Zotero: Digital Humanities and the Academic Library

What are other libraries doing with DH? In March we co-organized a meeting with people from academic libraries in The Netherlands and Flanders who are working on DH-projects or are interested in that subject. It was a great way to meet other dh+lib enthusiasts, but what about the rest of the world? Last week I saw a new Zotero-group on Digital Humanities, so an hour or so of my time went into checking out the different articles collected there.

Improving our image base

A historian interested in a journal on accountancy? It happens: earlier this year we received a request for text files of a journal we digitized. That made us realize that the way we offer our digital collections through our image base (our ’Beeldbank’, which happens to contain lots more than just images) may not be suited to what digital humanists actually need. So, yesterday I spent some time looking through a list of all these collections to get an overview of what it is we have on offer – from cuneiform clay tablets to pictures illustrating the history of VU University. Are these files in the formats that researchers need? What about copyright: is it clear what researchers are allowed to do with them? No answers yet, but probably lots of interesting projects to do!

New metadata, extra ways of opening up religious heritage

The VU University Library profits in different ways from participating in the INVENIT² project. Of course she is happy to facilitate research at the VU – see the previous blog post . But the project also generates new metadata, which of course is very valuable for a university library.

Naturally, title, edition and year of publication are relevant metadata. But the current object descriptions of the Bibles – see our Image Database: http://imagebase.ubvu.vu.nl/cdm/landingpage/collection/bis – could be extended. Therefore the VU University Library welcomes the output generated by the INVENIT² project.

Hopefully researchers, students and teachers will soon be able to make use of the enriched metadata. What about the number of the Bible Books from which a scene is taken or a description of what is depicted in the illustrations? One could imagine that such information truly helps in opening up the religious heritage of  the VU University Library in new ways.

Looking for a crowd

How do you show that the visual language in religious heritage changed in the early modern period? Finding that out is one of the main goals of the Digital Humanities project INVENIT² at the VU University. This project started earlier this year and the VU University Library is one of the partners.

The assumption is that Bible illustrations from different eras make use of different emotional categories. It seems that illustrations from the rationalistic 18th century tried to touch the reader in a different way than those from the Baroque during the 17th century, but how do you find that out? Answer: by mobilizing a crowd.

Not only did the VU University Library make high-resolution digitized images of the relevant illustrations, she also asked her network to comment on the biblical scenes. What emotions do they see? For instance: is Moses (see picture above) agitated or furious when he sees his people worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32-35)?

The network of the VU University Library is especially equipped to answer such questions since it consists of people with an affinity with the protestant tradition. This crowd is supposed to be able to create an enriched dataset which is useful for research purposes. The first results are expected during the coming weeks.

Want tot know more about this project? Visit the INVENIT² website: http://invenit.wmprojects.nl/uncategorized/crowdsourcing/.

Introducing Digital Humanities at VU University Library

This is the first year we at VU University Library are participating in the Day of Digital Humanities. As so many other libraries, we’re aware that researchers and students who are doing DH at our university work with information in new and innovative ways, and that their scholarly output may take different forms than before. And as our policy plan for 2014-2016 states that we aim to support the whole information chain (from using knowledge, information and data as the raw material for education and research, to the dissemination of scholarly output of our university), we cannot ignore these digital humanities.

The library already provide services for GIS, and our datalibrarian is developing services for research data management. So, this year we started to think about the impact of DH in general on what we at the library are doing. The bad news: we’re not done thinking just yet. The good news: we’re not just thinking. We also participate in a DH-project called INVENiT2. We, that is Sebastien Valkenberg (subject librarian for Philosophy) and Michiel Cock (team manager Academic Support Humanities & Social Sciences) will document some of our activities here. We’re going to be cheating in more than one way: not only will this blog not represent the day of one digital humanist, it’s also not going to be one day … We’re adding some things we happened to be doing on other days this week or last week, to give you an overview of what we’re doing with digital humanities.