Scope and Contents
Call Number: SC1061
Schnapp, Jeffrey T. (Jeffrey Thompson), 1954-
Stanford Humanities Lab.
Title: Stanford Humanities Lab records
Dates: circa 1999-2009
Summary: The materials consist of administrative records, subject files, conference materials, and email documenting the functions
and projects of the Stanford Humanities Lab.
Language(s): The materials are in English.
Physical Location: Special Collections and University Archives materials are stored offsite and must be paged 36-48 hours in advance. For more
information on paging collections, see the department's website: http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/spc.html.
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6064
Phone: (650) 725-1022
Information about Access
Open for research.
Ownership & Copyright
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the
Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94304-6064. Consent
is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission
from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See: http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/pubserv/permissions.html.
Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research
and educational purposes.
[identification of item], Stanford Humanities Lab Records (SC0161). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives,
Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.
Founded by Jeffrey Schnapp (Comparative Literature) in 1999, the Stanford Humanities Lab (SHL) enabled scholars in the humanities
to undertake mid- to large-scale team-based research projects. By supporting innovative research, SHL sought to expand the
scope and scale of humanitas, supplementing traditional humanities training with "hands-on" experiences in a true laboratory
setting. In 2003, Henry Lowood (Curator for History of Science & Technology Collections; Film & Media Collections) became
co-director of the lab. Schanpp and Lowood were later joined by Michael Shanks (Archaeology), who directed lab as a team until
2009 when it evolved into separate projects. The Stanford Humanities Lab was a Center for Transdiciplinary/Post-Disciplinary
Study. With new developments in areas such as biotech, digital culture, global society, SHL believed that some crucial questions
— about what it is to be human, about experience in a connected world, about the boundaries of culture and nature — transcend
the old divisions between the arts, sciences and humanities, between the academy, industry and the cultural sphere.
SHL engaged in experimental projects with a "laboratory" ethos — collaborative, co-creative, team-based — involving a triangulation
of arts practice, commentary/critique, and outreach, merging research, pedagogy, publication and practice. They didn't just
comment and discuss, they built: new media, interactive archives, predictive models of social change, new courses, collaborative
research workshops, art exhibitions.
The SHL agenda encompassed: • animating archives - regenerating, bringing to life, and fostering new modes of interaction
with the storehouses of human, cultural, artistic, scientific achievement - our focus is on the question of the relationship
of the human past to efforts at conservation and preservation
• building bigger pictures - putting specialized in-depth research into the context of big human questions; questions, for
example, of rapid social change and innovation, the ethical implications of information technology, the character of distributed
digital communities, the politics of digital citizenship, the past, present, and future of intellectual property • enabling
co-creative collaboration - developing successful models of teamwork, learner-centered models of training (thinking through
doing), and collaborative authoring tools and processes • building bridges - establishing innovative partnerships between
industry, museums, foundations, and high-level university-based research
Projects The Lab offered the opportunity for scholars in the humanities to undertake the sort of mid- to large-scale team-based
research projects that have traditionally been the domain of the natural and social sciences. Humanities disciplines have
generally received far more modest research funding than the sciences, thus discouraging resource-intensive scholarship as
well as collaborative or team-based work. These limitations have resulted in research findings—usually in print form—that
are produced and consumed by individual scholars working in isolation, and shared with students exclusively in the classroom
SHL sought to change that. Whereas institutional pressures have fostered a narrowing of research agendas, SHL promoted a model
of the humanities that is flexible and cross-disciplinary at its core and at the same time rooted in the disciplinary traditions
of the humanities. By providing financial support for innovative humanities research with results that assume technologically
inflected forms, SHL attempted:
• to expand the scope and scale of humanitas
• to supplement traditional humanities training with "hands-on" experiences in a true laboratory setting
• to add an outreach dimension to traditional disciplinary endeavors
After an initial pilot year, projects were typically funded for five to seven years, during which SHL administrative and technical
staff were involved in helping to shepherd the work to successful completion. Administrative staff helped with working methodology,
such pragmatic details as helping to build partnerships with museums and other public institutions, fundraising, and presenting
work to the campus and wider community.
Technical staff helped researchers imagine outputs and results beyond the limits of their technology skills. They assisted
in locating digital artist collaborators, programmers, video producers, animators, and others to help realize researchers'
ideas. And they instructed research teams not only on how to supervise the creation of technology-driven outputs but also
on how to do hands-on programming, film production, animation, etc. of their own.
Teaching SHL projects were rooted in the disciplinary traditions of the Humanities, but they involve students from a wide
array of Humanities and non-Humanities disciplines. Many SHL projects involved a recurring course or seminar component that
allows team members to introduce, develop, and test their research results within the classroom. SHL was a research center,
but teaching is central to its mission. The SHL aim was to lead a revolution in the way knowledge is produced and presented
in the Humanities and, in so doing, to provide a compelling new model for Humanities education that:
• enhances and deepens traditional classroom teaching
• integrates the latest technologies and tools into Humanities research and vice versa
• breeds a new kind of Humanities-savvy "techie" and a new kind of tech-savvy "fuzzy"
To this end, SHL projects involved a new hands-on, laboratory-based model of undergraduate and graduate training, informed
by the media and information revolutions of the present. Students learned not only by studying knowledge in the traditional
manner, but also by producing knowledge: by being assigned responsibility for the realization of a piece of research within
a larger research mosaic, overseen by an experienced senior researcher.
Scope and Contents
The materials consist of administrative records, subject files, conference materials, and email documenting the functions
and projects of the Stanford Humanities Lab.
The materials are arranged in two series: Series 1. Computer Files; Series 2. Paper files.
Digital humanities centers.
Humanities--Study and teaching (Higher).
Humanities--Study and teaching--California --Stanford.