A Digital History of Morningside Heights: Columbia’s Developing Librarian Project

In July 2013, the Humanities and History team at Columbia University Libraries announced a new project to reskill librarians for digital scholarship in a post on dh+lib. Now, the Developing Librarian team has announced the launch of their collaborative project, Morningside Heights Digital History, an Omeka-based online exhibit. We’ve reproduced their announcement below as a follow-up to that initial post, to close the loop on one library’s efforts to “bridge the gap between IT and subject librarianship.” —the Editors

Two years ago we in the Columbia University Libraries for the Humanities & History Division announced a professional development program. In our first iteration of the Developing Librarian project or, as we refer to it on social media, the #devlib project, our goal was to build a common project using an adaptation of the Praxis model for professional librarians. Today, the Developing Librarian team is proud to announce the launch of our site, Morningside Heights Digital History, or MHDH.

After an initial round of “introductions” to the technologies and skills needed to design our site, we divided into teams: design, editorial, management and development. For a more detailed breakdown of our different roles visit our credits page. The project was built on the Omeka platform, using the Neatline plugin for the interactive map and an interactive tour of the Butler Library Mural, and the Exhibit Builder for our different exhibits. We chose the Berlin theme, and modified it to suit our needs. The research was done individually, but we shared bibliographic and archival resources. We documented the process throughout on our Developing Librarian blog.

When we set out to do this as a team, we wanted to accomplish much: to expand our ability to support and consult in digital humanities, to hone our research skills, to bridge the gap between IT and subject librarianship, and to bond as a team by sharing a common project. We feel we have accomplished all of these and more. In particular, we find all aspects of our work as a team have benefited from developing a project together. Learning to build consensus around difficult issues will have a lasting effect on all we do in the libraries and on campus.

We have many people to thank for this project: our technology team and library administrators in the Columbia University Libraries, who have seen the importance of flexibility in the technical infrastructure for our training efforts. We are also appreciative of all the conversations and feedback from colleagues at many universities, including University of Indiana, University of Minnesota, University of Virginia, University of Florida, New York University, and Duke University.

Following this first phase of our project, we will continue our professional development through a series of targeted training sessions for and by our team and others at Columbia University Libraries. We will continue to share what we learn on our blog. We have grown as individuals and as a team during the past three years of this project. In the next phase, we will expand this model to enhance our own research (for example, one team member will be using digital tools to assess variant versions of an unpublished play by Tennessee Williams), following a model pioneered by Trevor Muñoz and MITH in their Digital Humanities Incubator for libraries.We will also be partnering with faculty to create and co-teach digital labs attached to traditional humanities courses, to improve our digital pedagogical skills. We have always emphasized process over product in this training, but we are excited to share our web exhibit and this model for future professional development at Columbia and elsewhere.

Humanities and History Team

The Humanities and History team collects in a range of subjects in the Humanities at Columbia University, provides research consultation to faculty and students, and conducts research related to librarianship or the humanities. The Digital Humanities Center at Columbia University is part of H&H.