Kickoff for Collaborative Initiative between Dean College and IN_CONTEXT

As part of the initiative “Exploring History and Digital Methods” by IN_CONTEXT and Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts (USA), John Woitkowitz held two virtual guest seminars on November 13 and 15, 2023. With students of the HIS 425 Digital History seminar and Professor David B. Dennis, Dr. John Woitkowitz discussed the role of digitized collections as well as questions about the creation and the curation of metadata and the ways they affect research practices for historians but also researchers from the wider digital humanities. How historical catalogs shape modern collections, what needs to be critically considered when making sources available digitally and how international recommendations seek to establish a more responsible use of metadata was at the center of the first seminar.

Students at Dean College during XML/TEI seminar

Students at Dean College during XML/TEI seminar (Photo: David B. Dennis)

The practical workshop on November 15 focused on encoding historical sources on colonial history using the XML/TEI P5 Guidelines. The exercise brought many students into contact with the possibilities of digital historical research for the first time. Students independently selected sources, for example, on the history of British imperialism or Indigenous groups in Alaska from the Children’s Encyclopedia (1908-1913) made available through the Digitized Collections of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Using a basic TEI vocabulary, they will now go on to markup and encode their primary source documents. In addition to creating an XML/TEI encoding, students will also draft an “Editorial Note” to contextualize the documents historically and a bibliography of current research literature for further reading on the subject of their primary document. Topics relating to ethical issues such as authorship, the assignment of historical place names or the classification of sources met with particular interest throughout the practical workshop.

Following a review by Professor Dennis and Dr. John Woitkowitz, the students’ editorial notes, bibliographies and XML/TEI documents are considered for publication in the “Citizen History Sourcebook” of the New England Journal of History and to be made available as research data for further use. A presentation of the contributions in the form of a virtual exhibition is planned. Dr. John Woitkowitz and his colleagues at Stabi Berlin are also looking forward to welcoming Professor Dennis toStabi Berlin next year, where he will give a talk about research and teaching in the digital humanities in the United States.

We would like to thank Dr. Nicole Eichenberger for her generous assistance in the conception of the XML/TEI workshop.

For more information about “Exploring History and Digital Methods”, click here.