Hello! I’m Aidan Valente, a sophomore from Sanford, Florida and the second of the three Mellon Fellows this year. I’m a Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Art History double-major who fell down the rabbit hole that is Digital Humanities rather recently, but I’ve enjoyed the crazy and decided to stay.
When I first entered W&L, I thought I would declare a Computer Science major (mostly due to my belief that it would ensure a viable career four years later). I have since then “seen the light” and dedicated myself to the humanities, preferring Italian art and manuscripts to dry lectures on writing code. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy programming—I do, just not to the extent that a CSCI degree requires.
I first discovered Digital Humanities by chance rather than through any concerted effort on my behalf. As I looked through the course catalog for Winter ’16 classes, I noticed a 1-credit course entitled “DH Studio: Text Encoding.” The description, though somewhat vague, piqued my interest enough for me to sign up for it; what I didn’t know was that the course acted as a co-requisite for another class I was completely unaware of. Despite this initial registration faux pas, I stuck with it and learned about XML, TEI, and digital humanities in general under Mackenzie Brooks. My experience indirectly led to an amazing summer opportunity with Special Collections, which in turn has allowed me to set the groundwork for my work this year on several DH projects I have envisioned.
What I enjoy most about DH are its collaborative nature and the applicability it has in so many areas, both in and out of the classroom. Many of the professors I’ve had utilize DH projects as part of their research, and several of my friends spent this summer working on initiatives such as the Ancient Graffiti Project. My own project ideas involve a number of Italian manuscripts and early print books found in Special Collections. As an MRST major with Professor McCormick for an advisor, I also hope to contribute to his Huon d’Auvergne project in the near future. I’ve still got a lot to learn, both in terms of code and humanities studies, but I hope to continue my DH experience throughout the rest of my college career and, hopefully, long after I graduate, too.