DARIAH Beyond Europe: Reflections from the Library of Congress event

The DARIAH Beyond Europe (DBE) event, held on October 2-4, in Washington was the second of the series of workshops dedicated to international cooperation and knowledge exchange. The workshop, hosted by the Library of Congress (LoC), brought together digital humanists from the US east coast and Europe to exchange ideas and discuss the state of play in the two continents. The event was part of the Horizon 2020 funded project DESIR.

“Research infrastructures and libraries are natural allies in the business of sharing knowledge,” said DARIAH Director Toma Tasovac. “The workshop at the Library of Congress was a great opportunity for us not only to showcase DARIAH and our research infrastructure landscape – a uniquely European phenomenon – but also to explore possible roads of cooperation with our American colleagues.”

The event was structured around three knowledge exchange sessions: Digital Newspapers & Text Analysis, Infrastructural Challenges for Public Humanities and Using web archives in humanities research.

Abigail Potter, Senior Innovation Specialist with the Library of Congress Digital Innovation Lab moderated the first session. From the European point of view, Mikko Tolonen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Digital Humanities, University of Helsinki, gave an overview of the current state of digital newspaper work in Europe, while Antoine Doucet, Professor of Computer Science at the University of La Rochelle and Principal Investigator of the ground-breaking Horizon 2020 funded project, NewsEye, which aims at developing tools and methods for effective exploration of digital newspapers by means of new technologies. Deborah Thomas, Program Manager at the LoC, presented the National Digital Newspaper Program, a project started in 2003 to create and maintain a digital archive of significant historic newspapers published in the US, which led to the launch of the website Chronicling America which now contains more than 14 millions pages online. The first day ended with a series of lightning talks aimed at showing some projects and initiatives both in the US and Europe.

The second session, chaired by Professor Christophe Verbruggen, Director of the Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities, was centered around Public Humanities. Meghan Ferriter, Senior Innovation Specialist at the Library of Congress, described how the Library enables transformational experiences by connecting users to its digital collections. This was complemented by presentations from Fien Danniau of the University of Ghent and Stephen Robertson of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media explored the challenges of Public Humanities respectively in Europe and in the US.

The final knowledge exchange session focused on web archives with an additional international point of view, as Olga Holownia presented IICP, the International Internet Preservation Consortium, which represents organisations form over 45 countries with the aim of acquiring, preserving and making accessible knowledge and information from the Internet for future generations. Kees Teszelszky from the National Library Netherlands gave a short history of web archiving efforts in Europe and described the difficult situation in terms of copyright and legal issues and different approaches to overcoming these challenges. Abigail Grotke, Web Archiving Team Lead at the Library of Congress gave an overview of the current situation in the US, characterised by the absence of a legal deposit, and showed what types of collections are recorded.

Furthermore, two inspiring keynotes were given by Jason Rhody (“Posting Signs and Filling Potholes on the Information Superhighway: Toward a Research-Ready Scholarly Infrastructure”) and jointly by Laurie Allen and Stewart Varner (“Collections as Data: Digital Collections for Emerging Research Methods“). The challenges of creating ‘research-ready infrastructures’ as well as how to provide sustainable access to digital cultural heritage collections are both at the heart of work undertaken by DARIAH in Europe, as exemplified by our comparable Heritage Data Reuse Charter.

The workshop was also attended by the Library of Congress’ Director of Digital Strategy, Kate Zwaard. For Kate “an event like this is important to the Library of Congress because it allows us to engage in partnership opportunities with our friends and colleagues at other institutions. As we have outlined in our recently published Digital Strategy, we believe that collaborating with other allows our resources to stretch further, we so can do more together than any of us can do alone.” This event was an important first step to foster international cooperation between US and European colleagues as well as a catalyst for ongoing collaborations in the future.


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