Podcasts from the Hidden Histories symposium and hello again

I’ve just returned to work after almost five months maternity leave. Needless to say, during this time my gorgeous new arrival demanded all of my attention and I didn’t manage to keep up with anything research-related. Since returning to work I’ve been amazed by how much has happened in the DH world and am really enjoying catching up again. I was reminded of the speed of Digital Humanities’ most recent ascent by something my colleague Melissa Terras tweeted on May 15th:

Tweet showing Digital Humanities in drop down menu

Digital Humanities is real

This brought me right back to my little office in University College Cork, Ireland in 2006. A few Digital Humanities projects (we called them Humanities Computing projects then) were ongoing in UCC. At that time the CELT (Corpus of Electronic Texts) project was probably the most established of them. It was set up by Professor Donnchadh Ó Corráin and  stemmed from a project also set up by him in November 1991 (CURIA). CELT was one of the earliest, if not the earliest Digital Humanities project in Ireland. From its inception it encoded historical texts of medieval and modern Ireland in line with TEI and, as far as I’m aware, the first PhD thesis on TEI was carried out there in 1997 (by Mavis Cournane, entitled ‘The application of SGML/TEI to the processing of complex multilingual historical texts’. Others in Cork were working on DH then too, for example, among others, Peter Flynn in Electronic Publishing, Orla Murphy in English and Mike Cosgrave in History). CELT also played a key role in now defunct projects such as the ‘Documents of Ireland’ project, which ended in 1999 and included some nine projects ranging from ‘Breaking the Silence — Voicing the Experience of Staying-at-home in an Emigrant Society’ to ‘The Latin Bible: Text and Reception’.

In 2006 I had just completed my PhD (based on a combination of XML, Old Irish and  Metalexicography) at CELT and was in search of an academic post. I remember so well that sinking feeling as I punched “Humanities Computing” and then “Digital Humanities” into the various recruitment search engines or scanned the drop down menus of those sites. Now and then something did pop up (and I was lucky enough to get posts in France and Germany before moving permanently to UCL) but not very often compared to the past couple of years. In fact, I’d left Ireland ever before the Digital Humanities Observatory was set up or any of the teaching and PhD programs that now exist in almost every University in Ireland were established. And now … Digital Humanities even has its own place on drop-down menus! Even had I managed to get more than three hours unbroken sleep at any point in the past five months this fact would still make me feel old(ish).

Apropos of this, I’ve blogged here before about the work we are doing on the History of Computing in the Humanities. As part of this project, in September 2011 Anne Welsh and I organised a one-day Symposium that brought Historians, Archivists, Information Studies scholars and Digital Humanists in order to discuss methodologies for uncovering the histories of computing in the Humanities (c.1949 – present) and to reflect on the state of the art. Most of the presentations (listed below, Claudine Moulin’s was sadly lost due to a technical problem) are available as podcasts on the Hidden Histories website and I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did!

  • Opening Keynote: Beyond chronology and profession: discovering how to write a history of the Digital Humanities, Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London; Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney.
  • Knowledge Spaces and Digital Humanities, Claudine Moulin, Universitaet Trier, Germany
  • Unwriting the history of Humanities Computing, Edward Vanhoutte, Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature – Ghent, Belgium
  • Crowd sourcing: beyond the traditional boundaries of academic history, Melissa Terras, Dept. Information Studies, UCL
  • Different stories to be lived and told: recovering Lehmann James Oppenheimer (1868-1916) for the narrative of the Irish Arts & Crafts movement (1894-1925), James G.R. Cronin, School of History & Centre for Adult Continuing Education, University College Cork, Ireland.
  • Oral History and acts of recovery: humanizing history?, Andrew Flinn, Dept. Information Studies, UCL
  • Lost origins of Information Science, Vanda Broughton, Dept. Information Studies, UCL
  • (Virtual presentation) DH pioneers and progeny: some reflections on generational accomplishment and engagement in the Digital Humanities, Ray Siemens, Faculty of Humanities, University of Victoria
  • Closing Keynote: Data vs. Text: forty years of confrontation, Lou Burnard, Oxford University Computing Services (Emeritus)

Julianne Nyhan

Senior Lecturer (associate Prof) in Digital Information Studies, University College London. Main research: Digital Humanities, Oral History & History of Computing. Publications page: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/dis/people/juliannenyhan / Research: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Julianne_Nyhan

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