‘Transformational Learning Space’ Project Wins Grant Funding
New Digital Humanities Center in King Library Set to Open in 2026
Two alumnae of the School of Information at San José State University, who are also current faculty members, helped win the university a major grant to fund a Digital Humanities Center at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Ann Agee, interim dean for the King Library, and Christina Mune, associate dean of innovation and resource management for the King Library, are co-directors of the project with Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities.
Agee, ’08 MLIS, and Mune, ’11 MLIS, worked together with Anh Ly, development director for the King Library, to put together the winning proposal submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities after an initial rejection in 2019. They received a $375,000 challenge grant at the end of 2020, which means that the NEH will match every dollar raised for the project up to $375,000. Project organizers have already begun raising money and fundraising will continue over the next five years for a total of $750,000. The NEH grant marks a milestone in the Digital Humanities Center project, which has been brewing since 2018. Agee says organizers look forward to the center’s grand opening on King Library’s first floor in 2026.
“The Digital Humanities Center is designed to be a transformational learning space for SJSU’s faculty and students with a long-term impact on research, teaching, and learning,” says Agee, who sees libraries as a natural collaborator with digital humanities. The project’s website describes the digital humanities field as the point “where the values of the humanities meet digital methods from fields such as software design, gaming and mapping.”
The future center will function as a sort of academic makerspace, putting powerful analytic tools in the hands of humanist scholars working in a variety of disciplines, tools that will allow them to harness digital technologies for their research. Project directors envision a range of dazzling potential uses, from visualizations of archeological sites in 3-D, to the creation of maps that connect Native American languages and land use to contemporary wildfire management. Agee says the center will also provide online training in using new digital tools, as well as workshops on topics such as the ethical use of data and digital pedagogy.
“Digital humanities techniques, such as text mining and mapping projects, depend on the archives and collections curated by librarians,” says Agee, whose own research has used data mining and textual analysis. As an example of just one aspect of the center’s promise, Agee describes how the new center will offer tools that speed up the text mining process, and will also train researchers in the technique. “In addition to cleaning up the data used, a big part of text mining is properly interpreting the results,” says Agee. Staff at the center will provide workshops on both.
In its use of technology to augment scholarship and its emphasis on digital pedagogy, the new Digital Humanities Center will exemplify practices Agee absorbed during her time at the iSchool. “The iSchool’s willingness to innovate and explore new fields of knowledge has provided an example to follow in moving library services into the future,” she says.
Organizers have raised over $16,000 for the project so far, two-thirds of the way to their current goal of $25,000 by July 7. Consider contributing to the fund to help make the Digital Humanities Center a reality.