A Cross-Atlantic Meeting of Medievalists

After the first “DARIAH Beyond Europe” workshop in mid-September, there were two easy next steps for the “cowboys” on the US side who wanted to “do something” with DARIAH: add to the DH Course Registry and find one or more working groups to join. The course registry is a topic for another blog post, but I was curious to see what reception I’d get, as a somewhat random American emailing the coordinators of an existing working group.

The first working group I contacted was “Defining cloud infrastructure services for DH”, hoping to draw upon my experience working in research computing at UC Berkeley. As luck would have it, I picked the one group that was no longer active, as it had been part of a limited-term grant that had wrapped up. It was the perfect illustration of the greatest challenge of infrastructure-building: we direct our energy and attention to tackling big challenges of service development, provisioning, dissemination, and stability, and it’s so easy to lose track of the small, prosaic things like keeping all pages of a website current.

Francesca Morselli, the DARIAH-EU Integration Officer and coordinator of the working groups, was very kind to get in touch with me and explain the situation with the cloud infrastructure group. She facilitated an introduction to the “Mediaevalist’s Sources (MESO)” working group, and one of the co-leads of the group, Emiliano Degl’Innocenti, was planning to be in San Francisco at the end of October for the DigitalHERITAGE 2018 conference.

Quinn Dombrowski and Emiliano Degl’Innocenti

While the Medievalist’s Sources working group has been on standby for the last few years, funding from DARIAH, supplemented by additional funds from a number of related research projects, has allowed the group to start making progress on a number of bigger-picture goals. These include developing a registry of medieval sources; fostering a community around common tools, methods, and standards relevant for medievalists; and working within the larger DARIAH context to generalize and promote tools originally developed for medievalists for a larger group of scholars. The approach they’ve taken to registry development is informed by the state of the medieval field with regard to publication of text: which is to say, they’re web-scraping text archive sites, extracting new or updated information, and having scholars vet that information and map it to the appropriate RDF triple for inclusion in the directory. It’s a realistic solution, if an unsatisfying one. I hope that the working group can help better practices gain traction, and I’ll be working with medieval projects at Stanford, including Prof. Kathryn Starkey’s Global Medieval Sourcebook (which will relaunch this month), to make their texts and metadata as easily reusable as possible by the international medievalist community.

Collaboration inevitably requires some overhead, and Emiliano and I talked some about what model might be most effective. I suspect this will be a question for many of the DARIAH working groups where “cowboys” from beyond Europe show up: does everyone work together, making compromises and accommodations for time zones, local constraints, and cultural contexts, or do we refactor working groups into “chapters” clustered by nation, time zone, or interests?

I’m looking forward to working through the thorny issues — be they medievalist or bureaucratic in nature — with the MESO working group.


Quinn Dombrowski supports digital humanities in the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at Stanford University.

Emiliano Degl’Innocenti supports the integration and interoperability of CH and DH Research Infrastructures at CNR-DSU, Italy.

An international workshop series

As part of the DARIAH-DESIR project, a series of three-day workshops will be organised in 2018 and 2019, one at Stanford University, one at the Library of Congress, and one in Australia, allowing an exchange of ideas between the DARIAH community and Digital Arts & Humanities projects in the US and Australia. The purposes of the workshops are to promote DARIAH tools and services, to initiate collaborations, and above all to exchange knowledge and experience in digital scholarship on an international level. The workshops will focus on shared areas of expertise between the DARIAH Working Groups and host institutions. Key topics are sustainability of infrastructures, digital text analysis, geo-humanities, image collections and annotation, music and performing arts, collections as data, and web archives. This blog will report on all three workshops, providing insight into the topics discussed and knowledge shared, to encourage those unable to attend the event to continue the international dialogue sparked by these initial points of exchange. DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities) is a pan-European infrastructure for arts and humanities scholars working with computational methods. It supports digital research as well as the teaching of digital research methods. The DESIR (DARIAH-ERIC Sustainability Refined) project sets out to strengthen the sustainability of DARIAH and firmly establish it as a long-term leader and partner within arts and humanities communities.)

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DESIR has received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 731081