in New York, allowing the Digital Shange project to connect students to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Through another Barnard Teaches project, Ann Whitney Olin Professor and Art History Chair Anne Higonnet’s history course, “A Virtual Enlightenment,” took students behind the scenes of a room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to study objects. Students

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