Oct. 10-23, 2003
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IATH symposium eyes past and future

By Charlotte Crystal

So many challenges. So little time. Scholars, librarians, publishers and computer wizards gathered in Newcomb Hall on Sept. 25-26 to celebrate a decade of achievement by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

“IATH is a remarkable pioneering effort,” said Donald Waters, program director with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and one of the panelists at the anniversary symposium, “A Decade of Digital Scholarship.”

It also embodies the characteristics needed for success, according to Waters, in particular, its development by scholars dealing with significant intellectual problems, working in collaboration with other scholars, and creating products of significant intellectual merit.

An image from IATH's Dante Gabriel Rosetti archive, edited by U.Va. Professor Jerome McGann.

An image from IATH's Dante Gabriel Rosetti archive, edited by U.Va. Professor Jerome McGann.

Web sights:
Examples of some of IATH’s best-known projects include the Crystal Palace, an animated tour of the Crystal Palace included in a Museum of London exhibit:

http://jefferson.village.virginia. edu/london/model/animation.html;
the William Blake Archive, which includes text and drawings by the English artist and author:
http://www.blakearchive.org/; and the Rossetti Archive, a collection of Gabriel Dante Rossetti’s artistic and literary work: http://jefferson.village. virginia.edu/rossetti/

Deanna Marcum, associate librarian of Congress, noted the contributions of John Unsworth, founding director of IATH, and Karin Wittenborg, University librarian, to the program’s success.

“They saw the possibilities for IATH long before others saw them,” Marcum said. “They pushed the boundaries of new work, creating new problems and forging collaboration between individuals and institutions in the United States and abroad.”

Founded in 1992 with a grant from IBM and support from the University, IATH is recognized as an international leader in new applications of information technology in the humanities and social sciences. The program provides scholars with the tools and techniques needed to produce electronic contributions in the humanities and social sciences. Projects range from architectural history to literature and film.

In his keynote address, Jerome McGann, John Stuart Bryan University Professor, noted that IATH served as a catalyst for electronic change at U.Va., sparking such initiatives as the electronic imprint at the University of Virginia Press.
And it has served to point out the many challenges that lie ahead.

“We are moving into a new era when the real problems are philosophical,” said Stanley Katz, director of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University and president emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies.

These challenges include developing a new understanding of publications. “In the electronic age, what is a publication?” Katz asked. And when online “publications” can be added to by multiple authors and altered over the years, he continued, “When are they finished?”

There are academic and legal questions that need to be answered, such as those relating to peer review of electronic publications and ownership of intellectual property, said Mick Gusinde-Duffy, manager of the Electronic Imprint for the University of Virginia Press.

And there are technical problems that need to be solved, including creating user-friendly ways to access huge databases, said Michael Jensen, director of publishing technologies for the National Academy Press.

Addressing the gathering of IATH staff and supporters, Marcum said: “It’s less important that you have solved the problems than that you have recognized the issues.”


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