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Innovator in Electronic Scholarly Publishing
to Receive the 2005 Richard W. Lyman Award

News Release Date: April 7, 2005

» Unsworth biography
and photo

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» Learn more about
the Lyman Award
Research Triangle Park, N.C.— John M. Unsworth is the 2005 recipient of the Richard W. Lyman Award, presented by the National Humanities Center to recognize scholars who have advanced humanistic scholarship and teaching through the innovative use of information technology.

Unsworth, dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is described by his peers in the digital humanities field as both visionary and selfless, a leader with a gift for collaboration.

"John Unsworth," says James O'Donnell, provost of Georgetown University and chair of the Lyman Award selection committee, "was a pioneer in the early '90s and remains a pioneer today. He has done more than any other single individual to make it possible for others to do rich and original work in the humanities that draws on the best of current technology and the best of current scholarship."

Noting both Unsworth's scholarship and his leadership, Stanley N. Katz, professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, and president emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), says "John has in many ways been the crucial institutional player in the development of the digital humanities in the United States over the past decade."

"Receiving the Lyman Award means a great deal to me," says Unsworth. "This time around, the award is being given for work that, in an earlier era, might have been considered service rather than research—but in fact, we have much research to do in learning how to collaborate, publish, and do scholarship on the network, in new media."


Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities

Soon after completing his doctoral studies in English at the University of Virginia in 1988, Unsworth was already defining the brand new field of digital humanities scholarship. In 1990, he co-founded Postmodern Culture, the first peer reviewed electronic journal in the humanities.

Three years later he became the first director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia, a project that reflects his long-held belief that "those with a critical interest in the emergence of new media should be practically engaged in building the future, not merely spectators at the event."

Conceived as a laboratory for humanities scholars interested in exploring and expanding the potential of information technology as a tool for humanities research, IATH "has been an important force in the field of digital scholarship," says William G. Thomas, director of the Virginia Center for Digital History and associate professor, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia.

Braced by both the intellectual and technological infrastructure of Thomas Jefferson's university, IATH thrived under Unsworth's leadership. During his ten-year tenure, IATH developed such groundbreaking digital projects as the Walt Whitman Archive, the Dante Gabriel Rossetti Archive, The Valley of the Shadow, and the William Blake Archive.

In his most recent research projects, Unsworth continues to be guided by the collaborative spirit that defines his mark on the digital humanities. Working with others, Unsworth has recently produced A Companion to Digital Humanities, which provides the first comprehensive overview of humanities computing, and Electronic Textual Editing, which presents practical advice from editors of electronic editions along with guidelines from the Text Encoding Initiative and guidelines for scholarly editing from the Modern Language Association.


Cyberinfrastructure Commission

Unsworth currently serves as chair of the Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities & Social Sciences, a project of the ACLS. Funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the commission is the humanistic voice guiding the design and construction of the digital infrastructure that the academy will use in the future to represent humanities scholarship.

The term "cyberinfrastructure" refers to the digital versions of the infrastructure on which the humanities have grown for millennia: universities, libraries, and archives. The goal of the Commission on Cyberinfrastructure is to "articulate the requirements and the potential contributions of the humanities and the social sciences in developing shared human and technical resources for teaching and research," says Unsworth.


Private/Public Collaboration

Unsworth is also one of the principal investigators for the National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program, a $2.6 million project joining academia with flagship public and private institutions to address what Unsworth calls "one of the most vexing problems of the next ten years—collection and preservation of digital information."

The Graduate School of Library and Information Science, along with the library at the University of Illinois, is partnering with The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and the Library of Congress, as one of nine teams nationwide, "proof, I think," says Unsworth, "that the big problems need to be tackled by collaborative teams."


The Richard W. Lyman Award

The Lyman Award honors Richard W. Lyman, who was president of Stanford University from 1970-80 and of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1980-88, and is made possible through the generosity of the Rockefeller Foundation. Recipients receive awards of $25,000.

Past winners of the Lyman Award include: Jerome McGann, John Stewart Bryan University Professor and editor of The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Hypermedia Research Archive at the University of Virginia; Roy Rosenzweig, College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History and Cultural Studies and Director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University; and, most recently, Robert K. Englund, professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and principal investigator of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative at the University of California at Los Angeles.

McGann and Rosenzweig also serve with Unsworth on the ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure.


The National Humanities Center

The National Humanities Center is the nation's only private, independent institute for advanced study in the humanities. Since 1978, nearly 1,000 scholars from across the United States and around the world have researched and written 900 books during fellowships at the Center's Research Triangle Park facility. The Center also sponsors award-winning programs through which leading scholars work with high school and college teachers to improve teaching in the nation's schools and colleges, and holds conferences, seminars, and other public programs to raise and explore basic issues affecting human beings and their societies.



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