Matthew Lincoln, PhD Cultural Heritage Data & Info Architecture

Open-Access Humanities Publishing

A recent graduate of our department is exploring digital dissemination of the core discovery in his dissertation. The thought process that led him to this discovery is uniquely well-suited to a digital visualization (a hobby-horse of mine) hosted on a personal website. He is torn, however, between the imperative to market his own work and the fear of “cheapening” his scholarship through digital publication, as well as the not-totally-unjustified fear of theft.

Newly-minted humanities Ph.Ds in the paranoiac job market may be right to fear resistance or disbelief of more retardataire senior scholars. But I’d argue a good number of those same scholars can be convinced of the available grant opportunities, not to mention the wide open research possibilities in digital art history, and the benefits of open-access distribution of scholarly work.

Ross Mounce recently posted a cogent argument for uploading preprints of scholarship before they are accepted for publishing, arguing that overcoming this cultural and psychological barrier results in your work being read and cited more. (hat tip: Digital Humanities Now) Ross notes:

I suspect, like in biology, this practice isn’t yet mainstream in the Arts & Humanities – perhaps just a matter of time before this cultural shift occurs… There is one important caveat to mention with respect to posting preprints – a small minority of conservative, traditional journals will not accept articles that have been posted online prior to submission.

Some very old school scholarship: Hercules Segers, Three Books, 1615-1630 - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Bruikleen van de Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten (RP-P-H-OB-867)

According to according to the SHERPA/RoMEO survey, the Art Bulletin doesn’t formally support the archiving of pre- or post-print PDFs of articles. But a better entry point for digital scholarship may be nascent open-access, online-only, peer-reviewed journals like the Journal of the Historians of Netherlandish Art. I am curious if open-access humanities journals will, in these early days, trend towards specialized fields of study staked out by already-established scholarly societies, as these societies can bring their ready-made social network of peer-reviewers. The JHNA’s online platform is incredibly basic, but its articles have been a solid mix of both new and established scholars (in other words, they seem to have broken out of the vicious cycle of prestige-chasing). Their organizational commitment having already been made, I look forward to seeing the journal jump some more technical barriers next, such as adopting some good born-digital scholarship tools like Comment Press.

Scholars can also just circumvent this whole process and directly post their work online, critics be damned. If you are interested in getting your work in front of eyeballs, Abram Fox notes the online audience for one of his papers quickly exceeded the in-person audience at its national conference presentation.

In the same vein, I’ve just uploaded three of my projects on here: a more traditional scholarly paper on Emanuel de Witte, and two digital humanities projects on mapping an artist’s diary, and getting Google Earth to recognize pre-eighteenth-century dates.

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Lincoln, Matthew D. "Open-Access Humanities Publishing." Matthew Lincoln, PhD (blog), 14 Jun 2013,

Tagged in: AcademiaArt HistoryDigital HumanitiesPublishingLAM