Library > News > Newsletter > Autumn 2013 > Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities

The Digital Humanities is an emerging, interdisciplinary area of research which looks to enhance and redefine traditional humanities scholarship through digital means.  Although the introduction of computer technologies to humanities research occurred decades ago, it is only in the past ten years that Digital Humanities has accelerated into prominence and increased sophistication.  Today, Digital Humanities research has broadened, and become part of scholarly conversation across a range of disciplines. The ability to scan huge volumes of material, to search specific data and establish connectivity between different bodies of knowledge by either connecting metadata from several institutions sometimes using semantic linking mechanisms (powered by SKOS or RDF), or by culling statistical data in order to acquire quantitative results, has turned the benefits of digital technologies from being just "work and time savers" to tools that bring about significant qualitative results, and opening up new fields of research and thought.
But how do libraries like the National Library of Israel fit into the Digital Humanities equation?
Libraries are, of course, among the greatest sources of content for Digital Humanities research.  Libraries play a crucial role in managing humanities data through collection, digitization and preservation, all of which facilitate increased research.  For digital humanists, the library can also play a critical role in enabling the discovery of content from academic and cultural sources. 

NLI, however, is taking this role one step further, by providing support for seminars designed to promote technological innovation in the Digital Humanities in Israel. The seminars - organized by Israeli academic institutions and featuring international and local experts - aim to encourage research and development of innovative technologies for the Digital Humanities.

"The National Library of Israel has begun a comprehensive project in which large parts of the NLI collections will be digitized, and the relevant metadata, and full text, attached where applicable,” explains Dr. Milka Levy-Rubin, NLI Humanities Collection Curator. “The seminars we are sponsoring take this one step further, providing a forum for researchers and developers from both the humanities and computer sciences to work together to maximize advancements in this cutting-edge field."

The inaugural seminar, held in May, 2011 at Tel Aviv University, featured experts discussing computer-aided research of historical archives. This past January, NLI, in conjunction with the Hebrew University Geography Department, hosted the second seminar that explored the incorporation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) into the field of Historical Geography. The workshops explored both theoretical and real technologies and approaches in the use of historical maps and other historical spatial sources with modern GIS tools.  These lectures can be viewed on YouTube.
In the next seminar of the series, taking place October 6th- 11th, NLI along with the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute will present “Computer Technologies for the Historical Research of Intellectual Networks”. The workshop will showcase leading international scholars presenting their own digital humanities projects that combine intellectual history and network visualization technologies, and will teach the tools and methods that have been developed for them.  The keynote speaker will be Prof. Howard Hotson from the University of Oxford; other invited lecturers include Dr. Glen Worthey, head of the Humanities Digital Information Service at Stanford University; Scott Weingart, Indiana University; Marten Düring, Radboud University Nijmegen; and Hannah Marcus, Stanford University.
Participants will have the chance to explore open-access tools, experiment with datasets from several case studies, and connect with the thriving international community of Digital Humanities research.