How to use digital history tools in your research project

Workshop series with Prof. Peter Cornwell

Digital methods have become an established vehicle for research in history, but deciding which virtual research instruments to employ as well as assessing the impact of the evolution of technologies upon long-term accessibility present numerous challenges. Researchers considering digital methods must select from a bewildering diversity of methods and standards, as well as technical solutions, to support their specific research agenda effectively. Case studies from a spectrum of digital research activities can provide purchase on such decisions but detailed discussion of procedures and technical infrastructure is often difficult to obtain. Research projects also generally need to forge relationships with library services and with other departments for IT support, and these dependencies not only require effective project management but themselves influence decisions about instruments and methods to be adopted.

Addressing such issues effectively is increasingly essential to the successful conduct of research, and these two workshops aim to help early-career practitioners acquire a working understanding of key methods. Part one on 10th November will provide an overview of the field - from extraction from printed material, development and presentation of high quality source data to maintaining sustainable digital collections. Part two, on 24 November, addresses more advanced topics of structured annotation and cross-corpora semantic engineering. Throughout, the issues presented will be illustrated using actual examples drawn from the broad portfolio of the Data Futures project - a collaboration including Aix-Marseille, Heidelberg, Lyon, Princeton and Westminster universities, museums and commercial groups. Data Futures activities span the Navigocorpus, Nomenclatora and Royal Wardrobe history projects; early voice communication and Mao-era propaganda imagery, as well as significant publishing projects involving early photography, the complete catalogue of Merve Verlag as well as a state-of-the-art collaboration with the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland. The workshops will be led by Peter Cornwell and Eric Decker, both directors of Data Futures.

When & where

10 November - 9.30 am - 3.30 pm (Breaks: 11.00-11.30 am, 1.00-2.00 pm)
24 November - 9.30 am - 3.30 pm (Breaks: 11.00-11.30 am, 1.00-2.00 pm)

Seminar Room 4 - Departement Geschichte Universität Basel, Hirschgässlein 21, 4051 Basel


Peter Cornwell is a British computer scientist and media theorist. He is Director of the Data Futures project and professor in the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster. He was an expert for development of the EU's first Strategic Program on Research in Information Technology (ESPRIT) work-program, has served on numerous U.K. strategy committees and, as director of the Institute of Visual Media at the ZKM Center for Art and Media Technology founded its Center for Digital Heritage. Cornwell has also received numerous awards in industry: he was manager of European R&D for Texas Instruments, Inc. and founder and CEO of California IPO Division Inc. Prof. Cornwell is Visiting Fellow at the Basel Graduate School of History in November 2016. 

Workshop Summary 

Thursday 10th November - Sustainable Methods for Digital Research in the Humanities

Morning session

Bibliography and citation management - Zotero

Access control, copyright, web publication - Atomic Wiki

Image annotation, visual tools for argumentation, non-linear narration - Hyperimage

Collaborative video annotation, timebase analysis, moving image as scholarly - Pandora

Afternoon session

Workflow development

Planning and construction of digital collections

Contributor and user management (business logic)

Automating accession 

Thursday 24th November - Structured Annotation, Crowd Communities & Semantic Engineering

Morning session

Collection transformation and standards-compliant outputs

Reclamation of historic digital projects

Annotation as a scholarly practice

Core metadata schemes & Open Annotation Data Model

Managing third-party contributors

Automating analysis of extensive annotation

Afternoon session

Advanced OCR and disambiguation using dynamic dictionary creation

Extraction from unstructured materials

Entity development

Actor network analysis 

Ontology management, transposition and cross-walks


Via MOnA no later than 15 October.