Thursday, August 12, 2010

Greetings from the Delaware Humanities Forum

As summer intern at the Delaware Humanities Forum, my primary duty is to help publicize and develop a consortium for our Delaware Industrial History Initiative in the Digital Humanities (DIHI). With support from the "We the People" program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, DHF has made grants available to nonprofit organizations for digitization projects related to Delaware's industrial past. We are currently working to construct a federated search engine that will allow researchers and educators to access the collections of participating organizations via a central platform. Our request for a second round of DIHI funding from NEH has just been approved, so we are also in the process of recruiting potential grant applicants and inviting them to join our consortium. We have DIHI planning meetings scheduled in each of Delaware’s three counties during the month of September. Consortium members from New Castle County will meet in the Community Service Building in Wilmington to discuss how the digital platform might benefit their repositories. Similar meetings will occur in Kent County at the Delaware Public Archives and in Sussex County at the Milton Historical Society. The purpose of the meetings is to ensure that the digital platform best serves the needs of nonprofit organizations featuring humanities content. More information about the Delaware Industrial History Initiative is available at the DHF website.

In addition to assisting with DIHI, I have taken on the task of digitizing our own collections. DHF houses a variety of materials related to programs and events that we have sponsored since our founding in 1973. Among these materials are: photographs from the release of If You Lived Here You Would Be Home Now, a film about Delaware artist Jack Lewis and his longtime residence, Bridgeville; photographs from several Annual Chautauqua Tent Shows, when they were hosted by DHF; 18 mm reels of films on Pennsylvania German art and rural life, sturgeon fishing on the Delaware, the town of Lewes, and the Chesapeake Bay; slides of the Felton, Houston, and Leipsic Heritage Programs; cassette tape recordings of the Art Furniture Symposium at the Delaware Art Museum; and dozens of VHS tapes of DHF-funded films. These items need to be properly stored and preserved in digital formats.

When I am not working on either of these projects, I am helping with the planning and execution of other DHF programs and events. We recently hosted a Grant Application Writing Workshop at the Kirkwood Library, where representatives from various nonprofit agencies gathered to learn more about our current grant programs and how to apply for them. Agents from nearly thirty organizations—including Winterthur, Hagley, the Delaware Art Museum, WHYY, the Newark and Port Penn Historical Societies, and UD’s Museum Studies and Department of English—turned out for this event. The workshop explained the mission of the Delaware Humanities Forum, answered questions about our application process, and provided a unique networking opportunity for Delaware’s nonprofit and academic communities. DHF holds workshops like this one periodically throughout the year.

Another DHF public program is our Annual Lecture. I am excited to report that we recently confirmed the details of our lecture for 2010. National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach will visit the campus of Delaware State University on Tuesday, November 9th. The festivities will include an 11 a.m. lecture and meet-and-greet opportunities. Chairman Leach will visit Delaware as part of his 50-state “American Civility Tour,” a nationwide initiative to promote awareness of the need for civility in public discourse. "Civilization requires civility," Leach maintains. “Words matter. Polarizing attitudes can jeopardize social cohesion.” Leach began his four-year term as NEH chairman in August 2009 after serving for 30 years as a congressman representing southeastern Iowa, where he founded and co-chaired the Congressional Humanities Caucus.

For up-to-date information about DHF programs and events, find us on Facebook, and visit our homepage to sign up for our e-news.

Melanie Scriptunas
English Department
University of Delaware