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Art History Scholar Becomes a Digital Humanities Advisor

For her dissertation on satirical images of artistic life in Paris from 1750-1850, Duke University Art History student Kathryn Desplanque amassed a hefty collection of digital images. “I got a little greedy,” she says. “I kept going back to libraries in Paris and to image libraries, trying to find more and more.” With nearly 500 images and a wealth of related information to catalog, “it became clear that it was simply not possible to write a meaningful study of all these [images] without something to assist me.”

Using NVivo software, Desplanque created a project file that can be shared with others. “I began to build this personal research tool in NVivo that organized all of my images and created a link between each individual image and bibliographic metadata that I had been recording on author, publisher, title, size, library I’d found it in, medium,” she says. “I also wanted to be able to annotate these images and make notes on them, and I wanted all of that information to be related.”

Earlier this year, Duke’s John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute produced a video of Desplanque that came to the attention of the CEO of NVivo’s parent company, QSR International. “They recently began a QSR Research Unit to explore how humanists and the digital humanities are benefiting or could benefit from NVivo and qualitative data analysis software,” Desplanque explained. The unit’s director invited Desplanque to join its Academic Advisory Group. During her 24-month term, she will participate in NVivo’s annual meetings and will provide input on how humanities research and the digital humanities intersect and could better engage with the NVivo platform.

Desplanque was a PhD Lab Scholar at the Franklin Humanities Institute. “When I heard about the PhD Lab I was desperate to be a part of it,” Desplanque says. “It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to interact with my fellow colleagues, because we all work through different types of research problems together.” The PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge provides an arena for students in the humanities and interpretive social sciences to learn about new digital scholarship and tap into its promise for their research and professional lives.

A picture of a person graduating

Desplanque received her Ph.D. from Duke this month and will begin a two-year position at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity. “I’ll be in their Art History department,” she reports, “where I’ll work towards the publication of my dissertation. I’ll also continue work on my second book project on mass customization as a marketing strategy for entrepreneurial 19th-century stationers and image publishers.”