University of Maryland
Home / Events

HCIL + MITH: Computer Science and the Humanities Then and Now

Event Details



0320 Tawes Hall


In January of 2013, the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) began a project to digitize all of its early grant records from the 1960’s and 1970’s. These records were stored on old punch-cards known as McBee edge-notched cards. Their goal was to get all these cards entered into a grants database by 2015, which was the NEH’s 50th anniversary. In September of 2015, the NEH completed and announced the project. For the first time ever, the public could search for any grant the NEH had ever made. Time magazine ran a story in which they featured ten of the old McBee cards.

One of these cards described a grant to Andy van Dam at Brown University in 1974. The title was “An Experiment in Computer Based Education Using Hypertext.” The brief description on the card simply said:

To support an experimental program to teach a college-level English poetry course, utilizing a new form of computer based “manuscript,” called a hypertext. A documentary film about the project is being produced. An evaluation is being performed to determine the usefulness of this technique as an aid to humanities education.

The short film that resulted is an early and remarkable document of the kind of collaboration between humanities scholars and students and computer scientists that is increasingly commonplace in the field known as Digital Humanities. It has not been shown in public since its making.

The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities and the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, and the National Endowment for the Humanities cordially invite you to its first public screening at 7:30pm on the evening of Monday April 25, 2016 in the auditorium at 0320 Tawes Hall. The screening will include commentary on this experiment, which built arguably the first online scholarly community, by Professor van Dam, followed by a panel discussion featuring van Dam as well as Maryland’s own Ben Shneiderman, Kari Kraus (Associate Professor, iSchool and English Department), the NEH’s CIO and Director of the Office of Digital Humanities Brett Bobley, and NEH’s Program Analyst Ann Sneesby-Koch (to be moderated by MITH’s Associate Director Matthew Kirschenbaum).


Andries van Dam is the Thomas J. Watson Jr. University Professor of Technology and Education and Professor of Computer Science at Brown University. He has been a member of Brown’s faculty since 1965, was a co-founder of Brown’s Computer Science Department and its first Chairman from 1979 to 1985, and was also Brown’s first Vice President for Research from 2002 – 2006. His research includes work on computer graphics, hypermedia systems, post-WIMP and natural user interfaces (NUI), including pen- and touch-computing, and educational software. He has been working for over four decades on systems for creating and reading electronic books with interactive illustrations for use in teaching and research. In 1967 Prof. van Dam co-founded ACM SICGRAPH (the precursor of SIGGRAPH) and from 1985 through 1987 was Chairman of the Computing Research Association. He is a Fellow of ACM, IEEE, and AAAS, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He has received the ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award, the SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics, and the IEEE Centennial Medal, and holds four honorary doctorates. He has authored or co-authored over 100 papers and nine books, including “Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics” and three editions of “Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice”.

Andy Van Dam will also be joining us for a special Digital Dialogue talk the following Tuesday afternoon, April 26th. Click here for details.