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Digital historical sciences

The discipline of “Digital historical sciences” has a prominent place at the institute since years: by coordinating and participating in the open access platform OstDok (Eastern European documents online) and due to the efforts in the digitisation of its journal “Bohemia”, the CC continuously expands its offerings of digitally freely available full texts. As one of four supporting institutions the CC also participates in the interdisciplinary research portal osmikon. Furthermore, within the joint project OstData, the CC is establishing since 2019 a central service for research data in the field of Eastern European Studies.

Aside from our digital publications and our work in retro-digitisation of analogue materials, the use of computer-aided methods of data processing for academic research should be seen as a central part of our digitization effort. Such methods will not necessarily alter the results of research in terms of its knowledge value, but will certainly change how such research is done – through the joint, networked efforts of several researchers, for example, or through the recording and processing of large masses of data.

And it is here where the two topics of digital methods and retro-digitisation meet  – for example, in computer-aided processes for text recovery. Both processes will initially produce individual digitisations, of archive documents for example. On the basis of such digitisations, electronic editions can then emerge containing materials that either cannot be created in print form, or that can only be so created with great difficulty. But it should be noted that neither text recovery nor data processing techniques imply that digital methods will displace conventional research, but will rather that such methods will enhance such research.

The path being taken by the Collegium Carolinum is a practical one: we aim to apply digital techniques wherever they can provide answers to relevant research issues and wherever they represent new opportunities for handling such issues. This presupposes the need to accumulate the infrastructure necessary for digital research, which primarily means creating programmed environments for database administration, for visualisation and for web interfaces. As a second step, the aim is that each individual institute be in a position to use this infrastructure for its own internal purposes, but also for inter-institutional cooperation in digital research (as part of the “Historical Sciences Munich" competence network, for example).

These future digital research projects should be understood in a two-fold sense: for one thing they should describe the data recovery and processing work in relation to an overweening question to be answered and, for another, they should become directly accessible for later research efforts through their digital data format (which will allow them to be manipulated). The visible interface between the various different usages of digital research methods should be provided by the tools provided by and for researchers for their interactive display (visualisation). In addition to this, the networking and web-based presentation of selected research results should also be oriented towards conforming to the requirements of the international specialist community.

 

Since 1 September 2014 Collegium Carolinum has its own unit with responsibility for the topic of digital history. Its purpose, to express it as a bullet point sketch, is – the creation of an infrastructure, digital cooperation, data reading, display and  exploitation of data – to be achieved over a preliminary period of two years.

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