Towards the end of the fabulous marathon known as #WhDigWrld (Women’s history in the digital world) I had a flash, this must have been what it was like at those first Berks (or other women in _____ conferences) in the early 1970s.   Nancy Rosoff actually invoked the Berks held at Bryn Mawr in 1976 (see Clio’s Concsciousness Raised for some of the papers).  

The conference had my head spinning.  First Laura Mandell blew my (small and not computer oriented) mind by showing how she counters hegemonic TEI, in which female sex is coded is 2, male as 1 (cf Simone de Beauvoir).  There then ensued some discussion about the ramifications that I didn’t understand, but which I realized later from reading the Twitter feed was actually arguing.  That made me sad, but as a historian I also knew it wouldn’t really be a feminist conference unless there was arguing.  New field, new work, going to be new disagreements.

Networking occurred everywhere.  I met many tweeps in person, had wonderful conversations on everything from the transition to going co-ed to dinner with graduate students doing amazing digital work.  Every person I spoke with had some fabulous plan to teach, research, or publish in women’s history or literature using digital means.  Everything was sketchy, provisional and so exciting I hardly knew what to focus on first. 

I had a great lunch picking the brains of Cameron Blevins and Bridget Baird and debating topic modeling methodology.  I saw Margo Hobbs’ taxonomies evolving in her Omeka presentation and realized (once again) that doing digital work is changing not only our tools but our thinking.  Anna St. Onge bravely presented her “failure” that was SO not because I learned a great deal from her presentation.  I met Alla Myzelev and made a great connection for my next conference paper on yarn-bombing.

Challenges of jobs, tenure, and funding, legitimacy of the work in other words, also came up.  For some women who had attended those 1970s conferences that conversation was depressing.  Mary Kelley wanted to know what was happening to all the canon revisioning scholars did in the 80s and 90s as the “big” male authors get more funding for digital projects.  I was reminded that a similar thing occurs in history. The need to #transformDH still exists.  We exhorted one another to push harder, work sneakier (I saw a fabulous project presented by Jen Palmentiero, from the based on a “failed” grant applications that became the basis of an online exhibit), and support one another.  Jen Serventi reminded us to make use of the funding agency offers to review grant applications prior to submission. 

I heard so many amazing talks by archivists seeking to subvert the silences I hardly know where to begin.  Joanna Di Pasquale and Laura Streettpresentations on Vassar’s student diary project provided some fascinating and sober insights into the hidden histories buried within.  Bethany Anderson’s talk highlighted the theoretical issues and possible solutions for the silences/absences.   

By the end of the day, we got down to the nitty gritty, what should we be teaching as the digital history toolkit?  In an ever-evolving field with so many trajectories we realized it was NOT what we learned but HOW we learn.  The need to keep connected seemed even more important than ever.  I was excited to hear Jennifer Redmond announce that there would be another conference next year.   

#WhDigWrld plenary storified