‘Oh no, not sustainability again!’ I hear you cry. ‘Has Claire not bored us sufficiently by going on and on about users that she must mount the new-favourite hobby horse again?’ Well tough whatever people: even the Day of DH can err, and I am going to rant about it right here (how clever and self-referential is that? And me not even an Eng-lit type anymore). Anyway, enough of the Prologue, as the Divine Francis might have said, let’s get on with this post.
Here is my problem, lacking inspiration for another post in my attempt to catch up on the Day of DH I thought I would look at my old entries over the years since we began this venture. So I Googled Day of DH 2009. Imagine my horror: it’s not there anymore. I can find 2010 and 2011, but not the very first (and arguably most important, because most innovative) iteration. How can this be? We DHers of all people ought to know about sustainability shouldn’t we? I know that various people, my colleague Julianne Nyhan analysed the posts and wrote an article about them, but still, not to be able to find it on the web is a little worrying after only 3 years isn’t it? Perhaps the TEI version still exists, backed up on a server somewhere, but that’s hardly the point. If we can’t make our own historical record available online after such a short time, what does that say about us, in DH, and our attitude to digital preservation? I could use the wayback machine, but that’s not the point either, is it? OK, well, too many rhetorical questions and probably time for </rant> but really, I mean…
Anyhow, I did my best to research the recent history of my days of DH in 2010 and 2011: perhaps this is why I have come over all ranty. It is, after all, easier to have a go at others when you are less than happy about what you have just realised about yourself. The recent history of my DH self does not seem to make happy reading, I’m afraid.
In 2010 I’m talking about how much I love DH, how much fun I am having, how much I adore the newly-founded UCLDH, and how I’m dashing about the place telling everyone all about it. (Like most of those newly-enamoured, I was, probably, a bit of a bore, I realise, for which, if yours was one of the many ears I bent, my sincere apologies). Nevertheless, my blogs are full of wit, energy, jokes and a delight in the life digital humanistic-especially at UCL. In 2011, I am a bit more circumspect: I’d just become HoD and am thus talking about running things so others can do DH, but still, there is spark and passion, a few ‘sweet phrases, lovely metaphors’ remain- I am ignoring the harbingers who have already come. I am new to management, and still sounding quite brave and bullish about how it’s not going to stop me doing DH, at all… ever… really… honestly. Actually, at the time of writing I was in the eye of a hurricane the like of which I had no experience, and just as well as it turns out- the bravado and confidence was all false.
Now look- the writing is very different. I am still here, still HoD: the storm has blown out, but blown a few things away as well. My blogs this year are those of the academic manager, sensible, serious, tired. There are no jokes, and not much energy, and there is much less time to do DH. But I do still care about it, and if there is no wit, there is still passion. In 2010 I wrote about being in love with UCLDH, but recognised that heady romance fades, and that we had to sustain our efforts beyond the fizzy phase, or another interdiscipline would come along and turn people’s heads. I could not know, at that stage, quite what an extraordinary growth our discipline would experience in the two years to come. This has undoubtedly helped underpin our efforts to sustain DH at UCL, because it provides external validation for what we already knew about the general wonderfulness of our discipline. Even so, and however hard it has been, I am proud of what we have achieved since then. In 2010 I wrote that our task was to make DH so central to UCL that they could not imagine life without us. In 2012, I think that has not only come true within UCL, but the spirit of UCLDH has a resonance, and is recognised, far beyond our own university.
We are still here, and, I dare to hope that we have a real, sustainable, future. For this I owe my colleagues, who have worked so hard to make what might have been a brief affair into a long term partnership, more than I can possibly express. The same is true of the senior people in UCL who supported us, and gave us the chance to prove our vision was practicable. It has not been easy, and is, perhaps, why I sound so tired this year, but we have proved that, if you work at it, sustainability is possible in digital humanities.