I recently began a new position with Getty Publications as their 2014-2015 Graduate Intern. Among other things, I will be working under Greg Albers, the Digital Publications Manager, to implement a number of exciting digital projects within the department. This includes writing for Beyond the Printed Page. Before diving into the world of digital publishing, I’d like to introduce myself by explaining who I am and how I got here.
First, my name is Stephanie Grimes. I’m a recent MA graduate who planned to pursue a profession in Classical Art History and Archaeology. Unintentionally, a collection of graduate training, innovative conversations, digital projects, and limitless caffeine led me down the road of digital humanities.
In 2012 I was more than half-way through my masters degree, working full-time as the School Operations Manager for an inner-city school in Washington, DC, and had just over ambitiously registered for Clio II: a course focused on using new media to present scholarly research.
“What does building a website have to do with Art History?”
In 2012 it seemed like everyone was asking me this question but I received my Master’s from George Mason University and as the home institution for the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, the History and Art History Masters program places a particular interest in training their students on both the theory and practices of the digital humanities.
Clio II was both the meanest and best thing that I did for myself in graduate school. The course covered everything from the key elements of web design, to the mechanics of Photoshop, learning HTML and CSS, to rewriting and presenting academic scholarship in a way that is more inviting and engaging for website visitors than a term paper. I will admit that having had no prior knowledge of the fields listed above, this class almost broke me. Luckily, I was in-love with my subject matter and I wanted to present my scholarship in the best possible light. This was my inspiration for learning digital languages and tools. By the end of the semester I was quite proud of the digital platform I created yet one lingering question haunted me, after all of that work: Did anybody else actually care about Dionysian Sarcophagi?
With these thoughts in mind I shrugged off the question, put a mental “check box” next to one more requirement and tried to move on from the world of coding.
A year later while meeting with my advisor, Carol Mattusch, to discuss life after graduate school, we began talking about a prospective digital project. She had been working for ten years with students and colleagues to acquire, clean, and research over 60 plaster casts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was interested in creating a digital platform that would not only catalogue the casts but also showcase the 10-year project while promoting future scholarship and student participation. One thing led to another and I was hired to bring this project to life. With ten years worth of images and scholarship I had free range to use the information as I saw fit. To put it mildly, I became obsessed with this project. Staying up to all hours of the night, designing and re-designing pages, writing and re-writing text, fidgeting with the html, editing images in Photoshop, all with one thought in mind: I wanted to build something that would convince site visitors to love the GMU Plaster Cast Project as much as I did. It was this dialogue with the anonymous public that reshaped my understanding of digital media and what it could do for scholarship. Was it Digital Art History, web-design, or the digital presentation of academic information? I couldn’t say, but I was hooked.
After completing the GMU Plaster Cast website I was hungry to learn more about creating digital content in a way that was both engaging to the public and useful for scholars so I began auditing Clio III: a GMU graduate level class that examined the practices of digital public history. For my final project I approached the curator of a small archaeology museum about increasing the museum’s digital presence through a website that could showcase their collection of 19th-century American stoneware. One of the most fulfilling aspects of this project was choosing a WordPress platform that was both cost-effective and user-friendly so that the project could sustain itself after I left the museum.
It had been just two years since I’d taken my first digital humanities course but the field of Digital Art History seemed to be sprouting up out of nowhere through blog posts, THATCamps, call for papers, and funding opportunities. At the end of the semester my instructor approached me about working with CHNM for the summer as a Research Associate. The center hosted two digital workshops:
Working at these “digital boot camps” allowed me to enhance my own digital skills while gaining an academic perspective about where the field of digital humanities is going and how it affects both Art Historians and Historians.
My digital projects have varied from presenting strictly scholastic information, to showcasing the academic work of others, to virtually promoting hidden collections in a museum, to teaching academics the digital tools and developing theories around the field of digital humanities. It is here that I have arrived at the door of Getty Publications and I am quite excited to see how the year unfolds as I focus my energy on the world of digital publishing.