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Digital Humanities and the National Libraries and Archives (in the Nordic and Baltic Countries) – Workshop at the DHN2019


  • Stig Roar Svenningsen (1)
  • Mads Linnet Perner (1)
  • Ditte Laursen (1)
  • Olga Holownia (3)
  • Lars Kjær (1)
  • Hazel Engelsmann (1)
  • Annika Rockenberger (2)

(1) Royal Danish Library, (2) National Library of Norway, (3) British Library/International Internet Preservation Consortium

Time & Place

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Workshop description

Recent years have seen an increased focus on digital humanities at national libraries, driven by a strategic desire to develop key digital services for university faculty and students, as well as a means to explore the libraries’ vast collections of heritage data. Through their service, libraries often have direct access to scholars and students. Meanwhile, after years of digitization, they now hold large repositories of digital heritage data, ready to be explored. The focus on digital humanities has resulted in a number of developments, ranging from improved access to digital repositories to organizing data sprints at the university libraries. The work has, however, not always been straightforward, as several both organizational, theoretical and technological problems arose in the process. Those issues range from the curation of library materials, to selection biases of the process of digitization. This workshop aims to light a discussion these issues, and several others, that rise in connection to national libraries’ engagement with the digital humanities.

The workshop has the following four themes:

1. Collections as Data

Libraries have invested resources in digital access to the digital repositories. This includes dedicated websites for access, crowdsourcing portals, API and data repositories. This section will focus on best practices regarding accessibility and usability of the digital heritage data at the national libraries.

  • What is the preferred form of access for faculty and students as well as third-party users?
  • How can we approve access to meet the demand from researchers and students?
  • How can the Interoperability of data be enhanced, such the ability to use data in different research tools as well as together with data from other institutions?

2. Utilizing the Full Potential of the Collections

Text holds a primacy in current digital humanities scholarship. This does not, however, fairly reflect the material diversity in the collections of the library, which include both images, artwork, computer games, apps as well as audiovisual material. Thus, a key question from the perspective of the library is how to encourage the inclusion of such types of material in DH scholarship. Key questions include:

  • How to stimulate an increasing use of non-textual material across disciplines?
  • Which tools are needed to encourage the use of non-textual material?
  • How to explore non-text data in 3D/VR environments?

3. Curating Digital Collections and Learning Resources for Faculty and Students

Despite the recent expansion of digital repositories and learning facilities, such as Labs and dedicated DH librarians, the share of students and faculty using data and DH infrastructure in their work is still rather low. This theme will address issues such as:

  • How to turn students’ attention to DH tools and data.
  • How to effectively engage students and faculty in DH activities and data.

4. Selection Bias of Digital Collections

The current digital repositories reflects the digitization and collection efforts by libraries. Although vast and important collection of digitized and digital collected data has become available for research, there is a significant bias, as the selection of material for digitization has been driven by other concerns than potential for research. This theme will reflect upon the potential bias from the digitization and collection practice of the library and take on questions like:

  • How is material selected for digitization?
  • How will this praxis affect future DH scholarship?
  • How to keep information about provenance of data?
  • How to should material be selected – research driven or decided librarians?
  • How to account for and communicate these biases to researchers and students?


The workshop is expected to facilitate the dialog between research and GLAM-institutions as well as sharing the lessons learned by libraries and archives. We also propose that we present the workshop outcomes at the conference as a first stepping stone to reach a wider audience, possibly leading to a proposal for the establishment of a Nordic/Baltic DHN working group in digital humanities in national libraries and archives.

Preliminary Schedule

Slot Presenter Topic