Scholars’ Lab becomes Laboratory for Digital Byzantine Sigillography


Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library is proud to announce a change in name and concentration. Effective April 1st, the SLab (which has hitherto supported work in GIS, qualitatitive and quantitative analysis, and interpretive and textual scholarship in the humanities and social sciences) will sharpen its focus and be known as the Laboratory for Digital Byzantine Sigillography.

“Among major research libraries,” said University Librarian Karin Wittenborg, “UVa has made the most longstanding investments in Digital BS. Digital BS has enriched the landscape of the humanities and social sciences immeasurably,” she continued. “It’s just in the air in the former Scholars’ Lab. You can almost smell it!”

Department director Bethany Nowviskie agrees. “At UVa Library, we look for “shovel-ready” projects in the digital humanities and social sciences. In terms of Digital BS, scholars here have been piling it higher and deeper for decades.”

The name change comes with a significant shift to teaching and training, collaborations with UVa faculty, and admissions criteria for the lab’s Graduate Fellowships in Digital Humanities. Current Graduate Fellow Alex Gil was reached for comment at his dusty carrel in the bowels of Alderman Library: “As a doctoral candidate in English, you might expect me to be concerned about this new focus on digital Byzantine sigillography. Far from it! My dissertation is just full of digital BS! I’m ecstatic, and now plan to take an extra four to five years to immerse myself in it.” Former fellow and ethnomusicologist Wendy Hsu will defend her dissertation in the Lab later this month, before taking up a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Occidental College. She looks forward to “spreading all this Virginia BS westward.”

Outreach & Training Specialist Ronda Grizzle was careful to specify that the Lab will retain its two internal units: Consultation Services and Research & Development. One representative of Consultation Services, Kelly Johnston, was mucking around in the field and unavailable for comment beyond the following text message, sent to Grizzle repeatedly: “Sphragistics FTW.” Meanwhile, Wayne Graham, head of BS R&D, looks forward to fresh projects: “We intend to give a whole new meaning to the word ‘vaporware.'” New R&D hires Eric Rochester (Senior Developer) and Jeremy Boggs (Design Architect) expressed excitement at the opportunity to “ride the wave of digital BS at UVa.”

Some may see UVa Library’s new, exclusive concentration on digital Byzantine sigillography as a corrective to the broadening into meaninglessness of the phrase “digital humanities.” Nowviskie disagrees: “We’re an open community of practice. Everyone is welcome under the big tent of Digital BS.”

Bethany directed the Scholars' Lab from 2007 to 2015, and is now Director of the Digital Library Federation at CLIR, the Council on Library and Information Resources. She remains affiliated with UVa as a Research Associate Professor of Digital Humanities in the English Department. Computing humanist/humane computationalist since 1996. Formerly director of the Scholars' Lab…


  1. “…the opportunity to “ride the wave of digital BS at UVa.””

    How is this a change in direction? All of you have been surfing that wave for decades now. ;-0

  2. Honestly, I think this is the wrong move. Byzantine sigillography is already a crowded field. We’ve had extensive discussions here at CDRH about not maintaining our substantial holdings in the area, perhaps focusing just on post-Heracliun numismatics (where we feel we can make a substantial contribution).

    I also think it’s shameful the way SL just “follows the money.” The Digging into Sphragistics program that NEH put together last year shouldn’t determine the tenor of the entire discipline.

  3. But will it fit on the moo mini business cards???

  4. Dear Bethany,
    Can I order several loads of Digital BS? I can provide a flash drive or two.
    Si Gi

  5. Nice! I hope archaeologists will be able to help dig deeply into new and exciting areas of “Digital BS”!

  6. From the founding IATH in 1992 this outcome is what we have all been fantasizing: “something longed for, never seen”. No longer mired in the Theory of Digital BS, now we can anticipate the praxis of our theories — what shall we call it, the Dung an sich. I hear America Singing, in the immortal and prescient words of Walt Whitman: “I breathe the fragrance myself, and I know it and like it.”