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USC Gets Funding Momentum for Digital Humanities

The University of Southern California (USC) has received $1.9 million to support research and expand its digital holdings in the humanities. The grant comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which specifically supports research universities and scholarship in the humanities as one of its funding areas.

The university has committed to investing a billion dollars in support of digital knowledge and informatics over the next 10 years.

The five-year grant will enable the institution to support four postdoctoral researchers and 10 Ph.D. students on two-year fellowships; the university will fund employment of an additional four postdocs. The money will also be spent on digitization and storage of research materials, best practices workshops, and undergraduate summer fellowships.

USC maintains the Digital Repository, which has a team for supporting large-scale digitization, imaging services, physical preservation, mass conversion of one media to another, cataloging systems, and design and deployment of software infrastructure. Participants that support the repository include members of the USC Libraries as well as its Digital Library, the USC IT Services group, and the Shoah Foundation. The latter makes audio-visual interviews with Holocaust survivors and people who have lived through genocide experiences. It includes 52,000 digitized, indexed, and searchable testimonials.

The university's School of Cinematic Arts is also immersed in digital media, with a specific focus on the use and future of media and digital technologies. "We are proud that this grant recognizes and provides support for the cutting-edge scholarship and media creation being done at our school, particularly for the Institute for Multimedia Literacy (IML), which benefits students across the entire university," said Elizabeth Daley, dean of the school. The IML was founded 15 years ago, sparked in a conversation with filmmaker George Lucas. The institute will soon offer a "digital humanities certificate" for students who complete at least three courses of four courses: Digital Media Workshop, Techniques of Information Visualization, Tangible Computing, and Digital Pedagogies.

In order to promote the spread of digital scholarship, the university said researchers whose work is supported through the Mellon grant will make their digital sources available to other scholars through the Digital Repository.

"We're at a really early phase," explained Peter Mancall, the grant's principal investigator and vice dean for the humanities in USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. "The digital humanities can embrace new ways of doing research. Part of doing this project will be to figure out what those ways actually are."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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