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Alumni Spotlight: Tara Trahey ’15 on collaboration, digital humanities, & graduate school

May 8, 2017

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Tara Trahey graduated from Duke in 2015 with a double major in Visual Arts/Art History and European and Italian Studies and a minor in Classical Civilizations. She received a full fellowship to study Classical Archaeology at the University of Oxford, thanks to the generous Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities. She received a Master of Studies from Oxford in 2016. She is now completing her first year in the Art History and Archaeology PhD program at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.


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How did you first become involved in the Wired Lab?

I first became involved in the Wired! Lab after taking a course with Sheila Dillon during the spring of my freshman year. While researching for an assignment in the course Women in the Classical World, I stumbled upon two “twin” vases, which soon became a long-term research project. Professor Dillon soon became my research mentor and introduced me to Wired, where I began to work on my project alongside others in the lab.

What did you learn from your experience working in the lab?

My first significant takeaway from the lab is what incredibly valuable work can be done through collaboration—in particular, collaboration between students, faculty, and graduate students. This is not a particularly common working method in the humanities, and I really believe that it should be actively encouraged across humanities disciplines. The lab space was an “even playing field” where everyone’s contributions were seen as valuable. That collaborative and inclusive atmosphere is what encouraged me to recognize that my ideas, even as a young student, were worth pursuing. There is also something unique in the experience of being closely involved with your professors in a research setting. It is a working method that is useful both inside and outside the lab, as it facilitates more productive classroom engagement in courses outside of the lab as well.

How did your work in the Wired Lab influence your academic growth at Duke?

The success of my research at Duke is due in large part to my experience in the Wired! Lab. Without spending time in the lab, I do not think I would have pursued the use of software in making sense of traditional Greek vase scholarship. My recently published article is based upon the use of digital methods that I explored while spending time in the Wired! Lab. Beyond this, my introduction to the Wired! Lab early in my undergraduate career changed the way I engaged in all my courses at Duke. I felt supported and encouraged to take initiative, and also to think creatively about the ways in which new questions can be asked of seemingly “old” scholarship.

Is there a connection between your current work/studies and your prior work with the lab?

In my PhD program I will be taking three years of coursework before beginning work on my dissertation. I certainly see my dissertation work involving digital humanities research, and I have enjoyed learning about the projects of graduate students here at NYU who have taken part in internships and fellowships through the Digital Humanities Center at NYU. I chose a PhD program that facilitates and supports digital humanities research projects, and I look forward to taking advantage of the resources. This upcoming fall I will be taking a course on the Introduction to Python through the Program in Digital Humanities and Social Science at NYU, and I am so happy to finally work my way into coding languages so that I can begin manipulating my own data visualizations.

Image Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art