SAH Blog

  • Do 'the Risky Thing' in Digital Humanities by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

    Sep 27, 2011

    Last spring, I gave a talk on the digital future of scholarly publishing at the humanities center of a large research university. The crowd was small but engaged, and the discussion afterward was challenging and thoughtful. Near the end, however, a young woman asked a question that threw me for a second. "I'm a grad student and starting my dissertation," she said, "and while I want to do a digital project that would make my argument in an innovative form, I know the safe thing to do is to be conservative, to write something traditional and leave experimentation for later. What would you advise?"

    "Do the risky thing," I blurted, before my scruples intervened in the split second between phrases. My concerns went like this: I'm not her dissertation director; I don't want to create conflict in her progress toward her degree; I don't want to set up unreasonable expectations about what her department will actually support. And so my immediate qualification: "Make sure that someone's got your back, but do the risky thing."

    New forms of digital scholarship have received a great deal of attention across the humanities in the last few years, and from the coverage-in The Chronicle, The New York Times, and elsewhere-you would think the work had become prominent enough that it would no longer be necessary for a junior scholar to ask about the need to defend it. Digital humanities seem to have reached a critical mass of acceptance within academe, helped in no small part by groups like the Modern Language Association, whose past president, Sidonie Smith, is leading an investigation of future forms of the dissertation, and whose Committee on Information Technology is working on issues surrounding the review of digital scholarship for tenure and promotion. Yet such working groups are still working for a reason.

    Read the rest of this article as it originally appeared on The Chronicle of Higher Education (

    Go comment!
  • The Art of Advocacy: The Museum as Design Laboratory by Barry Bergdoll

    Sep 16, 2011

     Since 2007, when I ventured out of the academy to take  the reins of the Department of Architecture and Design at  the Museum of Modern Art, we have traversed an  unexpected set of economic, social and environmental  challenges in which the centrality of the design  professions has become manifestly clear, even as  larger forces - in which designers are too often complicit  - act to marginalize the disciplines of architecture,  landscape architecture, urban planning, design and the  fine arts. Having worked side-by-side with diverse  professionals, I am more than ever convinced that a  cooperative, multidisciplinary approach is fundamental to the future vitality of the field - and essential if designers are to contribute to solving the enormous problems of our day. At MoMA we have been trying to discover meaningful positions and prospects even as practitioners have been jolted into discussion of just where the moral compass should be set.

    The horizon of socioeconomic expectations - the matrix in which decisions were made and values assessed - of the early years of the new millennium seems distant today; new uncertainties prevail in the second decade of this now not-so-new century. What seemed a few years ago to be the emerging paradigms - the rapid maturation of digital fabrication, an explosion of new materials, a widespread acceptance of the priority of sustainability, a slowly reawakening ethos of social responsibility - are being submitted to intensive questioning from perspectives that are gaining daily in urgency.

    Continue reading "The Art of Advocacy: The Museum as Design Laboratory" on Places [at] Design Observer.

    Go comment!
  • European Heritage Days by Stephane Kirkland

    Sep 8, 2011

    In the early 1980s, the newly-arrived Socialist government, under the impetus of its Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, launched two events for mass access to culture. The first, in 1982, was the Fête de la Musique - since then, every year on June 21st, all sorts of people of various musical ability hit the streets and do their thing. The second, in 1984, was the Open House Days in France's historical monuments. This has gone on to be an extraordinarily successful event, now expanded to all of Europe and called the European Heritage Days, or Journées Européennes du Patrimoine.

    The JEP are a superb opportunity to raise awareness of our heritage and to visit many places that are ordinarily off limits. It is always impressive to see the enthusiasm with which people take part in this, with long lines in many locations and small groups trecking to visit some truly unusual locations in others.

    If you happen to be in France on the date (this year it will be September 17th and 18th) you should absolutely make it a point to do something special. You can search the fill list of locations, but here are some ideas:

    Fondation Eugène Napoléon
    : created at the initiative of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, designed by Jacques-Ignace Hittorff, it is usually not accessible. There is a chapel and gardens that are hidden from the street. 

    The Hôtel de Lauzun
     on the Île Saint-Louis is a place you would ordinarily not even notice, much less visit. Despite its discrete entrance, it is a seventeenth century residence designed by the great architect Louis Le Vau. The interiors are famous - there is a reproduction among the period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In the nineteenth century, Baudelaire and Gautier lived in this house - there will be readings of texts by Gautier for those waiting in line. 

    The Suez House was the property of the Suez company, which merged with Gaz de France a few years ago. It houses collections relating to the creation of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the visionary behind the canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps. Visitors will have access to the grand staircase, library, and board room and to the collections. There will be screenings of films about the canal and readings and games for kids. 

    In Paris, the Cité de Chaillot, the architecture museum, is organizing many activities, including a full schedule of events and screening.

    If you are elsewhere in France, you can visit the baths of Plombières-le-Bains, the villa of Achille Fould in Tarbes, or many other interesting - and ordinarily inaccessible - places.

    This concept has proven extraordinarily successful elsewhere: the English Heritage Trust organizes the immensely popular Heritage Open Days; the Tag des offenen Denkmals was the opportunity for 4.5 million people to visit Germany's monuments last year; and the Dutch Open Monumentendag is celebrating its 25th edition. It would be wonderful to see a similar large-scale celebration of our shared cultural heritage in the United States.


    This post originally appeared on

    Want to see your blog post on SAH Communities? Email Kara Elliott-Ortega at

    Go comment!