Ann Cunningham (Education), David Phillips (Humanities), and Lauren Pressley (Library Science and Instructional Design)

At Wake Forest, we’re getting ready to launch an experiment in creating an online digital library and archive that captures the essence of what’s happening out in the community. What are politicians saying? What are community groups doing? What are our local artists and performers into? What is happening in our broader creative community? What’s going on in different segments of our community, and how can our students access the events, meet the people, and document what they find in a digital format that is readily accessible through a web-based archive? What would such an archive look like, and how would it organize knowledge in ways that encourage creative thinking about knowledge and culture, while helping us to reshape our conceptions of how to order this knowledge? What if the actual recording in innovative formats and new ways of ordering helped us to envision knowledge and culture in new ways?

Secondly, what are the emerging technologies in library science and digital media studies that are useful in refining this vision. In providing our students with the tools to appropriately and creatively organize their material, students will need to think critically about relevant metadata and how to approach findability in this web-based format for storing video and audio multimedia archives? Just as importantly, how can the content be kept robust, but skillfully edited and packaged in ways that make it easily accessible to viewers, and what skills from documentary film making and editing can be incorporated into the process of creating content?

Stepping back a step from the production of material for this  library and its use as a resource, we are finding as we explore these questions that one of the keys to getting good results is to think about designing instructional sequences that scaffold inquiry, reflection, and expression. These instructional sequences could be courses or as large in scope as a full program of study. Sequenced and intentional integration of learning experiences with digital tools and many opportunities to express knowledge in digital formats can generate products for assessing student growth over time and provide a vehicle for them to develop their questions and support a reflective approach to web-based expression. These engaging and inspiring student products will be published and disseminated through the online digital library. This approach to instructional design facilitates inter disciplinary collaboration but not without challenges. Where are models of interdisciplinary collaborations on courses? On programs?

Finally, what role does the humanities play in shaping the nature of our investigations? What are the pressing questions to be asked, and how can humanistic pursuits be best depicted? What are the most effective ways to record and preserve our personal narratives, human interest stories, oral histories, and examples of our cultural, socio-economic, and regional diversity? How can the humanities inform the process of collecting information that keeps it personalized and that resists the tendency to generalize?

All of these questions are at the heart of our initiative to create a digital humanities library and archive of Winston-Salem, Piedmont-Triad, and North Carolina culture, the arts, and social issues. We think, based on our initial discussions, that a better understanding of process is key to the pursuit of answers to these questions, and to clarifying our goals in creating a digital library.