Day of Digital Humanities and Public Land-Grant Institutions

I’m excited that tomorrow I’ll be participating in the Day of Digital Humanities (DH). The Day of DH is:

A Day of the Life of the Digital Humanities, an event where digital humanists from around the world document what they do. This year the event will be held March 27th, 2012. (Peter Organisciak)

My Day of DH blog is here and I’ll be cross-posting links from this blog as well. The Day of DH has been going on for several years, but tomorrow will be my first time participating. This is partly because I was overwhelmed from an interim administrative position for the past three years and partly because I didn’t “get” DH until recently. For quite a while, I understood DH to be rather narrowly defined and more in line with computing in the humanities than work in the public humanities and public scholarship more generally, which  greatly interests me. In the past couple of years, I’ve come to learn that this was my own skewed perspective and not an internal limitation of DH or the DH community by any means.
Once I understood DH broadly as the humanities in and for a digital age, I enthusiastically embraced it for what it does for the humanities, for public scholarship, and for academia as a whole. Now, I see my work on the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), the UF Digital Collections (UFDC), and many other works to establish, support, and enhance scholarly cyberinfrastructure as being defined and developed in and through the digital humanities.
In fact, one aspect of DH that most excites me is the ability to integrate and support the humanities in line and in conjunction with the work of land-grant institutions and public scholarship more generally.  The most recent alumni magazine for the University of Florida, Florida: the Magazine of The Gator Nation,  was delivered today and it has a quick interview with UF President Bernie Machen titled “Five Minutes with Bernie.” The interview starts with this quick introductory text:

What’s a land-grant university? And why should people care? UF President Bernie Machen*, who is heading the national anniversary celebration of the Morrill Act, offers a quick primer.

In the interview, President Machen provides a succinct and accurate overview. I’m a fan of public institutions and especially land-grant universities, and I share this at parties, over dinner, and really whenever I can find the opportunity to talk about land-grant institutions. I normally explain land-grant institutions as one of the foundations for democracy. UF has a more concrete description on its webpages, explaining under the “Service Mission and Cultural Impact” that:

As a land-, sea- and space-grant institution, UF is dedicated to serving the interests of society. (Facts and Rankings)

And, let’s not forget the “Did you know” note at the bottom of the same page:

The Gator Nation includes millions of people throughout the world – students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as sports fans and anyone who wishes to affiliate with the values and spirit of the University of Florida.

When I first heard the “Gator Nation” campaign, I felt the same way I did when I first heard “digital humanities” thinking it was not something I identified with nor would want to endorse. I was completely wrong on both. The “Gator Nation” campaign speaks to the University of Florida as a public, land-grant institution dedicated to scholarship, teaching, service, and the public good.  I’ve learned this in part through sports, where people would hear that I’m from Gainesville, Florida and/or UF and reply “Go Gators!” I’d ask when they attended or worked at UF and a typical response would be something like: “I never went to college, but I’m a Gator fan and that’s why my daughter went to UF. ” In these conversations, I’d often learn that the children of Gator fans were first generation college students who dreamed of going to UF because they connected to UF through sports or through one of UF’s many public service works with the UF-Shands hospital and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), which is a statewide service entity that is also connected to UF and has brought such resources to the public as (an amazing clearinghouse of rich information for all citizens).
These interactions and others  have shown me how much more there is to learn about academia and public scholarship, and how the Gator Nation ad campaign helps bring people together with academia for the creation of and maximum impact from public scholarship. I’m actively working to learn more about sports, agriculture, many other academic fields, and academia as a whole in order to better support academia and the humanities.
I’m very much looking forward to sharing my experiences during tomorrow’s Day of DH for all of the concerns directly related to the humanities, and especially for the concerns that may seem unrelated.