A journey through time and networks: a short story from a PhD candidate at the DH Lab

by Daniela Linkevicius de Andrade

Time is a strange thing for historians. It is our object of adoration and frustration, our compass and clock. We study time, but when it comes to the time of our own lives, things get more complicated. Over the last weeks, I’ve constantly heard from other historians: “wow, time went by so fast!”. As a historian, I should know that time is subjective, but I never cease to marvel. After all, it has been eight months since I arrived in Mainz, Germany, and started my fellowship at the DH Lab, but I still find it challenging to translate and express the dimension of eight months. The effort is worth it, and I invite you to join me on a bit of a journey about my time at DH Lab. „A journey through time and networks: a short story from a PhD candidate at the DH Lab“ weiterlesen

RSA 2022 in Dublin

By Jaap Geraerts

Two weeks ago, from March 29 until April 2, the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) conference took place in Dublin. It’s probably the largest conference for academics interested in the early modern period and it customarily attracts scholars from various historical disciplines and fields from all over the world. Over the last couple of years, the number of papers and panels on the digital humanities has been steadily increasing at this conference. For me this is good news: RSA now offers me a platform to share both my latest archival findings and to showcase the technical side of my project. „RSA 2022 in Dublin“ weiterlesen

Durch Partizipation zum Kontrakt. Gestaltungsprozesse einer praxisbezogenen Forschungsdatenleitlinie

von Fabian Cremer und Thorsten Wübbena

Bis zum Jahr 2022 hatte das Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (IEG) keine Leitlinie zum Umgang mit Forschungsdaten am Institut. Eine solche Leitlinie bildet einen zentralen Baustein für die strategische und operative Entwicklung von Maßnahmen im Forschungsdatenmanagement. Dieser Erfahrungsbericht aus dem IEG zeigt, es kommt weniger auf den Zeitpunkt der Verabschiedung, sondern auf den Entstehungsprozess einer Leitlinie an, damit sie maßgebliche Relevanz und Einsatzfähigkeit für den Forschungsalltag entfalten kann. „Durch Partizipation zum Kontrakt. Gestaltungsprozesse einer praxisbezogenen Forschungsdatenleitlinie“ weiterlesen

Introduction to historical (social) network analysis – Part 2

by Demival Vasques Filho

In the first part of this blog post, we discussed the first studies in graph theory and social network analysis. Then, we introduced several concepts: random networks, weak ties, two-mode networks, centrality measures, the focus theory, network visualization, and structural holes. Now, let us move on to some applications and yet new concepts!

„Introduction to historical (social) network analysis – Part 2“ weiterlesen

Integrating library data into an authority file: The challenges of MARC XML and inconsistent transcription practices

a guest post by Till Grallert

A recent Twitter post from my former colleague Anne Klammt made me aware of a recent relaunch of “Zeitschriftendatenbank” (ZDB), the portal for periodical holdings in German (and Austrian) libraries.

Part of the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, DNB), the website looks great and provides a lot of data-driven functionality, such as maps and timelines of holdings. The display language of the website itself, though not the bibliographic data, can be toggled between German and English. This is a welcome nod to international users and will certainly increase the visibility of this important portal. However, it must be noted that unfortunately the dataset of bibliographic data is not as accessible as the interface. Languages written in scripts other than Latin are provided in a variety of inconsistent transcriptions into Latin script for mostly historical technical reasons. This is not the fault of ZDB per se but it will prevent communities from the Global South from finding and accessing their own cultural heritage, which for various reasons are held by institutions in the Global North. This is especially relevant for Arabic material, as I will elaborate in the section on transliterations below.
„Integrating library data into an authority file: The challenges of MARC XML and inconsistent transcription practices“ weiterlesen

Introduction to historical (social) network analysis – Part I

by Demival Vasques Filho

Last September, as part of our seminar series, “60 minutes of DH”, at the IEG, I presented an introduction to historical (social) network analysis. In the talk, I gave an overview of the field’s history, discussing landmark papers, in my opinion. It was a mix of going through papers fundamental to shaping the discipline (a kind of consensus in the network science/social network analysis communities) and those that are important to me or I like. In the following, I will recount this biased – based on my opinion – talk about the evolution of networks research in this two-part post.

„Introduction to historical (social) network analysis – Part I“ weiterlesen

Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode VI: Finding text re-use

by Markus Müller

In 1550, the Catholic cathedral preacher Johann Wild (Ioannes Ferus, 1495–1554) admitted in the preface to his commentary on the Gospel of John that he reused texts of Protestant authors such as Johannes Brenz (1499–1570) and Johannes Oekolampad (1482–1531) in his book, but that he only borrowed thoughts that were compatible with Catholic teaching.1 Unfortunately, in his text, there are no footnotes or other references in his text to the authors he presumably cited. Since 1950, however, various historians have found verbatim parallels or at least significant similarities between Wild’s commentaries and Protestant authors.2 But these findings were more or less accidental. It is still unclear to what extend Wild actually quoted Protestant authors, which authors he used in particular, and so on. The main reason for that is that a manual search for verbatim parallels is very time-consuming, even more time-consuming than searching for censorship. So, is there a way to hack the search for literal quotes in 16th century books?

„Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode VI: Finding text re-use“ weiterlesen

Diving into Reddit: authority networks in history forums

by Daniela Linkevicius de Andrade and Demival Vasques Filho

Writing history in the 21st century means considering the digital space as a significant space for the production of historical knowledge, especially since dichotomies such as “offline” and “online” fail to do justice to how “real” and “digital” intertwine. These elements, currently approached as complementary, imply that one of the challenges that historians now face is understanding how the digital is constituted as part of our experience, playing a great influence in the way we interpret and perceive the world. If the digital modify every aspect of our lives, it is plausible to ask what this would mean for the historical field, especially regarding standards of authority, which are the pillars of the discipline. For this purpose, our objective in this project is to identify and analyze what types of authority networks we can find in Reddit history forums. „Diving into Reddit: authority networks in history forums“ weiterlesen

Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode V: How did the censors actually change the text?

by Markus Müller

We have come a long way since episode I of this miniseries: After digitizing the texts, normalizing the orthographic variants, and resolving the abbreviations, we used an interactive web app to find and correct remaining transcription errors. Now that the texts are free of mistakes we can finally use them for comparisons. In this episode, we will compare an original text with an expurged reprint to find censorship. Since the censors sometimes manipulated only one or two characters in a word, thereby changing the meaning of the whole sentence, we will compare the texts word by word using the Python module difflib.
„Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode V: How did the censors actually change the text?“ weiterlesen

„Experiment, Ergebnis, Erkenntnis“ – Dokumentation einer Interviewreihe zu Projektmanagement in den Digital Humanities

von Fabian Cremer, Swantje Dogunke, Thorsten Wübbena

1. Motivation

Die „DH from Scratch“-Veranstaltungen markieren auf den Tagungen des Verbandes „Digital Humanities im deutschsprachigen Raum“ aktuelle Diskussions- und Handlungsfelder, die sich aus der Koordination digitaler Forschung ergeben. Die vDHd2021 bot Gelegenheit, den Blick thematisch auf das Projektmanagement zu richten und methodisch eine experimentelle und virtuelle Herangehensweise zu wählen: eine partizipative Interviewreihe. Dieser Beitrag skizziert das Konzept, berichtet von der praktischen Durchführung und entwickelt konkrete Thesen als Ergebnis der Auseinandersetzung mit den „Unfrequently Asked Questions“.

„„Experiment, Ergebnis, Erkenntnis“ – Dokumentation einer Interviewreihe zu Projektmanagement in den Digital Humanities“ weiterlesen

Geohumanities III: analysing early modern mobility through birth and apprenticeship letters

By Monika Barget

In the winter term 2020/2021, Jaap Geraerts and I worked with students in the Mainz MA programme “Digitale Methoden in den Geistes- und Kulturwissenschaften” (“Digital Methods in the Humanities and Cultural Studies”) to create a digital edition of early modern birth and apprenticeship letters. The edition includes records in French and Latin as well as German and highlights people’s cross-border mobility in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. „Geohumanities III: analysing early modern mobility through birth and apprenticeship letters“ weiterlesen

Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode IV: Detecting OCR transcription errors

by Markus Müller

In the last episode, we built a pipeline to convert a diplomatic transcription into normalized Latin text. The code works fine as long as the diplomatic transcription is correct. But what happens if the transcription contains errors or, even worse, if the printer in the 16th century misspelled a word? – Right now, nothing would happen at the moment because our pipeline cannot detect these errors. This is a problem because as soon as we start comparing two editions of the same text to check for censorship (and that’s where we are going!), the slightest difference between the two texts may be interpreted as censorship. Can we solve this problem? – Yes, we can!

„Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode IV: Detecting OCR transcription errors“ weiterlesen

Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode III: Normalizing 16th century raw text

by Markus Müller

Visiting a museum as a kid, I sometimes wondered why I could hardly read anything in the medieval or early modern books and manuscripts displayed in the exhibition. Even after I learned Latin in school, the situation did not improve. I was not aware that people in former centuries used a lot more abbreviations than today, especially in Latin texts. As long as paper (or parchment) was very expensive, scribes and printers tried to save as much space as possible. Therefore, a sentence like “In principio fecit deus caelum et terram” could be abbreviated as “In prīcipio fecit de celū ťrā” (“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth” — the first verse of the Bible). You may have noted that these abbreviations worked differently than abbreviations like “WWW” or “U.S.” that we are familiar with today, and it would be nice if they could be resolved automatically with a Python script.

„Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode III: Normalizing 16th century raw text“ weiterlesen

Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode II: Let Python speak to Transkribus

by Markus Müller

In the first episode of this miniseries, I explained how to use OCR with Transkribus to create a diplomatic transcription from images of 16th century Latin prints. However, the resulting text is full of abbreviations and may contain transcription errors. In both cases, Python scripts could help to normalize the text and to detect possible errors.

An indispensable prerequisite for pimping the Transkribus workflow with Python is flawless access to the data stored on the Transkribus server. It would not make much sense to manually download the data, then run some Python scripts on the command line, and finally upload the data again manually, especially when we talk about hundreds of pages to be processed. This episode will show how to download and upload transcriptions from and to the Transkribus server using Python. (Basic to intermediate knowledge of Python is required.)

„Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode II: Let Python speak to Transkribus“ weiterlesen

Priests’ libraries in the Dutch Republic

By Jaap Geraerts and Sarah Büttner

The scholarly importance of “Priesterbibliotheken” (priests’ libraries) is well-known: they provide insight into what Catholic priests serving in the Holland Mission read or at least thought useful to own. Moreover, such libraries can tell us more about early modern Dutch Catholic spirituality, but also about the wider interest in books outside the remit of theology and pastoral care. Lastly, in particular libraries from the eighteenth century will also help to enhance our understanding of the schism which occurred in the Dutch Catholic Church. “Priesterbibliotheken (priests’ libraries) in the Dutch Republic” is a small pilot project which started at the IEG DH Lab in early 2021. The project aims to capture the bibliographical information contained in manuscript inventories of the libraries of Catholic priests serving in the Republic and making this available in digital form.
„Priests’ libraries in the Dutch Republic“ weiterlesen