In 2009 I participated in an NEH-funded Institute at the University of Virginia, focusing on the exploration of geospatial technologies within humanities disciplines. Last week the Institute finally launched one of its deliverables, an online venue for further discussion and support of humanities-focused GIS and mapping projects.
The mix of elements on the sites reflects both the combination of voices heard at their two part Institute: one focused more for the developers, librarians, and support staff for (large) humanities projects, and the other on faculty themselves. Jo Guldi’s short essays on historical spatial turns evident throughout various disciplines is a nicely produced asset for the site, and I hope more discussion ensues. Though I myself contributed one of the Step-by-Step answers, I’m uncertain about the need for this section (since there are so many other venues for such information) and I wait to see what other contributions come forth.
What I also follow with keen interest is the balance between the use of open source and commercial tools by the GIS-focused DH communities. Geospatial OS software and applications require a certain commitment of dedicated effort and specialized knowledge, a surprisingly uncommon combination at many institutions. The use of commercial software by default requires no less effort, but most schools are more likely to have support staff knowledgeable in its use. NITLE has recently reinvigorated its Digital Humanities initiative, but small liberal arts schools are some of the least likely to have staff with competence and confidence to use geospatial OS tools. Go figure.