Conference “Europa baut auf Biographien”, Vienna 6-8 October 2015

This blog posts highlights just a few aspects from the conference “Europa baut auf Biographien”, especially those which are particularly close to my field. I was there to talk about networks.

National Library of Vienna

National Biography projects are seen as trusted repositories for information on selected personalities in a nation’s history. In most cases, three conditions need to be met in order to be considered for an entry: significant accomplishments, death and – since these projects typically ran/run for very long periods of time and move alphabetically: having a surname which starts with the right letter. This procedure is of course pragmatic in the pre-digital world but it also meant that Konrad Bloch, a biochemist and nobel prize winner who died in the year 2000, never made it to the German national biography.

Apart from these selection biases and sometimes outdated information the biographies remain a valuable resource for scholars and the public. It was great to see how keen national and regional biographies projects in Germany, Austria and Switzerland were to interlink their entries by means of VIAF and GND ids.

Growth and enrichment of national biographies were of particular interest: Paul Arthur’s keynote referred to a recent change in biography-scholarship: A move towards a biography understood as a network of intersecting lives and activities. His own efforts in this domain for example seeks to aggregate biographical data from different parts of the population, all branded similarly: there is Indigenous Australia, Obituaries Australia, People Australia, Indigenous Australia, Women Australia, Labour Australia as well as a crowd-based project HuNI which lets the public add relations between objects from Australia’s cultural heritage.

Piek Vossen presented their work in BiographyNet and focused on the automated extraction of additional metadata by means of text analysis. Their accomplishments are impressive and a short video on the site describes the project in detail.

In my interpretation and tightly knit to the current wave of networking thinking, a number of talks circled around the idea that biographies should no longer be thought of as isolated depictions of the great but reinterpreted as collective, explicitly European efforts. This is a big, great and most of all: fundable idea.

Towards an XML-TEI Edition of Diplomatic Documents – Part 2. EVT Visualisation

One of the most common formats in digital documentary editions is the side-by-side layout (Pierazzo, 2014). It allows us to compare a digital facsimile with the transcription of the original document, a potentially useful feature for researchers interested in the “evidentiary value” (Kline and Perdue, 2013) of the consulted materials.

As part of a larger research project at the CVCE, Diplomacy within Western European Union (WEU), we are working on a digital edition using this dual layout. The edition will include XML-TEI P5 encoded documents and digital images of the original sources from the WEU archives. An overview of the collection and the corresponding workflow are presented in Part 1.

The work is in ongoing, and we are currently adapting the EVT (Edition Visualization Technology) framework to the CVCE’s needs (existing and intended Web site architecture, different types of documents and projects, users’ requests, etc.). As shown in the demo, the tool provides a series of features such as side-by-side visualisation, navigation, image-text linking, “hot” areas highlighting and zoom-in/out in the image.

Within a CVCE – EVT team collaboration, a student from the University of Pisa, Italy, will be involved this summer, together with the CVCE’s DH Lab, in building the edition starting from the EVT model.


Kline, Mary-Jo. Holbrook Perdue, Susan. 2013. A Guide to Documentary Editing. Third Edition. Online version. ADE, UVA Press.

Pierazzo, Elena. 2014. “Digital Documentary Editions and the Others”. In Scholarly Editing: The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing, Volume 35.

DH Lab at DH Benelux

On 8–9 June 2015, the Digital Humanities Lab at the CVCE was very happy to participate in the second DH Benelux Conference hosted by the University of Antwerp.  See the presentations below. We contributed a total of four paper presentations and one poster describing our work. Dr Catherine (Kate) Jones discussed the concept of developing tools for personal narrative making by reusing CVCE cultural heritage objects, whilst Dr Marten During and Dr Florentina Armaselu presented the first outcomes of exploring TEI annotation and network analysis within diplomatic documents. Dr Lars Wieneke on behalf of Dr Florentina Armaselu described the results of our recent collaboration with the University of Pisa and their EVT (Edition Visualisation Technology) software for the creation of new TEI encoded digital editions.

MyPublications: Enabling personal authoring and narrative making


Europe’s Beginnings through the Looking Glass: Publishing Historical Documents on the Web Using EVT


Kate also presented results from the project she led prior to joining CVCE, which developed an augmented reality application to explore historical map data from the WW2 bomb census in London. She also participated in the lively closing panel discussion on the role of digital technology within the broader humanities discipline. Finally, the Director of the CVCE, Marianne Backes, co-authored a paper exploring the role of DARIAH and the Benelux.


The conference was very well attended, with more than 150 participants, and represented the strength of digital humanities within the Benelux region and beyond. The conference showcased the depth and variety of digital humanities research through presentations in a number of related themes: (1) Cyber Culture, (2) Reflection & Criticism (3) Distant Readings, (4) Linked Open Data, (5) Digital Scholarly Editing, (6) Curation & Collection, (7) Geospatial Applications and (8) Networks & Topics. Excellent keynotes were delivered by William Noel, Director of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania, and Elena Pierazzo, Professor of Italian Studies and Digital Humanities at Stendhal–Grenoble 3 University.

Next year the CVCE is looking forward to co-hosting the conference with the University of Luxembourg.