Curating the Digital Humanities: How to Save the Humanities With Just a Few Clicks

Curating the Digital Humanities:

How to Save the Humanities With Just a Few Clicks

by Mary Flanagan via “Ozy

Asian man in library looking at computer

“Save the books. And the film reels. The photos, the manuscripts, the letters, the maps.

These artifacts that fill our libraries threaten to sink into oblivion. But the good news? You can save them. As it turns out, the fate of media soon to be housed in the Digital Public Library of America lies in the hands of everyday Internet users, thanks to the power of crowdsourcing.  How? You just have to play (sic) little online games. 

These particular games just happen to add keywords to help organize media files like images, manuscripts, and more. Welcome to the future of digital curation: gamified Wikipedia.

The goal: to make printed words and imagery imminently findable once they’re moved from physical shelves to virtual ones. The British Library announced in 2012 that millions of cultural heritage artifacts could be effectively lost to the world if they were not put online — the photos and maps stored in boxes all around the world will simply be forgotten as we move further into our digitally connected age. 

For the generations who’ve grown up without the library as a core part of their lives, this mission might seem a strange one. But ever since the first libraries in ancient Southern Iraq started archiving clay cuniform tablets over five and a half thousand years ago, libraries have held each successive society’s greatest treasured documents and artifacts of learning and knowledge.

As vast as Google’s reach is, the mega-corp’s multiyear Book project has, to date, scanned only about 15 percent of the world’s books.

After the books and photos and manuscripts and home movies are scanned, all of that material must be labeled by name, type or category — along with a description with detailed words to help us find it. 

These archives have all the stuff Google doesn’t show you. . . . “