What is the Scholars’ Lab?
How can the Scholars’ Lab fit into my work? What does the Scholars’ Lab do?
Can you build me a thing?
Can we collaborate?
What academic fields do you support?
How does the Lab fit into the UVA Library?
Who are the scholars in “Scholars’ Lab”?
I’ve heard that “people over projects” is a Scholars’ Lab motto. What does that mean? Do you do projects?
Where are you?
How do I contact you?
How was this website made?

What is the Scholars’ Lab?

Scholars’ Lab is the UVA Library’s lab for the practice of experimental scholarship in all disciplines, informed by digital humanities, spatial technologies, and cultural heritage approaches.

We offer mentoring, collaboration, and a safe and supportive community experience for anyone curious about learning to push disciplinary and methodological boundaries through new approaches. We’re foremost a space for learning together—about anything—by trying stuff. Think of us as friends and colleagues who can help you teach yourself new ways of approaching your interests.

We are an internationally recognized scholarly team, with strengths including:

  • the digital humanities (as a founding member of Centernet, an international network of digital humanities centers)
  • GIS, mapping, & other spatial technologies
  • cultural heritage informatics (including photogrammetry, scanning, and modeling of artifacts and historic architecture; and exploring virtual reality and augmented reality approaches to this data)
  • pedagogy, training, & mentorship in the digital humanities and spatial technologies, practiced with our 40-55 formally supported students each year (plus additional, informal support of students via consultation & public programming)
  • research & development (e.g. programming and design)
  • makerspaces and making as scholarship
  • librarianship (e.g. expert consultation for experimental scholarly projects)

The SLab hosts events (like workshops and a popular lecture series) in our library spaces, and helps to train and mentor the next generation of digital humanities scholar-practitioners through our Graduate Fellowships in Digital Humanities and innovative Praxis Program. We are a founding member of centerNet, a worldwide alliance of digital humanities centers, and of the international Praxis Network, which takes its name from our fellowship program here at UVa.

We capture the Scholars’ Lab’s values and goals in our team-authored charter.

How can the Scholars’ Lab fit into my work? What do you do?

1) Consults: As a UVA Library unit, we follow the model of reference librarian consultations and welcome everyone in the UVA community to meet with us for a brief consultation session around experimental methods. During your consult, we can help you:

  • get started practicing experimental methods via the digital humanities, spatial technologies, and/or cultural heritage scholarship scholarly communities, e.g. connecting you to resources for self-teaching and our scholarly networks at UVA and internationally
  • conceptualize and scope a project
  • create or find, manage, and use data
  • use our GIS software, virtual/augmented reality equipment, or humanities Makerspace
  • review your ongoing work, such as critiquing your design and code

2) Collaboration: As scholars from a variety of disciplines, we also have (limited) availability for more in-depth research or pedagogical collaborations with other UVA folks. Our decisions about longer-term research collaboration are based on the resources, skills, and interests/mission of all parties.

  • We build things with people (e.g. as peer scholars, co-PIs on grant proposals), but we do not build things for people.
  • We do not provide general design, web development, or technical services. We do our best to help folks stuck on technical questions during our regular Open Office Hours, and are happy to refer to expertise and facilities around UVA (e.g. DH@UVA, Research Data Services, Teaching & Learning team, Data Sciences Institute, IATH).
  • Our staff offer years of scholarly experience, including advanced scholarly and professional degrees. With at least one term’s notice we may collaborate on syllabus design or module teaching, and after longer relationships formally co-teach courses.
  • Faculty who seek support for digital assignments in their courses or short-term tech instruction should begin with their subject librarian, well in advance. They can connect you with the Library’s experts in copyright, data organization (metadata), digital project preservation, research data, and teaching and learning. We recommend consultation with the A&S Learning Design and Technology staff. The UVA Library’s Course Enrichment Grants and Faculty Research Sprints are another route to collaborating with Library staff (including Scholars’ Lab staff).

3) Community Lab: In addition to the consultations and collaborations stated above, much of our time for in-depth work is spent on intentional community design…

  • Providing GIS support to the entire university
  • Innovating the mentorship and teaching of experimental approaches to scholarship, both in the library and in the field (e.g. via our 40-55 formal student role opportunities each year)
  • Piloting future Library and UVA initiatives like our Praxis Program (one of the historic UVA DH strengths behind the new DH graduate certificate)
  • Bringing speakers to Grounds, hosting events, teaching workshops series; sponsoring student- and faculty-run events; weekly Open Office Hours that anyone can join
  • A local newsletter publicizing opportunities (sign up on the front page of ScholarsLab.org)

…and on strengthening existing cutting-edge staff expertise:

  • Innovating 3D cultural heritage data gathering, modeling, preservation, and scholarship
  • Public Makerspace innovating research and teaching with 3D printing, electronics, fabric arts, and other scholarly making
  • Advancing the Library’s values via internal collaborations (e.g. building tools to preserve the record of major campus events with Preservation and Special Collections colleagues)
  • Internal research shaping the scholarly fields we’re part of (e.g. developing our Neatline tool for critical storytelling in time and space) and connecting UVA folks to these fields

Can you build me a thing?

We strongly believe investment in the direct practice of experimental methods is the key to transformative experiences for individual scholars, as well as the best leveraging of our resources on behalf of UVA. Therefore, we do not provide general design, web development, or technical services. We build things with people (e.g. as peer scholars, co-PIs on grant proposals), but we do not build things for people:

  • As a Library unit, we follow the model of reference librarian consultations and welcome everyone in the UVA community to meet with us for a brief consultation session around experimental methods.
  • As scholars from a variety of disciplines, we also have (limited) availability for more in-depth research or pedagogical collaborations with other scholars. Our decisions about longer-term research collaboration are based on the resources, skills, and interests/mission of all parties, and are usually an outgrowth of shorter consultations and SLab community involvement.
  • We do our best to help folks stuck on technical questions during our regular Open Office Hours, and are happy to refer to expertise and facilities around UVA (e.g. DH@UVA, Research Data Services, Teaching & Learning team, Data Sciences Institute, IATH), or recommend developer and consultants at UVA and beyond seeking paid work (if you’re looking for someone to build something for you).

Can we collaborate?

We love to work together with other folks at UVA and beyond! Our decisions about longer-term research collaboration are based on the resources, skills, and interests/mission of all parties, and are usually an outgrowth of shorter consultations and SLab community involvement. Please contact us for an initial consult to discuss ideas for longer-term collaborations, such as working as co-PIs on a grant project.

What academic fields do you support?

Although we bring library, digital humanities, spatial technologies, & cultural heritage skills to almost everything we work on, we are open and welcoming to folks in any discipline working in any field, and we regularly collaborate in almost every area on Grounds. An inexhaustive list of who we’ve worked with on Grounds includes folks from Biology, Environmental Science, Nursing, Media Studies, Music, Religious Studies, Spanish, Slavic, German, French, Classics, English, History, Art History, Architecture, and GIS/spatial tech support across Grounds.

How does the Lab fit into the UVA Library?

The Scholars’ Lab was founded in 2006. We’re part of the UVA Library and its mission to provide equitable access to knowledge and learning to everyone. Organizationally, we sit in the Library’s Public Services unit led by AUL Dennis Clark. We frequently collaborate with our Library colleagues, including Preservation, Special Collections, Teaching & Learning, and subject liaison librarians. Although we’re not just a DH center, we’re also part of the DH@UVA ecosystem of teams and people doing digital humanities and cultural heritage work on Grounds.

Who are the scholars in “Scholars’ Lab”?

Everyone! We define scholarship as one part critical thinking plus one part communicating the results of that thinking. Critical thinking can be accomplished through many methods, including research, writing, coding, building, designing, experimenting, and play. Communicating critical thinking can take the form of traditional publishing or other forms of “making public” such as tweeting and blogging, teaching, sharing open source code, or any other way for your intellectual community to learn from, critique, evaluate, and/or build on your work. When we refer to scholars, that includes anyone critically engaging with a concept: students, staff, faculty, and community members. On our website, the page that often gets titled “Projects” or “Research” or “Scholarship” on similar websites is titled “Our Work”, to better reflect that our scholarship covers a broad variety of work.

Check out our people page for current staff, students, and alums.

I’ve heard that “people over projects” is a Scholars’ Lab motto. What does that mean? Do you do projects?

We express this in our charter as “We build up people and practices more than products.” We prioritize the process of learning and discovery: sometimes that results in named “projects” with communities of users and shiny laptop stickers (e.g. Neatline), and sometimes that means trying something, failing, and sharing that learning so you and others can build on it.

In the process of working together, we’ve found that collaborators learn from one another; students benefit from training, practice, and mentoring; and faculty discover new directions in their teaching and research. “People over projects” means that we care more about such outcomes, than about whether a formal “project” happens.

Where are you?

Our Hours & Spaces page has more information on our physical spaces as well as maps helping you navigate to us.

We’re in Alderman Library, which is on UVA’s Central Grounds: just west of the Rotunda and chapel, and just east of Nameless Field and those tennis courts. We’re the west wing of Alderman’s fourth floor; because the main public entrance to Alderman opens onto the 4th floor, we’re on the same floor you enter on. Turn left and walk past Greenberry’s coffee shop and a water fountain to find the Scholars’ Lab staff offices, then turn right to find our Common Area (including Makerspace and Open Office Hours area), Alderman 421 (electronic classroom), and Alderman 423 (smaller classroom).

Our cultural heritage informatics experts, Will Rourk and Arin Bennett, are currently seated on the third floor of Clemons Library, which is just southwest of Alderman; if you’re standing on the Alderman front steps facing south, turn right (you’ll pass the Harrison-Small Special Collections building, which has rockers on a front porch), then walk past the Aviator Statue and the outdoor terrace to find Clemons’ front doors. Inside Clemons, turn right to find the elevator/stairwell; after entering the 3rd floor, turn right and walk past the DML lab area to find their offices (Will and Arin request folks email them first for an appointment, as they are not always working from their desks). The Clemons VizLounge spaces is also on that third floor, but you’d reach it by turning left after entering the third floor.

How do I contact you?

For general inquiries, write to scholarslab@virginia.edu.

For questions about spatial technologies and cultural heritage informatics, contact spatial@virginia.edu.

For GIS-specific questions, contact uvagis@virginia.edu.

For inquiries about our Makerspace, write to slabmakerspace@virginia.edu.

We are also on Twitter @ScholarsLab.

How was this website made?

This website contains the collective effort of our staff and collaborators, past and present. The website has existed in multiple forms: most recently, as a WordPress site (?-2018) and now a Jekyll-generated static website (2018-current). We’ll share more info soon, as part of a big announcement in early 2019!