Future of Memory

Members of the UC Berkeley digital humanities community gathered together with patrons of the Magnes Collection to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit, "The Future of Memory: Jewish Culture in the Digital Age”, as well as the kick-off of the Digital Humanities at Berkeley program on February 18th, 2015.

Francesco Spagnolo, curator of the Magnes Collection, introduced “The Future of Memory”, which combines an installation and exhibit with a digital research lab where faculty, graduate students, participants in the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) and the public can directly engage with digitization and digital dissemination practice. As Professor Greg Niemeyer of the Berkeley Center for New Media was unable to attend, Spagnolo also read remarks that Niemeyer had prepared for the occasion, which called to mind the image of new cities being built alongside a great river of data.

Dean of Arts and Humanities Tony Cascardi challenged the idea that there should be anything unusual about the humanities’ embrace of technology, noting that technology has played an essential role in the development of humanistic scholarship, including the adoption of the printing press and even the early technology of writing itself. He framed the Digital Humanities at Berkeley initiative as the culmination of many years of work. He noted that the Mellon-funded cyberinfrastructure initiative Project Bamboo that UC Berkeley led from 2008-2012 built a foundation for Digital Humanities at Berkeley and strengthened important relationships between the division of Arts and Humanities and groups such as Research IT, despite Bamboo’s failure to achieve its stated goals.

Professor Alex Saum-Pascual described the difficulties she experienced trying to view “library-only” copies of works of older electronic literature, when no computer in the library is able to read the outdated formats. She urged the library to do more to support the preservation and access of digital materials, lest the contents become inaccessible even as the physical media are preserved.

After these remarks by individuals affiliated with the Digital Humanities at Berkeley program, attendees enjoyed a reception and tours of the gallery. See the Magnes Flickr account photos from the event, courtesy of Erik Nelson, Head of Administrative Services at the Magnes Collection.