Built to Last: Sustainability Strategies for Digital Humanities Projects

July 15, 2013, 13:00 | Workshop, Regency A, Union

Scholars, librarians, and publishers today are building digital resources that are valuable for scholarship and teaching in the humanities, from multi-format research projects to digitized collections to born-digital works and innovative software tools. While some may be experiments and are valuable for the experience they offer or the capacity they build, others create collections of content, dynamic websites, or other resources that are intended to continue well beyond their initial creation. As these projects continue, their creators often face the challenge of identifying the financial and non-financial resources that will permit them to maintain their value to users over time.

For the past several years, the team at Ithaka S+R has been studying how project leaders develop successful sustainability plans, learning from hundreds of project leaders around the world who have spoken with us about the challenges they face in building their projects and in finding ongoing support for the activities they feel need to be sustained post-grant.

This half-day tutorial will introduce project leaders to the basics of sustainability planning, help them establish ambitious but realistic sustainability goals, define the challenges they face, and sketch out a hypothesis of their ideal funding model. The workshop will include group participation and will share real-world examples, illustrated by case studies of projects that really worked, or …didn’t. The session will also allow participants to review the ‘Funding Model Framework,’ a tool designed by Ithaka S+R to help guide those leading digital resource projects in choosing and testing the funding strategies that will work best for them

We hope that by introducing new some ideas and practical tools in a supportive and engaging setting, this tutorial will encourage digital humanities project leaders in developing and testing new ideas to support their work.

Ithaka S+R is a not-for-profit research, training, and consulting service that has been studying the sustainability of digital resources for several years. We are currently engaged in an NEH-funded research project on Sustaining the Digital Humanities, exploring institutional strategies for supporting this work. Other recent reports on this topic include Sustaining Our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content (2013); Revenue, Recession, Reliance: Revisiting the Case Studies in Sustainability (2011); Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources (2011); Sustaining Digital Resources: An On-the-Ground View of Projects Today (2009). Our reports and tools are freely available on the Ithaka S+R website at http://www.sr.ithaka.org/.


Facilitator: Nancy Maron, Program Director, Ithaka S+R

Nancy Maron leads Ithaka S+R’s program in Sustainability and Scholarly Communications, developing research, tools, and training to assist those responsible for funding, leading, or otherwise supporting digital resources in higher education and the cultural sector. She has led Ithaka S+R’s recent studies on sustainability, including Sustaining Digital Resources: An On-the-Ground View of Projects Today (2009), Ithaka S+R Case Studies in Sustainability (2009), Revenue, Recession, Reliance: Revisiting the Case Studies in Sustainability (2011), and Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources (2011). Prior to joining Ithaka S+R, Nancy spent more than a decade in the book publishing industry, at Harry N. Abrams, Macmillan Library Reference, and the Perseus Books Group, where she was Director of Academic and Library Marketing. She holds a B.A. in Humanities from Yale University and an M.A. in French Studies and History from New York University.

Target Audience

Participants of this tutorial should be those with interest in and/or responsibility for charting a course for the development of a digital scholarly project or resource. This could include:

  • Academic project leaders who are leading or have created a digital resource.
  • Managers of digital collections and digitization units at cultural organizations, including museums, libraries, archives and other institutions.

Those in early stages of considering sustainability strategies for their projects are encouraged to attend. The maximum class size for this workshop is 40, to allow for best discussion and sharing of experience.

Brief Course Outline

  • 9:00–9:20 Introductions; presentation of projects and sustainability challenges
  • 9:20–10:00 Introduction to sustainability basics; defining your sustainability ‘goal’
  • 10:00–10:15 Sketching a funding model: The Funding Model Framework
  • 10:15-10:45 Group work: your sustainability hypothesis
  • 10:45-11:00 Break
  • 11:00-11:30 Testing your hypothesis: The research phase
  • 11:30–12:00 Defining next steps