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Dave Tell named KU digital humanities institute co-director

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

LAWRENCE — Dave Tell, University of Kansas professor of communication studies and creator of the nationally renowned Emmett Till Memory Project, has been named co-director of KU's Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities.

Founded in 2010, IDRH provides resources and trai­ning in the practices and tools of the digital humanities, facilitating interdisciplinary academic collaborations and innovative externally funded research. It is supported by a partnership among KU Libraries, the Hall Center for the Humanities and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 

Tell will work with Brian Rosenblum, continuing co-director and scholarly digital initiatives librarian, to create a vision for the future of digital humanities at KU and to enhance the research and grant capacity of IDRH.

“I’m honored to join the IDRH team,” Tell said. “I’m a strong believer in the power of the digital humanities to make new collaborations possible, to tell new stories, to broaden the reach of humanistic scholarship and to involve the next generation of students.”

Tell has a long history of using digital technologies to pursue humanistic work. His Emmett Till Memory Project is an award-winning mobile application that uses GPS technology to commemorate the sites of Till’s life and death in Chicago and Mississippi. Funded by KU and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the project is more than a digital repository. Using embedded links to digital archives, the project collects resources, organizes them and makes them widely available. Created in collaboration with the Till family and the Emmett Till Memorial Commission of Tallahatchie County, the Emmett Till Memory Project was recognized by National Humanities Alliance as a “top 5%” public humanities project.

Tell’s latest book is "Remembering Emmett Till." Published in 2019, it tells the complete story of Emmett Till’s commemoration in the Mississippi Delta. Funded by a 2016 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, the book presents Till's murder from the perspective of those who live in its shadow and, all too often, survive economically through the desperate repackaging of his story. It tells the sometimes inspiring, more often heartbreaking, always unlikely backstories of the Delta’s 21st century investment in Till’s story. "Remembering Emmett Till" was awarded the 2020 McLemore Prize by the Mississippi Historical Society and was listed as a book of the year by The Economist.

"Dave Tell's appointment is wonderful news for the future of digital humanities at KU,” Rosenblum said. “His powerful scholarship, successful grant-writing experience and commitment to collaboration and community partnerships will bring new depth and vision to IDRH. Dave has been a longtime supporter of IDRH, and I could not be more excited by this opportunity to work with him."

“I am delighted that Dave Tell has agreed to take on this leadership role,” said Richard Godbeer, director of the Hall Center. “He has an exciting vision for the future of IDRH that will make KU a regional and national leader in using digital technologies to uncover the lives and histories of marginalized groups and individuals, building authentic partnerships with diverse communities, and creating spaces for those communities to produce and share their own stories.”

“The Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities will undoubtedly benefit from Dave Tell’s knowledge and expertise,” said Kevin L. Smith, dean of KU Libraries. “Dr. Tell has been a dedicated supporter of KU Libraries, and I am excited to see how IDRH will continue to grow from his leadership.