Digital Humanities Benelux Conference – Report

On June 12-13 I attended the very First Digital Humanities Benelux Conference (#DHBenelux) in The Hague, organised in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek / Huygens ING. The response from the audience was great in terms of attendance: about 200 attendees showed up, while the most optimistic previsions were hoping for 60-70, which clearly speaks in favour of the growth of the community.

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The program was opened with a fantastic keynote by Melissa Terras (UCL Centre for DigitalHumanities, University College London), who went through the short (but already successful) history of the Digital Humanities, its raise, importance, interdisciplinarity and in-community interactions. She also stressed two classics: the need of a definition for the DH (quoting: “the Humanities consist of looking at past and present human records to understand human culture”), and the view of the community as the usage of computing methods by humanities scholars.

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All paper sessions were beautifully sorted out. I attended About DH (1) and Linking, a great presentation-discussion session with various topics like Metropolis deep mapping, finding shifts in the history of occupations, digital tools on media history, and a digital revision on Dutch historical religions. Personally, the following hours until the end of the day where for me the great spot of the event. First, demos where presented in a packed room where music, history, social sciences and computing got together with great applications and enthusiastic presenters. Networking flowed well across the dinner, and continued during the posters session until late at night. CEDAR presented material in both sessions.

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The second day was a bit more academic. I joined the About DH (2) session, where the need of learning programming by scholars was nicely stressed, DH was nicely put into the discussion of philosophical inquiry, and the new minor on Digital Humanities in Amsterdam was put on the map. The last session covered the most relevant topic to me and CEDAR: Linked Data in DH. Three papers where presented there: ours, together with Wouter Beek, Rinke Hoekstra, Fernie Maas and Inger Leemans on Linking the STCN and Performing Big Data Queries in the Humanities. Also, Astrid van Aggelen presented work on Linking the European Parliament Proceedings. Alina Saenko stressed the need of persistent URIs in Linked Data for the DH. It was nice that the VU had participation in two out of three papers of this session.

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A great panel preceded the closing of the journey, where Saskia Scheltjens mentioned the Semantic Web work done by researchers at the VU together with the Rijksmuseum as an eye-opener for DH scholars. A fantastic end note for a great first DHBenelux conference, where CEDAR contributed this paper, a poster and a demo. See you all next year in Antwerp!

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