For over a decade, Dr. Alfred Benney, Professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University, has been recording theologians at work. His American Scholars of Religion project, which has grown to include over 800 video interviews, is an important body of scholarship that couldn’t be disseminated through traditional modes of academic publishing due to the video-based nature of the project. So when Jackie Kremer, Religious Studies Liaison and Outreach Librarian at Fairfield, saw how Digital Commons could support video, she immediately reached out to Dr. Benney, and they began working together to mount the collection in DigitalCommons@Fairfield.
Dr. Benney began recording the interviews in 1998, asking theologians a series of big questions: How do you explain the problem of evil? Is it possible to prove the existence of God? Why should we study religion? In Benney’s words, the unique value of the videos is that in watching these theologians in engaged conversation, the viewer sees that “scholarship is often the struggle to understand the question rather than posit a simplistic answer.”
True to the spirit of the project, Kremer and Benney have found ways to educate students on the subject matter through the work of publishing the massive collection. Student workers learn on multiple levels as they compose the abstracts for each interview, submit complete metadata records, and upload the videos to the repository and YouTube.
With the guidance of Nina Peri (Project Coordinator for the IR), this special collection of original faculty research is now a resource for the whole campus community. At the IR’s launch party, four students talked about what they had learned by studying and working with the collection, and Kremer says they “blew us away with the richness and depth of the knowledge they had gained.” Dr. Benney considers the publication of the collection in DigitalCommons@Fairfield a career highlight, and its success has spurred interest and participation in the institutional repository initiative from faculty across the university.