I attended the first of these congresses back in 2012. I returned because I wanted to stay in touch with what is going on in Digital Humanities and in the hope of making some useful contacts.
I was spoilt for choice with the talks and found myself switching between strands (as did others) and was particularly sorry to miss the session on early printed books which sounded fascinating. Some talks touched on areas where I have worked in the past, such as Emilie Pyan and Susan Leavy on the Ryan Report on children’s homes in Ireland, which recalled Hidden Lives Revealed. Nicola Wilson described the Modernist Archives Publishing Project which made use of Special Collections in Reading University Library, incorporating Linked Data, in a way similar to our proposals (which never got beyond the seedcorn stage) for Bristol’s and Cardiff’s. On a slightly more recreational note, I greatly enjoyed hearing about the ‘Transforming Musicology’ project, especially an experiment to measure subjects’ physiological reaction to Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
The conference opened with a thought-provoking talk by Marilyn Deegan on her work with preserving genocide trial transcripts in Rwanda and cultural heritage in Sudan, and the various issues which surfaced as local people were trained to do this. She had exported her expertise to Africa, and I wondered if we had something to learn in the other direction about re-use and lack of waste. (Thinking of Bristol’s ‘Greening your events’ tutorial which I once worked on – sadly no longer online.) These days we take the need for data preservation for granted (or I hope we do), but this is not necessarily so worldwide.
There were some recurring topics: I was pleased to see that Linked Data was mentioned several times, and the issue of sensitive content and how to deal with it came up frequently.
I participated in some of the discussions after the talks; these were particularly important as sometimes the speakers left the conference soon afterwards. From the point of view of making contacts, some institutions which I know to be very active in DH were barely or not at all represented, which was a pity. I think the only reference to Classics that I caught was a mention of the Pelagios gazetteer.
As a developer seeking work in the area of digital humanities, I would have been interested to see more details of the technologies used in these various projects – maybe just a quick summary slide at the end of the presentation? Of course I can always go to their websites and probe around to find this information. A more regrettable omission was the usual list of delegates, so that I had to look closely at name badges to find out exactly who was there, and also other people did not know about me.
I’m glad I went, though, and hope to have some interesting leads to follow up. I’d be interested to hear from others who were there too.