Classes on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus began on Monday. There were a few snafus on campus. Word is that the power went out in several buildings. I avoided the chaos of the first day by staying at home and taking a nap. My semester began on Tuesday with TA duties and a graduate seminar. On Wednesday my other class met, and I must admit that I’m excited for what lies ahead. The last few weeks were a little frustrating for me. As I’ve written about before, I’ve been trying to pull together my third field and schedule one more class. After today, I can happily report that I have done both.
This morning I met with the director of Purdue’s “Center for Digitalization.” It was a good meeting. Following the meeting I tweeted as much:
my meeting with the Digital Humanities guy went really well. Purdue is kind of in the same situation I am: trying to find their way.—
A. D. McGregor (@admcgregor3) August 22, 2012
Of course, it’s not exactly the same as me. Purdue definitely has the resources and the connections to do a lot more, but they seem to be exploring options. We’re a member of several cool things like HATHiTrust, which allows us to get training from them and have special access to do different types of non-public data searches in their collections. They’re playing around with different technologies and software. We have a digitization lab with all the scanners and stuff. They’re hiring a new GIS person. And lots more cool things I can’t remember.
The problem is that they’re also sort of disorganized, or at least not all that connected. Purdue is mostly a science school, so we do a lot of digital stuff for them. We’re a tech school, so we have all that stuff too. But he mentioned that the humanities folks have been slow to come on board (shocking, I know!). But the humanities folks also use digital tech differently, unlike science, we’re not about data/experiment validation. Instead use it many different ways. We’ve had a few people do some cool stuff. An anthropology professor has mapped out some of his archeological digs and paired them with photographs of his finds. A communications professor developed a method to visualize “mental maps” using GIS and 3D imaging (I don’t even know how, but it seems super cool). Of course, the library and archives has also worked on digitalizing some collections and creating a few online exhibits, too. So stuff is being done, but its diverse and disconnected. The Digitalization Center provides support, but didn’t seem like it was quite a hub.
For me, this news is mostly good. It means we have what I am looking for, and, after a 30 minute chat, I’ve identified someone who can help me. The tentative plan is for me to do an individual readings in the spring for my prelims (and probably take a New Media class from the Comp/Rhet folks). After that, I want to stay active and hopefully develop a project so I can build my portfolio. He also mentioned that they sometimes have funding for TA/RAs. While I’m not concerned about that now, most students take longer than the guaranteed 4 years to finish their degree so long range it could be nice. Overall, I came away very excited and much more relaxed about everything.
As for my third class, coming into the semester I hoped to either take a class in DH or in Native American history, but for one reason or another neither is going to happen. Instead, because I’m required to take 3 classes and our course offerings are pretty limited, I’ll be doing an independent study with my major professor. Our readings will focus on college football but we may mix in other stuff depending on how much other stuff he thinks I need for my prelims. I’m excited about the football topic because it will give me a great head start on building a context for my dissertation. He also hinted that he might have me help him a bit on his book, which is about college football.
Every semester my goal is to make longterm progress. Planning out my next semester was a really important to me. My two seminars checking the last of my required classes before prelims. These seminars also directly related to my teaching and research. One of them is over the U.S. and the World. It’ll help me on my exams and broaden my understanding of U.S. history for when I start teaching. The other seminar is on Autobiography and Memoir. While it is framed around European history, it’ll be as much a methods and source criticism as a reading seminar. This will be really useful for me because the professor is giving us leeway to bring in our own work and one of the major source bases for my proposed dissertation topic is autobiographical (ghost written) magazine articles. Learning about the different methods, approaches, and issues involved in using them will greatly enhance my project.
Beyond the day-to-day life of classes and TA work, I’m taking the show on the road and presenting at two professional conferences this fall. In September I have Film & History in Milwaukee, WI. My paper is entitled “Avoiding the Hollywood Indian: Billy Mills and the Creation of Running Brave.” It builds off my MA thesis research and talks about Mills’ role in the creation of the film about his life. My other presentation is a month later at the Midwest Popular Cultural Associationin Columbus, OH. I’ll be testing new ideas based on more recent research there. Im trimming down a paper I did last spring about football coaches Pop Warner, A.A. Stagg, and Knute Rockne and their anxieties about big-time sports. I gave it a rather clumsy title — “1920s Football Coaches, Reluctance, and the Rise of Modern America” — but it’s mostly a work-in-progress at this point anyway. I’d like to eventually turn it into some sort of article.
There’s lots to keep me busy for the next few months. As MGMT reminds us, “yeah, it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do? Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?” No thanks.
One final programming note: I promise not to neglect this space. Keep an eye out for a future posts about my vaguely alluded to dissertation topic. I’m also planning on sharing some of my book reviews and doing more pieces similar to the ones I posted before MOOCMOOC invaded my life.