DH's Hidden Histories

By Claire L H Warwick, on 11 February 2011

We are delighted to report that Julianne Nyhan and Anne Welsh, of UCL Information Studies and UCLDH have been awarded funding from the University of Trier’s Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Forschungszentrum (HKFZ) for a project entitled ‘Digital Humanities as Wissensraum: uncovering hidden histories (c. 1949-1980)’.

The application of computing to the Humanities is not new and can be traced back to at least 1949, when Fr Roberto Busa began researching the creation of an index variorum of some 11 million words of medieval Latin in the works of St Thomas Aquinas and related authors. Notes and contributions towards a history of the computer in the humanities have appeared in recent years; however, our understanding of such developments remains incomplete and largely unwritten.

Anne and Julianne will gather and make available sources to enable the social, intellectual and cultural conditions that shaped the early take up of computing in the humanities to be investigated. The project will draw on an interdisciplinary method bundle from oral history, digital humanities and historical-cultural studies. With the aim of capturing memories, observations and insights that are rarely recorded in the scholarly literature of the field they intend to carry out interviews with ‘pioneer’ or ‘early adopter’ scholars and practitioners from c. 1949 until 1980 (that is, from main frame computing to the coming of the personal computer).

An international symposium in summer 2011 will address all aspects of the project’s methodology as well as bring together a small group of ‘early adopter’ scholars to discuss and record the early days of DH. This will be followed by online and print publications to support future research into the topic.

This should be a great initiative and we at UCLDH are very much looking forward to taking part in it. Watch this space for announcements of the project’s website, Advisory Board and the symposium.