Digital History Advanced Research Projects Accelerator


The Digital History Advanced Research Projects Accelerator (DHARPA) adds a new dimension to the research activities of the C²DH by focusing on R&D. DHARPA aims to be the world’s first digital history lab to develop a flexible software framework for historical research, rather than producing piecemeal, bespoke projects with limited audiences and application. This framework for historical research will enable rapid prototyping and for the first time synthesise a wide range of open-source digital tools. The digital workbench will enable researchers to conduct historical research in a stable, interoperable environment that permits experimentation with computational analysis, replicability of results, and diffuse national and international collaboration. DHARPA will facilitate open-access publication through the standardisation and dissemination of research datasets and methodological workflows. It will simultaneously develop and implement a sustainable digital infrastructure for historical research. Most important, DHARPA will attract and mentor a cadre of PhD students, postdoctoral scholars and technical staff who will be uniquely prepared to make significant contributions to this new field of historical research.

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Building a multinational and interdisciplinary team

Although it only started in October, the DHARPA project made substantial progress in 2019. With the assistance and input of C²DH colleagues, Sean Takats conducted searches to hire the initial core team for the project’s first year, including one developer (Mariella de Crouy Chanel), two postdoctoral researchers (Angela Cunningham and Lorella Viola) and an administrative assistant (Clare Jaquith). In putting together this first group and in future hiring, he aims to build a team that promotes further diversity in the already multinational and interdisciplinary field of digital history: with five nationalities already represented and with advanced degrees in computer science, geography, history, and language and communication, the core group will recruit additional team members to double in size in 2020. This expanded DHARPA team will prototype, develop and promote the research methods and digital tools produced by the lab, while also implementing a long-term sustainability plan to be shared across the C²DH.

Prototyping DHARPA’s first digital tools

Following the same model as Takats’ past projects, Zotero and Tropy, all DHARPA research outputs and software will be open source and freely licensed to encourage widespread adoption. In 2019, Takats and de Crouy Chanel began to specify and test the technology stack and infrastructure components that form the basis for DHARPA’s digital toolbench. These initial experiments drew on the complementary expertise of de Crouy Chanel, in data processing and visualisation, and Takats, in historical research and software design. The hiring of Cunningham and Viola similarly expands DHARPA’s methodological reach: their research programmes enable the project to venture into geolocation and corpus linguistics, two history-adjacent domains of research that are particularly promising for computational analysis. Together this group has begun to reexamine what digital history should be: it needs to be an engagement between actions and theories; it needs to foreground and document historians’ interventions; and it needs to enable the critical thinking about data sources that historians have traditionally done to be applied in a transparent way through technology. Ultimately, the DHARPA team is operationalising these aspirations through something as grounded as lines of computer code.

see also


Media Monitoring of the past
Using text mining and data visualisation to open up collections of digitised historical newspapers for research. Since its launch in 2017, impresso has developed a methodologically-reflected technological framework to enable new ways of engaging with the multilingual digital content of historical newspapers and new approaches to address historical questions. read more

New Horizons

Confronting the Digital Turn in the Humanities
As a result of the “digital turn”, the humanities are currently in a process of rapid transformation, with consequences that reach far beyond the confines of academia. read more

Decoding Europe

Technological Pasts in the Digital Age
9th Tensions of Europe Conference The 9th Tensions of Europe conference was organised by the C²DH and held at the University of Luxembourg from 27 to 30 June 2019 read more

Shifting Practices

Digital History as Trading Zones
Under the term “digital history”, historians have experimented with tools, concepts and methods from other disciplines, mostly computer science and computational linguistics, to benefit the historical discipline. read more

Forum Z

Women on the march from 1919 to 2019 in Luxembourg
Forum Z or the interaction of the C²DH with the public The aim of the Forum Z (Z for Zeitgeschichte or contemporary history) series is to promote a critical, open debate on topical issues in contemporary Luxembourgish and European history. The hundredth anniversary of women’s right to vote in Luxembourg was an anniversary not to be missed! While the National Museum of History and Art (MNHA) marked the anniversary with a major exhibition on universal suffrage, this Forum Z used it as a starting point for a broader reflection on what has changed for women over the past century. read more