BLAIS Faculty Partner of the Year 2018-2019: Gale Kenny

April 30, 2018

The Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS) Communications Committee is pleased to announce the recipient of its fifth annual BLAIS Faculty Partner of the Year: Gale Kenny of the Religion Department. Kenny was nominated for her collaboration with many BLAIS Departments, including Archives, IMATS, Personal Librarians, and Columbia's Burke Library, in her creation of a digital humanities project of an archival collection from the Papers of Matilda Calder Thurston (1875-1958). Kenny connected with experts in the library who have professional specialization that connect to the core elements of the course's learning goals: developing archival skills, developing digital skills, producing content aimed at broad audiences, and evaluating issues related to the digital humanities.

This class engages inquiry focused on theoretical readings in gender, empire, and religion as well as monographs focused on the American missionary enterprise in China. Coordinating first with Elizabeth Call, the former Special Collections Outreach Librarian at Burke Library, Kenny developed a course syllabus with a focus on connecting students with staff, collections, and technology across the departments of the Barnard Library. Using the Papers of Matilda Calder Thurston, the class moved students through the intellectual lifecycle of a digital humanities project: beginning with the practice of critical engagement and interrogation of one's sources, to curating a corpus of materials, to considering the implications of intellectual property, to thinking about access and accessibility. Student selected and digitized documents, ascribed metadata to those documents, and ingested them into a platform where they could be contextualized, and experienced thematically or according to certain guiding questions. Student work for the project is in progress and available here.

The FPOTY Committee was impressed by Kenny's broad and sustained collaboration across so many different parts of BLAIS, and her demonstration of a more holistic model for digital humanities scholarship for both the faculty and the students in the class. BLAIS staff met with Kenny throughout the Fall 2017 semester to plan and support the course: Shannon O'Neill and Martha Tenney of the Archives worked with her to develop lesson plans around archives theory, research, and practice, as well as digitization and metadata; Martha Tenney and Corey Tegeler, TA, planned and taught lessons around digital platforms and projects, with planning assistance from Ben Rosner of IMATS; and Meredith Wisner, Research & Instruction Librarian for Art & Architecture, taught a class on intellectual property. Furthermore, Martha Tenney and Ben Rosner provided feedback on the syllabus and created the server and web infrastructure needed to support the project. Throughout the semester, they continued to help make digital tools and infrastructure available to students, and the Archives also assisted with the transfer of boxes, selected by students, from Burke to Barnard Library, to prepare them for students to digitize. Martha also instructed students on scanning procedures. Throughout the entire process, Gale and Corey contributed their own guidance and experience. 

Through this class, BLAIS staff were able to support the life cycle of a digital humanities project through sustained involvement, rather than only teaching a single workshop or instruction session. Corey Tegeler was included in the nomination and will also be recognized.

The award will be celebrated with a library exhibit and reception the coming academic year.