Introducing Emily

Meet Emily, our resident expert on Australian and American politics during Australian federation, and enthusiastic traveller for blues dance and Broadway show experiences. Today, Emily brings a wealth of digital humanities experience to our team, after hopping over to MDAP from The University’s Digital Studio in early 2020.

Hi Emily! Can you please tell us a bit about your career trajectory so far?

It’s been something of a wandering trajectory! I completed my BA in History and English at Monash University in 2002, returning to Monash for Honours in History in 2005, and on to Melbourne for my PhD in 2007, looking at Australia and the United States during the development of Australian federation, which I finished in 2018.

At the same time I worked in different call centres, including at Yarra City Council, and eventually was able to move into the role of Community Grants Administrator there in 2012. I also was able to take up some different research and teaching related roles in this time, including a summer internship at the Library of Congress in Washington, and as an intern with The University of Melbourne’s Digital Studio where I worked with fellow MDAPer, Aleks (Dr. Aleks Michalewicz).

The Digital Studio is a collaborative research hub hosted by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. By building capacity and connections, the Digital Studio aims to humanize and leverage digital technologies to transform the ways in which teaching, research and scholarship shape the social, ethical and cultural dimensions of our world. Image: The University of Melbourne

While studying I became increasingly interested in the digital humanities and the possibilities available for researchers there, and after finishing my thesis started learning different programming languages, which ultimately led to me starting my dream job with MDAP in February 2020.

Tell us about an interesting project at MDAP?

I’m just diving into a new collaboration that I am very excited about. The MDAP team is working with Prof. Julie Willis and Soon-Tzu Speechley in the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage. They have been doing interesting work looking at architectural history in a new way, and we will be collaborating to visualise the data they have, to show how architects moved and worked within and across the British Empire in the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.

“This will mean showing movement across time as well as place, and finding ways to illustrate the connections between architects in a clear and meaningful manner. This project aligns strongly both with my historical interests and with my fascination with maps and the way they can be used for telling stories. It’s going to be fun!”

What are some of the solvable, difficult, and wicked problems on your horizon?

I think the ever present problem is keeping on top of the different tools and techniques for data analysis, and knowing or working out which is the best option for any given situation. On the plus side, this means I’m constantly learning new things, which is the way I like to be.

Can you tell us about your latest adventure or next planned one outside of MDAP?

My last big adventure was travelling around the United States for a month after I finished my thesis. I was able to visit friends in Dallas, Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Atlanta; be a tourist in Los Angeles; meet an old family friend in Chicago to go and see Hamilton, and spend a week in a mansion on the outer banks of North Carolina blues dancing. It was magical!

View from The Blues Experiment House in North Carolina, a place for dance enthusiasts from all around the world to meet and experience a remote four-wheel drive beach with wild horses! Image: Dr Emily Fitzgerald

In the context of a rapidly evolving global environment and UoM’s research strategy, what would you most like to explore, challenge, or innovate in your work in the future?

“I’m very keen to delve even further into the qualitative data and the digital humanities, to help people find tools and methods that will let them get even more out of their research data (and to think about the term data in new and potentially broader ways!)”

I’m also looking forward to working more in less familiar domains, and with different members of the MDAP team, expanding my skills and experience and contributing my humanities background to all sorts of projects.


Lead image: Emily seeing Hamilton in Chicago in 2018. Image: Dr Emily Fitzgerald