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Published onNov 25, 2021

At the 2018 Digital Humanities conference in Mexico City, Natalia Ermolaev, Rebecca Munson, Xinyi Li, Lynne Siemens, Ray Siemens, Micki Kaufman, and Jason Boyd hosted a panel discussion on project management in the digital humanities (Ermolaev et al.). The panel was well attended and generated much discussion about the topic. It was clear that there was an appetite to learn more. This prompted thoughts of hosting a conference solely dedicated to project management within the Humanities generally and Digital Humanities more specifically. Fast forward two years and the first conference of hopefully many was held at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) on Saturday, June 6, 2020. There were 12 papers (DHSI “Project Management in the Humanities”) and over 300 registered attendees.  Due to COVID-19, the conference was held virtually with pre-recorded presentations and twitter question and answer periods (DHSI “Project Management in the Humanities, Part of DHSI 2020 – Virtual Edition”). This special issue with six papers flows from the conference submissions. 


Humanities scholars often find themselves as “accidental managers” (Jennifer A. Maddox Abbott and Mary S. Laskowski; I. Revels) or “instant managers” (Michael Greer; Jane Kinkus) when they undertake digital humanities projects. They work with teams which can include researchers, librarians, students, programmers, developers and others while also managing tasks, and financial and other project resources. These researchers often lack the necessary training or skills to do so (Frank Cervone; Brian Croxall; Kinkus; Sharon M. Leon; Alex H. Poole; Siemens et al.). This collaborative work sits in contrast to the solo work that most Humanities scholars undertake (Siemens et al.). Thrown into this type of research, they often learn by doing (Mary Anne Dowling and Rodney J. Turner; Leon), which is not necessarily an efficient way to develop skills and knowledge; they might not even be aware of what is needed because they have not received training in the field (Hélène Riol and Denis Thuillier).

There exists potential to use project management tools and techniques to coordinate efforts on these projects. Project management is a set of tools that is used to manage projects to a successful conclusion. Key components include directing and coordinating people and resources in order to attain objectives to satisfy various stakeholders (Kinkus). While it is a tool primarily used in business (T. A. Barnes et al.; Mikael Eriksson et al.; Kathrin Koster; Mark D. Winston and Tara Hoffman), there is a growing understanding for project management in the academy. One reason for this is the growing need for public accountability by funding agencies and others which requires, even demands, successful project completion facilitated by detailed and realistic planning (Dowling and Turner; Riol and Thuillier). Another is the increasingly large-scale collaborative work in digital and interdisciplinary research projects which involves the coordination of people, financial resources, and tasks (Theresa Burress and Chelcie Rowell; Garwood and Poole; Simon Philbin). Having said this, some scholars hesitate to use these tools (Ermolaev et al.) because they see them as “emblematic of corporatization” (Burress and Rowell 3) or the application of “rigid management approaches” (Philbin 1). 

This raises questions about the best ways to use project management in the Humanities and Digital Humanities. The conference set out to answer the following questions:

  • What skills and knowledge are needed? 

  • What is the best way to engage and train researchers in the use of these tools and skills?

  • What tools are the most effective for managing projects within the Humanities and Digital Humanities?

  • What particular challenges do academics face using project management?

  • What can be learned from the review of the use of project management in other contexts, such as libraries?

  • How can students be managed within a project management framework?

  • What does project management look like in the age of COVID-19?


The articles in this issue of IDEAH are varied and approach project management from a variety of perspectives and look to answer the above questions.

In “Digital Humanities Project Management as Scholarly Exchange,” Boyd tackles the important role of project manager and argues that this role should be seen as an important part of the scholarly exchange process. In other words, this role is more like research and collaboration rather than service and should be treated as such.

From a project management perspective, Burress and Allison Symulevich examine University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus’ pivot from a traditionally in-person student research symposium to an online version after the campus was shut down due to COVID-19 in their “Innovating During Times of Disruption” article. They found that by using project management principles the team was able to manage this pivot effectively and efficiently such that students did not miss the opportunity to showcase their research work. The team had to re-define project objectives, bring in new team members and learn new technical skills in a relatively short period of time.

Quinn Dombrowski offers a different perspective on project management through the lens of a role-playing game she designed for her Digital Humanities class at Stanford. In “Rolling the Dice on Project Management,” she explains how the game introduced many of the “real world” decisions that teams need to make while undertaking a collaborative project. This allowed the students to move from abstract concepts to more practical considerations and the ramifications of decisions on the project and team.

In his piece “Intellectual Development and Management of Collaborative Research Projects in the Digital Humanities”, Harold Short reflects on four case studies and the lessons they provide for project management. These lessons range from the importance of project proposals to guide the research project to ways to prepare and respond to the unexpected.

Shelby Hallman, Erica Y. Hayes, Walt Gurley, and Micah Vandegrift explore the concept of project development in their article “Managing Digital Scholarship Projects at Many Levels: The Immersive Scholar Cohort, Residencies, and the Shift to ‘Project Development.’” They argue that an emphasis on project development moves away from standardized processes towards a focus on each project’s component. This can contribute to knowledge building and the growth of a community of practice. 

Finally, in their article “Building the Digital Scholar Lab - A Retrospective,” Margaret Waligora, Lindsey Gervais, Sarah Ketchley, Wendy Perla Kurtz, Thomas Piggott, and Marc Cormier examine their experience developing a software platform to facilitate text mining by librarians, academics, and students. In particular, they highlight the factors that went well and those that did not and how this understanding informs future development of the project team.


Works Cited

Barnes, T. A. et al. “Managing Collaborative R&D Projects Development of a Practical Management Tool.” International Journal of Project Management, vol. 24, no. 5, 2006, pp. 395-404,

Burress, Theresa and Chelcie Juliet Rowell. “Project Management for Digital Projects with Collaborators Beyond the Library.” College & Undergraduate Libraries, vol. 24, no. 2-4, 2017, pp. 300-321,

Cervone, Frank. “How Not to Run a Digital Library Project.” OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives, vol. 20, no. 4, 2004, pp. 162-166,

Croxall, Brian. “12 Basic Principles of Project Management”. ProfHacker. 2011, Accessed June 14, 2021.

DHSI. “Project Management in the Humanities.” 2020, Accessed May 11, 2021.

DHSI 2020. “Project Management in the Humanities, Part of DHSI 2020 – Virtual Edition.” wakelet, Accessed May 11, 2021.

Dowling, M. A. and J. R Turner.”Project Management in Academia: Friend or Foe? An Exploratory Study of the Social Sciences and Humanities.” 2010. PMI® Research Conference: Defining the Future of Project Management, Washington, DC, Accessed July 29, 2019.

Eriksson, Mikael et al. “How to Manage Complex, Multinational R&D Projects Successfully.” Engineering Management Journal, vol. 14, no. 2, 2002, pp. 53-60.

Ermolaev, Natalia et al. “Project Management for the Digital Humanities.” DH 2018. 21 June 2018, Accessed July 25, 2019.

Garwood, Deborah A. and Alex H. Poole. “Project management as information management in interdisciplinary research: ‘Lots of Different Pieces Working Together.’” International Journal of Information Management, vol. 41, 2018, pp. 14-22,

Greer, Michael. “Essential Skills for Today’s ‘Instant’ Project Managers.” Performance Improvement, vol. 37, no. 2, 1998, pp. 24-29,

Kinkus, Jane. “Project Management Skills: A Literature Review and Content Analysis of Librarian Position Announcements.” College & Research Libraries, vol. 68, no. 4, 2007, pp. 352-363,

Koster, Kathrin. International Project Management. SAGE Publications, 2010.

Leon, Sharon M. “Project Management for Humanists: Preparing Future Primary Investigators.” #alt-academy, a media commons project. 6 May 2011, Accessed June 24, 2011.

Maddox Abbott, Jennifer A. and Mary S. Laskowski. “So Many Projects, So Few Resources: Using Effective Project Management in Technical Services.” Collection Management, vol. 39, no. 2-3, 2014, pp. 161-176,

Philbin, Simon. “Investigating the Application of Project Management Principles to Research Projects – an Exploratory Study.” Proceedings of the 38th American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) International Annual Conference, Huntsville (AL), USA. 2017, Accessed June 14, 2021.

Poole, Alex H. “‘A Greatly Unexplored Area’: Digital Curation and Innovation in Digital Humanities.” Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 68, no. 7, July 2017, pp. 1772-1781,

Revels, I. “Managing Digital Projects: ‘Accidental’ Project Managers Can Benefit from the Following Useful Tips.” American Libraries, vol. 41, no. 4, 2010, pp. 48-50.

Riol, Hélène and Denis Thuillier. “Project Management for Academic Research Projects: Balancing Structure and Flexibility.” International Journal of Project Organisation and Management, vol. 7, no. 3, 2015, pp. 251-269.

Siemens, Lynne et al.“Opportunities to Leverage the Expertise of Multi-Disciplinary Participants: Defining Digital Library Project Teams.” 2009. BooksOnline'09 Workshop: 2nd Workshop on Research Advances in Large Digital Book Collections, Corfu, Greece. Accessed 

Winston, Mark D. and Tara Hoffman. “Project Management in Libraries.” Journal of Library Administration, vol. 42, no. 1, 2005, pp. 51-61,


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