Hidden Histories is a research project into the application of computational methods to the humanities during the period from 1949 to the present. The project conducts, collects and disseminates interviews with scholars and practitioners who were active during this period. Combining the interviews with archival data, new insight is gained into the emergence of a field known today as digital humanities.
It is widely accepted that the application of computational methods to the humanities can be traced back to at least 1949, when Roberto Busa envisaged an index variorum of some 11 million words of medieval Latin in the works of Thomas Aquinas and related authors. Notes and contributions towards a history of the computer in the humanities have appeared in recent years; however, our understanding of such developments remains incomplete and largely unexplored.
This project gathers and makes available sources that enable the investigation of the social, intellectual and cultural context that shaped the earliest applications of computing to the humanities. It is from this context that the title ‘Hidden Histories’ derives because, for the most part, such information can not be gleaned from extant documentation.
The project is interdisciplinary in its methodology and draws on oral history, digital humanities and cultural studies. With the aim of capturing memories, observations and insights that are rarely recorded in the scholarly literature of the field, the project conducts interviews with scholars and practitioners who applied computational methods to the humanities in the age of mainframe computing to the present day.
An introduction to the Hidden Histories project is available as an open access article.
Photo: Busa Archive #0614. All photos are reproduced here with the permission of the Università Cattolica Library Archives, Milan.
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