Abstracts received for Researcher-in-residence 2016

Below you will find all abstracts that were submitted and unfortunately not accepted for the 2016 run of the Researcher-in-residence programme. The abstracts are in alphabetical order. The accepted projects and their abstracts can be found here.

We want to thank all researchers for their interesting proposals, wish them all the best for 2016 and hope to see them again in a following year!

Milan van Lange – Emotional recollections and World War Two resistance: political, press and personal language about (the history of) war-time resistance in the Netherlands since 1940.

Seventy years after liberation, World War Two remains a seemingly inexhaustible source of stories, a political instrument, and a cornerstone in Dutch societal self-consciousness. From the early post-war years onwards, Resistance has been a focal aspect in recollecting and instrumentalizing the war.

This project aims to gain new insights in the ways in which the Dutch resistance is remembered, specifically the extent to which such recollections take the form of emotional and/or subjective language. Current literature implicitly show emotions around war and resistance. While in historiography emphasis lies on the memory of war, a more explicit focus on the publicly and privately ventured assumptions, feelings and understandings is lacking. With this project I want to subject the often implicitly emotional views in both the public (parliamentary discussions, press) and private sphere (letters) to a critical reassessment and to propose a methodology for systematic investigation of emotional language and expressions in reference to past events.

A key question is how emotional recollections were expressed, over time, in politics, media and in personal testimony. This links up with current research into the use of concepts as trauma, guilt, honor, heroism, adventurism or dignity. Focus will lie on the interrelatedness of emotional recollections (in private letters) and so-called ‘liminal points’ in public debates. These points could be described as for instance scandals or controversial publications that initiated a change or turning point in attitudes connected to resistance.

As historians, we will never be able to feel precisely what contemporaries felt in the past. Only emotions that were expressed and registered had a chance to be transmitted to the present. Thus, to investigate emotions and how they changed we have to look for traces of those expressions. These recordings can be found in various places: in political debates, in media and in private expressions.

 

Fragmented Empire: Dutch Popular Imperialism around the Turn of the Twentieth Century

In my PhD project, I approach the metropolitan imperial culture in The Netherlands ‘from below’: not as constituted by politics or science, but as it was formed in popular imagination and in daily life. By turning from elite-actors to civil society at large, I aim at showing that popular imperialism was not made up of a single block. The various case studies (mission festivals, Indies food culture, Scouting, etc.) show that highly heterogeneous groups displayed a wide variety of interests in empire, without engaging much (if ever) with each other. Moreover, their interests in colonialism did not always coincide with official aims. It resulted in a fragmented imperialism where no strong, over-arching imperial identity developed. For this reason, some elements of Dutch imperial culture are easily overlooked by historians, as these ‘fragments’ are sometimes hiding in unsuspected places. On the other hand, the influence of Dutch imperial culture is at times overestimated, as the same ‘fragments’ can be presented as part of a larger imperial culture, which I argue they were not. This approach leaves room for the wide variety of ways the Dutch public related to their empire, from zealous support to negation and from indifference to intensive engagement.

 

In search of no more noise in search

The utility of digital resources such as Delpher can be considerably improved by removing noise from the search results, which is possibly by addressing digitization issues as well as enrichment of the material with semantic information. For Delpher, digitization issues include the missing separation of newspaper pages into articles, correctly identifying column borders, dealing with mark-up peculiarities such as margin text and graphical elements, or signaling possible digitization errors to be taken into account in further processing. Enrichment can be envisioned, for example, as classification of content into core news items and secondary matters, assigning domain labels to news reports, providing a summary of who interacts with what, and finding similar articles based on the semantic enrichment information. Given the size of the Delpher database, all processing should be performed automatically. This can be achieved using a combination of existing tools and newly developed algorithms incorporating and extending recent advances in natural language processing research. The processed database will be more useful for academic researchers looking for a comprehensive collection of relevant sources for their research questions, as well as the general public trying to find articles that fit their interest in a fast and convenient way. Moreover, methods or resources created for this specific database may prove to be valuable for a broader range of sources, in and outside of the Royal Library.

 

Keepers of the Master’s House: tracing librarianship through digital collections

Libraries have historically and institutionally been complicit with disciplinary, oppressive systems such as imperialism and patriarchy. The core activities of librarianship – selection, preservation, classification, dissemination – are fundamentally normalizing and marginalizing practices. Previous critical engagements with the power dynamics of library cataloging systems such as LCC and DDS suggest that such systems reproduce or even coproduce power differentials, including gender difference (cf. Hope A. Olson, 2001).  But the library is also gendered at a more concrete level. When librarianship became a feminized profession it lost some of its previous regard as an intellectual profession and became regarded as an administrative profession. In the cultural imaginary, female librarians were the keepers of the master’s house – no less, but certainly no more.

Using the KB digital collections of magazines, newspapers and policy papers this research project traces transformations in librarianship from the late 19th to the early 21st century on two levels. Firstly, by tracing how thinking about librarianship with regards to different media (print, audio, visual, digital) changed. Secondly, by tracing how the material labor of embodied librarians changed. In search of the hybrid human-technological forms of librarianship that have emerged through different technosocial instantiations of the KB, the research will engage with discourses and metaphors as well as matter and practices in search of an account of librarianship as scientific and cultural, always already political, embodied and technological knowledge practice.

 

Mapping political movements. Constructing a tool to map abolitionism in the three Northern provinces

In this project a tool will be constructed to assist historians and social scientists in researching the geographic scope of political movements in the Netherlands from the nineteenth century onwards. By making use of the sources available through Delpher, and possibly the Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek annotated maps are created that provide insight into where what activities were undertaken by different organisations, making it possible to compare their geographic reach. The central case study is that of abolitionism in the three Northern provinces of the Netherlands in the early nineteenth century. In the period 1840 to 1863 abolitionist campaigned for the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies. Maartje Janse (2007) has characterised abolitionism as a protest movement focused on changing the public opinion on slavery. She argued that these and other non-Parliamentary protest groups founded in this period – like the movement for the abolishment of alcohol consumption – prepared the way for the political parties that would be founded from the end of the nineteenth century. The tool that is to be developed will show the temporal and geographic scope of the activities of these non-Parliamentary pressure groups, but also assist in studying the non-Parliamentary activities of political parties. Thereby this tool provides opportunities for research that go beyond the possibilities offered through the app ‘Hier was het nieuws’ and the N-gram viewer. By assisting researchers in localizing non-Parliamentary political activities this tool will be of interest to many historians and social scientists interested in politics beyond the institutions and in political culture. The tool will enable researchers to find patterns and connections that might have remained unknown otherwise, or would cost an individual researcher months of work.

 

Mapping the Dutch Sociable world 1750-1800

Between 1750 and 1800, the Dutch Republic saw the extraordinary growth of what has been called ‘the sociable world’. Newly established societies, clubs, and Masonic lodges were creating opportunities for men to meet and pursue shared goals ranging from the encouragement of the arts in the 1760s to the overthrowing of city governments during the Patriottentijd. Because they left records of their activities and membership, these societies are treasure troves of information about many important historical developments in the Dutch 18th century. Unsurprisingly, countless historians have relied on archival material generated by these societies to write histories of literature, science, music, politics, and more.

As a researcher in residence, I intend to demonstrate how digital humanities methodology can use these treasures for new forms of research. I will do so by using my database, generated by my PhD-project, of nearly 14.000 individuals who were societies during the second half of the eighteenth century. This database has already proved its uses. By identifying the religious backgrounds of these individuals, I have been able to map the increasing presence of Catholics gained in to sociable gatherings from the 1770’s onwards.

At the KB, I will use the database for an even more ambitious purpose. I intend to show how societies and their individual members affected Dutch society at large, by systematically searching the KB’s digital collections for activities that involved the sociably active individuals in my database. To this end, I will develop a digital tool that will mine the KB’s collections (such as Delpher.nl) and arrange the results to allow network analysis and the use of graphic mapping software. Thus, the tool can show many connections between the societies and developments in the world at large, while revealing networks of musicians, scientists, politicians, noblemen, and more.

 

Topic Models of large document collections

Humanities researchers and literary scholars commonly struggle to make sense and extract information from patterns in large document collections. Computational techniques for finding similarities between documents in such collections continue to be developed and are invaluable in understanding these collections as single entities.

Topic modelling is a text processing tool widely used to identify structure in document collections. It has been successfully used for a wide range of applications. However it suffers from weaknesses which make it difficult to use and may lead to unreliable results:

+It is dependent on preprocessing for removal of stopwords and other text features: this is a common first step on many NLP applications; results produced are highly dependent on the quality of the selection at this stage

+Number of topics typically needs to be determined a-priori: ideally the number of topics could be inferred from the data itself

+Interpretation of resulting topics is difficult: topics are normally represented by a set of most representative words for the topic, but these words do not relate directly to human experience

+Visualization of produced topics is not intuitive: the optimal way of visualizing topics is current area of active research

+Incorporating additional dimensions to a model (e.g. evolution of topics over time) is a feature which is not easily incorporated

+Topic models scale poorly for large document collections: this is mainly due to the computational complexity of the algorithm

Several efforts have been made to overcome such limitations with limited success. However solutions to these issues are not yet common practice and require additional knowledge and effort in order to take full advantage of them.

The aim of this project is to develop topic modelling tools which can help humanities researchers and literary scholars to make sense of large document collections without requiring extensive expertise in tuning model parameters.

 

Uncovering cultural agendas: a digital instrument for collecting and analyzing information about cultural events in the past

The project proposes to design and test a prototype of a digital research instrument that allows for collecting, storing and analyzing information about public performances in cinemas, theatres and concert halls in the past. Detailed information about cultural events is amply available in the cultural agendas of local newspapers which were published across the country throughout the twentieth century. What is missing is an instrument for intersectoral and interregional comparison in order to better understand the dissemination of repertoire as it travels across space and time in order to meet its audience.

The instrument has to fulfill two requirements. First, it is to extract information from cultural agendas (weekly overviews of cultural events taking place in a given place) from digitized newspapers. Second, it has to be able to store, edit and query the collected data in a relational system based on a proper data model.

Within the proposed project a basic data model will be designed, which accommodates the commonalities of the different agendas, such as date, venue and title of the performance or screening. Later, the data model should be extended and refined to cover core components of the cultural infrastructure and the relationships between them, including locations, people, companies, performances and artistic works.

Based on the data model an instrument in form of a relational database will be designed. Prior research experience has shown that existing information management systems and database structures are not sufficient to grasp the complexity of cultural historical data and to make it possible to analyze patterns and networks. Cinema Context, the online database for the study of film culture in the Netherlands, may serve as an inspiration for designing the proposed data model and research tool.

 

Unlocking the STCN

The aim of the project is to use the Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands (STCN) as an instrument for an easy to use tool to visualize trends in the history of the book in the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

The STCN is the national bibliography of the Dutch printed book up to the year 1800. It’s a catalogue with over 204.000 titles. But the STCN is more than a catalogue. It is an overview of the printed book in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in the Netherlands. An overview in which all sorts of data lies hidden which can give us insight in how the book changed in these centuries. The STCN is available online, but would benefit from an additional ways to consult it’s underlying data to gain insight in larger trends.

In the proposed project, the STCN will be used to create an accessible dataset and a tool for researchers, students and other interested parties. This tool will be an easy accessible platform in which the user can find information about trends in the printed book.

The tool provides users the option to combine variables to answer questions in just a few clicks.

The platform can be used to display information visually, in charts or plots. For example, it can be used to show changes in the book in a specific genre, a defined decade or the most active printer or author based on location or year.

It is possible to use the STCN as a research tool via the Advanced Search function, but this often comes down to tallying. Recently it has become possible to answer questions based on the STCN with the help of the RDF query language SPARQL. However, this is a difficult language to master for occasional users.

This digital humanities project will increase the potential of the STCN. The STCN data will be retrieved and made visually available in a tool. By presenting the data graphically, the STCN is more serviceable for research. Trends and changes in the book which now has to be dug out the STCN, will soon be just a few clicks away.

More fundamentally, the aim of the research is to investigate the potential for producing digitally situated knowledges that can counter universalizing knowledge claims by making institutionalized, gendered labor a visible knowledge practice.

 

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