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Dispatch from New York: no. 2

Posted by Ellen Bramwell on the 3rd of June 2014

Following on from dispatch no.1 is a slightly more serious account of Ellen and Rachael’s time spent at Columbia University.


We were very lucky to secure funding to spend the month of April at Columbia University through the Principal’s Early Career Mobility Fund: Glasgow-Columbia. This is open to PhD students and postdoctoral researchers at the University of Glasgow who wish to spend time at our sister institution. Our main contact at Columbia was Prof. Dennis Tenen, who specialises in Digital Humanities. This is a field which relates closely to Mapping Metaphor’s digital output: our online resource will be launched in early 2015. Though we are both more in the linguistic, rather than technical, side of the project we were keen to make links with DH at Columbia. Dennis welcomed us in to his classes and labs over the course of the month, where we got to experience the American system and participate in discussions with his students.

We were based in the Butler library, where the Studio@Butler is located. This is an innovative new space, designed to bring together disparate stands of digital humanities at Columbia, encourage collaboration and welcome in less digitally-confident staff and students. We gave a research talk here on the Mapping Metaphor project and asked for feedback on a beta-version of our resource. Alex Gil, who is Digital Scholarship Coordinator for the library, kindly arranged this event. Alex and Dennis run the Studio, hosting a twice-weekly lab there where they encourage students and staff to bring problems, ideas and projects relating to DH.

We also made other links across the university. Leyla Williams was hugely helpful in organising a meeting for us with the Centre for Digital Research and Scholarship. They are based within library services, but are responsible for digital resources across the university. Our discussions about the treatment of research data and open-access on both sides of the Atlantic were extremely interesting and are likely to be useful in forging links with relevant areas at the University of Glasgow as well as for our own research practice. We also met with Matthew Hart , a professor of English and Comparative Literature, for a friendly discussion about links between Glasgow and Columbia.

Our stint at Columbia allowed us to attend talks in other areas of the university, including one by the Russian writer Andrei Gelasimov, and while we were in New York we were also able to take advantage of our location and find out about events happening more widely. Our talk was advertised on NYC-DH, a group and website dedicated to bringing together people interested in DH in the wider New York City area. Using this resource, we were able to attend Lauren Klein’s  excellent lecture at CUNY on the history of data visualisation, which you can watch via this link. Slightly off the subject of DH, though very relevant to metaphor more generally, we were able to attend Ben Crystal’s talk on Shakespeare at the stunning New York Public Library. We were very privileged to be able to study there during our trip, as evidenced by the photo below!

ny public library