Histoire numérique et l’historiographie

New findings and new questions about the origins of Digital Humanities: on the state of the art of histories of the Index Thomisticus project of Fr Roberto Busa S.J.

18 Décembre 2019

New findings and new questions about the origins of Digital Humanities: on the state of the art of histories of the Index Thomisticus project of Fr Roberto Busa S.J.

Student workers at the Centro per L’Automazione dell’Analisi Letteraria (CAAL) in Gallarate, 29 June 1967, Busa Archive (Creative Commons CC-BY-NC).

Lecture by Dr. Julianne Nyhan, UCL (London). The event is part of the C²DH lecture series 'New Horizons: Confronting the Digital Turn in the Humanities'.

Fr Roberto Busa S.J. is considered by many as being (one of) the founding fathers of the Digital Humanities. Thus, he has often been presented as a lone scholar whose work marked a sharp break with the past. Yet Busa worked with a team of up to 65 people. In recent years, I’ve extensively researched the female keypunch operators who made up a significant portion of Busa’s team, and who also made a significant contribution to the day to day running of the Index Thomisticus project. In this lecture I will outline my findings about the lived experiences and contributions of the Index Thomisticus’ female keypunch operators and reflect on what their omission from many accounts of the history of digital humanities says about the ways knowledge was defined at the dawn of digital humanities and who was deemed eligible to make that knowledge. I will also point to some new research questions that I have recently identified, about the origins of Busa’s interest in statistical approaches to language and the referencing system that was developed for the Index Thomisticus. I will draw these new findings and new questions together by noting the emphasis in many histories of digital humanities on identifying the ‘new’, to the omission of the ‘old’, and argue that there is much to be gained from a better interfolding of such concerns in scholarship about the history of digital humanities.


Julianne Nyhan is associate Professor of Digital Information Studies in the Department of Information Studies, UCL, where she leads the Digital Humanities MA/MSc programme. Nyhan is also Deputy Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities (https:ss//www.ucl.ac.uk/dh) and on the Leadership group of the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/critical-heritage-studies). Recent publications include (with Marco Passarotti) One Origin of Digital Humanities: Fr Roberto Busa S.J. in his own words Springer 2019 & (with Andrew Flinn) Computation and the Humanities: towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities Springer 2016 (https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783319201696). She is co-I or PI on the following research projects: a Leverhulme-funded collaboration with the British Museum on the manuscript catalogues of Sir Hans Sloane (https://tinyurl.com/y7zvrthm); a Transatlantic Partnership for Social Sciences and Humanities 2016 Digging Into Data Challenge, Oceanic Exchanges (http://oceanicexchanges.org/); and a Marie Curie action 'Critical Heritage Studies and the Future of Europe' (http://cheurope-project.eu/). She tweets @juliannenyhan and blogs at https://archelogos.hypotheses.org/.


Wednesday, 18 December 2019

16.00 - 18.00


Maison des Sciences humaines - C²DH - 4th floor - Open Space
Belval Campus
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-sur-Alzette


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