Visual Art and DH

I expressed two ideas in my proposal, both of which have been expressed in some form or another by others.

One, I am interested in the tools people use for digital projects and why they use them. The reason for this is that both I and the Programmer where I work are fairly new to the position and sometimes I feel like we are grasping at straws, recreating what others may have already figured out. I suspect that this may not take a session of its own, but will come out of talking to people and hearing about other’s projects.

The other thing I suggested was this:

I am really interested in visual (fine) art and the digital humanities. There was a session last year on fine art and the DH, which was only attended by myself and two others, but I had a great time. Since then, I’ve thought more about how fine art and art history might be supported by DH. I also blogged about the possibility of an artist in residence at a DH center, perhaps supported by the Fellowship at Digital Humanities Centers grant. I would love to hear what others think on this topic and would be very willing to do a little overview of what’s out there right now.

I’m not so sure about the overview part- partly because I have not had much time to research this in depth, and partly because my cursory look hasn’t turned up much. There seems to be a split between fine art and digital humanities centers. David Staley’s post, for instance, talks about a visually oriented humanities project- but the work (and the title of the post, even!) make me think “artwork” and “artist.” I find it really interesting that just about the same exact work could be “digital humanities” or “fine arts” depending on who is doing the work. The point was driven home during Lev Manovitch’s plenary speech at DH ’09. Manovitch os a Professor in the Visual Arts Department, and the kind of things his lab does could be considered both fine art and digital humanities. I’m interested in talking about the overlap, as well as how to involve artists in DH, not only in the areas they have been (maily web design) but also in more theoretical conceptual roles such as visualizations.

I’m not sure if this could stand on its own, or if it should be combined with a more general session on visualizations (which also seemed to be a hot topic at DH ’09).

5 Responses to “Visual Art and DH”

  1. David Staley Says:


    I was hoping to have exactly this conversation; thank you for articulating so much better than me! I decided to use the term “humanities-based imagist” because I don’t feel I have the qualifications to be called an “artist” (I do not have an MFA, for example), although I have been called an artist by a colleague here in the Art Department. Also, as one other blogger noted, “artist” has all sorts of other baggage tied to it. But at the very least, I was hoping that the installation would spark a conversation about the place for the visual in the (digital) humanities, especially since we have such a long and intractable tradition of being “people of the book.”

  2. Musebrarian Says:


    You might be interested in the work of Donna Cox, who is sort of an “artist in residence” at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) here in Illinois. Her work is particular focused on the role of artists in scientific visualization, but I could see how to extend the argument to the humanities.

    I’m also interested in this with regard to the collection dashboard (

  3. Musebrarian Says:

    Ooops, here’s a link to Donna Cox’s homepage…

  4. ghbrett Says:

    What a great topic! I’d like to participate too. Much to share and more to learn.

    BTW Donna Cox is a fantastic interdisciplinary catalyst as well as artist, scientist and nifty person.

    Oh, some art from my first computer on Flickr.

  5. ghbrett Says:

    Oops I meant to mention Donna created the concept of “Renaissance Teams” at NCSA to help scientists to do their research better. This page explains it a bit: