This is a temporary landing-spot for a project to assemble a timely and important collection of essays, titled “#alt-ac: Alternate Academic Careers for Humanities Scholars.”

Newsflash! Here’s a press release from MediaCommons about the upcoming publication of this edited collection within an exciting new, community-driven, open-access framework.

Newsflash 2! It’s out! Visit the #Alt-Academy project at MediaCommons.

I feel honored to be editing the collection, which will be available in 2011 in free, open-access format via MediaCommons. It features contributions by and for people with deep training and experience in the humanities, who are working or are seeking employment — off the tenure track — within universities and colleges, or in allied knowledge and cultural heritage institutions such as museums, libraries, academic presses, historical societies, and governmental humanities organizations. (Skip straight to the list of contributors, here.)

The work of such institutions is enriched and enabled by capable humanities scholars. These people work to maintain a research and publication profile and bring their methodological and theoretical training to bear on problem sets of great importance to higher education. Oftentimes, keeping their talents within — or around — the academy can be more difficult than making the switch to private-sector careers. Class divisions among faculty and staff in higher ed are profound, and the suspicion and (worse) condescension with which “failed academics” are sometimes met can be disheartening. For all that, they love their work. Many on the #alt-ac track will tell you about the satisfaction of making teams (and systems, and programs) work, of solving problems and personally making or enabling breakthroughs in research and scholarship in their disciplines, and of contributing to and experiencing the life of the mind in ways they did not imagine when they entered grad school.

Essays in the collection run the gamut from personal narratives, positioned within certain academic disciplines and institutions, to staged dialogues on issues and opportunities off the tenure track, to reflective and data-driven essays on the state of the academy and the (problematic? disruptive? salutary?) position of “alternate academics” within it. A few essays also represent retrograde career paths and critiques of the #alt-ac concept.

I describe the genesis of the project in a January 2010 blog post. You can follow ongoing conversations marked with the “#alt-ac” hashtag on Twitter, and see a list of some of the twittering contributors to this book. And some of my own recent essays on the subject are available on this site, including: “Monopolies of Invention,” “On Compensation,” and “Uninvited Guests.”

Contributors to the volume include the following people, in alphabetical order (some of whom are collaborating on essays, staging dialogues, or creating audio programs):

  1. Joanne M. Berens, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives, Alumni Relations and Development, University of Chicago
  2. Jeremy Boggs, Creative Lead, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  3. Arno Bosse, Senior Director for Technology, Division of the Humanities, University of Chicago
  4. Sheila Brennan, Director of Public Projects, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  5. Hugh Cayless, Developer, NYU Digital Library Technology Services, New York University
  6. Tanya Clement, Associate Director, Digital Cultures and Creativity, University of Maryland
  7. Brian Croxall, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Academic Libraries, Emory University
  8. James Cummings, Senior Research Technologist, University of Oxford
  9. Suzanne Fischer, Associate Curator of Technology, The Henry Ford
  10. Julia Flanders, Director, Women Writers Project and Associate Director for Textbase Development, Scholarly Technology Group, Brown University
  11. Amanda French, Regional THATCamp Coordinator, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  12. Amanda Gailey, Assistant Professor, Department of English and CDRH, University of Nebraska
  13. Joe Gilbert, Head, Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia Library University of Virginia
  14. Wayne Graham, Head, Digital Research & Scholarship R&D, UVa Library, University of Virginia
  15. Patricia Hswe, Digital Collections Curator, Pennsylvania State University
  16. Eric Johnson, Social Media Coordinator, Monticello and Jefferson Library
  17. Shana Kimball, Interim Co-Director, Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan
  18. Sharon Leon, Director of Public Projects, Center for History and New Media, George Mason
  19. Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing, King’s College, London
  20. Julie C. Meloni, INKE Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria
  21. Patrick Murray-John, Instructional Technology Specialist, Mary Washington
  22. Bethany Nowviskie, Director, Digital Research & Scholarship, UVa Library and Associate Director, Scholarly Communication Institute, University of Virginia (editor)
  23. Dot Porter, Metadata Manager DHO, Royal Irish Academy
  24. Doug Reside, Assistant Director, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, University of Maryland
  25. Dorothea Salo, Digital Repository Librarian, U Wisconsin-Madison
  26. Tom Scheinfeldt, Managing Director, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  27. Lisa Spiro, Director, Digital Media Center, Fondren Library , Rice University
  28. Miranda Swanson, Associate Dean of Students, Student Affairs, University of Chicago
  29. Amanda Watson, Research and Instruction Librarian, Connecticut College
  30. Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Director of Research, Communications, and Programs,
    Office of Faculty Governance, UNC-Chapel Hill
  31. Christa Williford, Project Coordinator, Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives, CLIR
  32. Vika Zafrin, Digital Collections and Computing Support Librarian, Boston University

The MediaCommons publication of #alt-ac collection will be open to public response and contribution, and will feature formal commentary by:

  • Timothy Powell, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Gardner Campbell, Director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning and Assoc. Prof. of Literature, Media, and Learning, Baylor University