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Digital scholarship pioneer to speak

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Stewart Varner, digital scholarship coordinator for DiSC, and graduate students Robyn Pariser (standing) and Sarah Melton view DiSC's introductory page of one of its first four projects, Commonwealth: A Postcolonial Studies Community.

The Research Commons in Emory University’s Robert W. Woodruff Library will celebrate its grand opening with a talk by University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers, a noted American South historian and digital scholarship pioneer who founded his university’s Digital Scholarship Lab.  

Ayers will speak at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the Jones Room, on the third floor of the library. The talk will be followed by a reception in the Research Commons, also on the third floor. Both events are free and open to the public. 

“We’re hoping that this lays the groundwork for reaching out to our peer centers at other schools to create relationships with them,” says Brian Croxall, Emory Libraries’ emerging technologies librarian and a CLIR postdoctoral fellow in Emory’s Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) within the Research Commons. DiSC was funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

“We also want people to know that Emory faculty have been engaged in digital scholarship for a while,” Croxall adds. “We have projects like Origins and Voyages and Southern Spaces; we’re not just starting from scratch.”  

Ayers, a professor and scholar of American history, has been a longtime advocate of innovation in higher education. His Valley of the Shadow project, which he began while at the University of Virginia, had significant impact not only in his field of interest but also on digital scholarship as a whole. The project strives to make academic research more approachable for the general public by combining the latest technology with hundreds of historical documents detailing the lives of those living in Augusta County, Va., and Franklin County, Pa. It was one of the first digital humanities projects to integrate the World Wide Web, and Ayers is widely considered a pioneer in the field of digital scholarship.  

The Research Commons in the Woodruff Library, which had a soft opening in October, allows graduate students and faculty members to work on multidisciplinary projects that integrate scholarship with technology and new forms of media, with assistance from a community of scholars and DiSC staff members. The Research Commons is staffed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the space will be available by card access after hours.  

Several DiSC team members currently work as project managers and assist professors from a variety of fields with different projects. The Lynchings in Georgia Project, for example, combines technology with professor Roberto Franzosi’s extensive catalog of information from newspaper articles concerning lynchings in Georgia from 1875-1930. The project aims to create an interactive web interface that will allow people to gain a broader understanding of the material.  

In addition, DiSC will host workshops, guest speakers and bi-weekly round table discussions throughout the year.  

Woodruff Library is located at 540 Asbury Circle on the Emory campus in Atlanta, 30322. Parking is available in the Fishburne Deck.

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