Many digital humanists in centers or libraries—interdisciplinary positions that cater to multiple departments—are expected to demonstrate the products of their digital labor to high-ranking administrators and stakeholders on a consistent basis. As such, they often are on tight and over-extended timelines to produce high-quality digital scholarship that will prove their value to the institution and demonstrate evidence of the success of the institution’s investment in digital humanities. To do so, many digital scholars are implicitly encouraged to cut corners in order to meet the unrealistic demands of the organization, or to compensate for faculty members’ lack of experience scoping projects. When due attention is given to the project development process, the DH specialist in charge may be discredited or regarded as an unhelpful collaborator because she does not achieve project milestones in a timely manner or she has “failed” to deliver a completed product that met faculty members’ expectations, whether or not they were realistic. Although stakeholder enthusiasm for digital humanities may be considerable, institutions are still learning how much and what sort of work is necessary to bring a project to completion effectively, sustainably, and without considerable exploitation. Even supportive and practical administrators may find that they vastly underestimated the work involved—but cannot provide more needed support without more evidence of success in the form of finished projects.
Many entities—whether libraries, centers, or departments—hope to become leaders in DH within their local campus communities and beyond. But what is required, not just to “make DH happen,” but to make a particular entity a leader? This paper will explore the pressures that such goals place on DH specialists, and will offer suggestions for rethinking institutional strategy that could lead to better shared expertise and less precarity in the risk of specialist burnout.