After a lovely little email in which she described herself to me so that I would be able to identify her when we met (she was extremely modest) I had a very interesting meeting with Dr Susan Davies on Friday. We discussed the project generally and more pertinently, what I think my role is within it and what my own personal interests are. We met over a cup of tea and ended up talking for two hours in the wonderfully salubrious confines of the Arts Centre. Afterwards I felt really enthused, so much so that I immediately adjourned to the Arts Centre shop and bought myself a new handbag.
Dr Davies, I think it’s fair to say, is something of a polymath. She not only has extensive teaching experience at postgraduate level in palaeography, manuscript interpretation and archive studies, but has been Vice-President of the National Museums & Galleries of Wales and a member of the Advisory Council on National Records & Archives. She’s also been published many times, amongst many other glowing achievements. She is, it is fair to say, not only one of the most intimidating people I have ever met in terms of her academic prowess, but also one of the nicest.
We launched straight into a wonderfully broad-ranging discussion in which she listed some of her own achievements and how they could be useful in assisting my research on the project, but was generous in paying deference to my own experiences (such as they are) in the world of work and as an FE lecturer in South Wales. We discussed the digital humanities generally, and a range of projects that she was aware of (a few of which I was also aware of, so that was quite positive) and ultimately we talked about how access could be seen to be linked to social agenda.
I also mentioned an article that I’d read in the THE about “The Historical Present”, and how one commentator had referred to the “industrialisation of intellectual endeavour”, and it seemed to me on reading it (as indeed it does often as a newcomer to the world of digital humanities) that there is perhaps still a troubling divide between those who consider the digitisation of artifacts as a good thing, and those who believe that there is no better thing than having your hands on the original manuscript. I wondered whether this concept of the “industrialisation of intellectual endeavour” had something to do with those feelings.
We parted discussing shoes and the relative benefits of different brands of shoe (a subject I am extremely interested in since my ankle injury in January) but more particularly, I left with a feeling that I am on the right track. Everyone needs a good guide when embarking on a long and potentially perilous journey, and I feel that I have several rather excellent ones.