Bamboo Grows Quickly

In July I attended the fourth Bamboo Planning Workshop, held at Princeton University. For those of you unfamiliar with Project Bamboo (as distinct from the feeding of pandas), Bamboo is a series of workshops on the future of digital humanities designed by UC Berkeley and my alma mater, the University of Chicago.  The workshops are bringing together humanities scholars, content providers, administrators, and central IT personnel from universities to design an organization that will serve the needs of the digital humanities community.

Typically, only high ranking faculty and administrators get to go, but after juggling the summer schedules of a small staff, my boss at Documents Compass, Holly Shulman, was kind enough to take me with her.

In the first general session it quickly dawned on me that I was close to the only non-conference-staff graduate student in the room.  So, as they were passing around the cordless mic, I took a deep breath and raised my hand.  I thanked everyone for all the help they had already given the graduate students at their respective institutions and offered a small plea for continued assistance to those of us who were trying to start careers in a new field.

After the session broke up and throughout the rest of the conference, I was amazed by the number of people who came up to me and asked for the “graduate student perspective.”  It was extremely encouraging to meet so many talented and driven professors, researchers, and computer scientists, who felt so protective of the next generation.  I have certainly found that to be true at UVa, and I spent a good deal of my time at Bamboo bragging about the Scholars’ Lab and how it meets many of the needs expressed by the other participants.

No one knows what Bamboo will become just yet.  The Princeton conference was the end of Phase I, but there are four more phases still to come.  Whatever happens, simply getting all those people together in the same room paid for itself many times over.  I just soaked it all in.

But, perhaps the best part of the conference was overhearing people talk as they walked out of the hotel.

“Thanks for the tip on mashups, that is just what my project needs.”
“You know, I don’t even know the name of my central IT contact.  I should look him or her up.”
“Here’s my email.  Let me know when your project goes into beta, I’d love to check it out.”
“I only talk with professors when their email is down.  I wonder what they’re working on.  Maybe my team could help.”

UVa has developed its own Bamboo community in preparation for Phase II, beginning next week in San Francisco.  Watch this space to see what happens.

In brief: I am an Early American historian, a database designer, and a photographer. I'm also sleep-deprived, but that probably isn't related . . . Current Digital Humanities Librarian at Brown University, former Presidential Fellow in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, a former Digital Humanities Fellow in the University of Virginia Library's Digital…

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