Cooperation project with the State University Library (Prof. Dr. Wolfram Horstmann). The Volkswagen Foundation is funding the project as part of the programme "Small Subjects Communicate World Knowledge".
Link to the blog

Management: Prof. Dr. Winfried Rudolf, Prof. Dr. Martin Langner
Team: Dr. Anna Dorofeeva, Jakob Vogel

Studying and understanding the origins of script and its various developments over the centuries is fundamental to every kind of linguistic, literary, historical, media and communication studies. In the digital age, the profound shift from the material handwritten and print medium to the digital hypertext jeopardizes the future of individual handwriting, its manifold technologies and its role for the understanding of the human past. Understanding handwritten code in all its global manifestations is an undeniable precondition for accessing the Weltwissen of past centuries and its inscribed archives. Recent decades have seen a matchless increase in digitization projects of cultural repositories and these projects stand in paradoxical contrast to an evident lack of qualified researchers who would still be able to study these documents with academic depth and precision. This is due to an on-going decline of the small subject of Historische Grundwissenschaften, especially the discipline of palaeography. This trend is even more regrettable because recent imaging technologies as well as investigative material analysis offer a vast range of fresh and unprecedented research opportunities into Weltwissen, producing new spectacular discoveries almost on a daily basis.
The main aim and strategic concept of the measure proposed here is both to save the rare subject of Historische Grundwissenschaften in research and teaching and to combine its traditional characteristics with a modern, forward-looking, approach that involves the introduction and practical use of the latest digital technologies of the digital recovery and automated recognition of handwritten text, commensurate with the demands of the twenty-first century. The measure seeks to establish a Lecturer Position „Digital Palaeography and Imaging Science“ (wiss. MA-Stelle TV-L E 14) at the Institute for Digital Humanities in the University of Göttingen in collaboration with the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen (SUB), alongside with the provision of mobile imaging technology, a new curriculum, the liaison with expert scholars and institutions worldwide as well as the international workshops, summer schools, and a public exhibition. By supporting this rare subject this measure will collectively strengthen a number of other rare subjects.
The establishment of a focus area in Digital Palaeography seeks to revive and consolidate teaching and research of the small subject of Historische Grundwissenschaften. It is aimed mainly, but not exclusively at the field of Western palaeography, and will collectively serve a range of small subjects on the Göttingen Campus such as Medieval Latin, Scandinavian Studies, or Coptology and a number of other disciplines within the humanities sector. With your generous help of the Volkswagen foundation, we want to establish cutting-edge palaeography and imaging science here at Göttingen in order to become the German hub for teaching the Historische Grundwissenschaften with the modern digital focus that the twenty-first century needs. In order to achieve this, we're creating two lecturer posts, one for digital palaeography, the other for imaging science. Post one will be part of the Institute for Digital Humanities and teach a stint of eight hours per term. It is supposed to cover the classical palaeographical skills as well as teach more specialized courses on digital cataloguing and hand profiling, on palaeographical text-encoding, as well as the basics of digital Text Recognition. The Imaging Scientist, on the other hand, will have a smaller teaching stint and will be fully funded by Göttingen. This lecturer will be located at the Imaging Department of the SUB Library and specialize in various imaging technologies, such as multi- and hyperspectral imaging. Cooperating with international experts the lecturer will research the development and improvement of image processing for text retrieval and is supposed to teach these new areas to students. Both lecturers will team up for hands-on seminars and summer schools during which damaged manuscripts will receive special “imaging treatment”. The Göttingen Libraries contain several thousands of manuscripts and fragments, many of them uncatalogued and severely damaged, so that the technology can be applied on site, promising new discoveries. But mobile imaging equipment will also enable international projects collaborations.

We created the Institute for Digital Humanities back in 2018. Apart from the professorship in Digital Image and Artefact Science, four professors teach at the institute in second membership, comprising areas as diverse as Computer Science and Digital Humanities Theory, German Literature and Text-Mining, Computational Linguistics as well as Text-Encoding. In 2020 we started brand-new Bachelor and Master study programs and a Certificate „Digital Humanities“ for all students in the humanities.
The Lecturer in Digital Palaeography, teaching Digital Manuscript and Archival Studies, and the Imaging Scientist, specialising in the technologies of hyper- and multi-spectral imaging, ideally complement our existing teaching and research profile. Both are teaching specialised courses in "Digital Palaeography", task- and solution-oriented, encouraging work in small teams. They involve areas of digital palaeography as diverse as digital hand-profiling, canny-edge detection, image manipulation, mark up languages and ontologies as well as digital project infrastructure. We want to improve students' skills in three specific areas:
- The students will be instructed in reading a variety of manuscript hands and will acquire the associated knowledge of archival studies
- They get a basic understanding of the complexity and heterogeneity of historical textual sources and related research practice

- and, at the same time, a practical knowledge of digital text acquisition and analysis
These key competences aim at preparing graduates for professions in academic and non-academic services, within publicly funded institutions, such as archives, libraries, and museums, all of which naturally require profound competence and literacy in the digital media today.

One of the special preconditions of this project is it's embedding in Göttingen as one of the structural hubs of Digital Humanities in Germany and beyond. This hub is built on a long-standing cooperation between academics in the Philosophical Faculty and information specialists of the Göttingen University Library, the SUB. Many projects of various funders have been successfully transferred into sustainable operations, be it highly specialized digital editions such as "Fontane's Notebooks" funded by the DFG or large scale co-operations such as "Sammlung Deutscher Drucke", supported by the VW-Stiftung.

The SUB is one of the large digitization centers in Germany. It started already in the 90s, first digitized a Gutenberg bible and has now over 15 Million pages available in its digital library. The SUB is Germany's center in the infrastructural, national and European network DARIAH and major partner in several initiatives for the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI). The SUB operates a registration agency for humanities data in Germany and links out to international communities such as the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) or the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) -- the latter also addressing multispectral imaging.

The SUB strongly commits to investing in this project, by buying the necessary imaging equipment as a complement to its technology park, and it has the sustainability of the project readily factored in the budget plans."

The wider Göttingen Campus provides further special preconditions for this project. SUB and the academic computing centre GWDG jointly operate the eResearch Alliance, a service organization for digital methods and tools, which also includes the University Medical Centre that, in turn, provides infrastructure for the excellence cluster "Multiscale Bio-Imaging". Exchange to develop synergies about hardware, software and analytic methods have been already initiated. The newly founded Campus Institute Data Science (CIDAS) will provide a wider framework for academic methodological discourse. The combination of multispectral analysis, humanities expertise, and available text objects on the Göttingen Campus will be unique in Germany. This uniqueness paired with the possibilities of mobile use of the equipment beyond Göttingen will make it possible to harness the full power of international cooperations of the SUB, be it in the Consortium of European Research Libraries -- an organization of the large special collection libraries -- or in networks such as DARIAH."

This new focus of the Göttingen Campus will also have a significant impact on the public sector. The SUB provides our students with the best expertise and a great space to stage their own exhibitions on manuscripts which we will complement by developing digital apps. Once completed, the Forum Wissen, our new university museum, will provide an even more accessible place for such endeavours. Our students and the lecturers will continue to use the Göttingen Y-Lab to liaise with the local schools in order to introduce the young generation to a fascinating range of Weltwissen by means of joint workshops. As we did in the past, so we will also continue to stage our public reading events from original manuscripts to raise further public interest in the subject of Historische Grundwissenschaften, by bringing the material text to life.

Palaeographical competence is useful for all historical and philological subjects. This is why we will implement bilingual core modules in 2022/23 like “Introduction to Palaeography and Manuscript Practice” and “Palaeography and Imaging Science” in the BA “Digital Humanities”. In order to be able to train qualified junior researchers in the digital Historische Grundwissenschaften who would like to qualify professionally in this area, we will further set up a special focus on "Digital Palaeography and Imaging Science" in the MA Digital Humanities and will offer a Certificate "Archival Science" as well. In concrete terms, this means that we would like to add the following four new modules to our curriculum:
1. Introduction to Palaeography and Manuscript Practice, where students work with originals at different libraries in Germany and abroad
2. Palaeography and Imaging Science, which introduces the technologies of spectral imaging and other imaging techniques
3. Sampling and Retrieval of Handwritten Sources, where students learn text-encoding and OCR/HTR, and which includes an international Summer School as well. And finally,
4. Digital Analysis of Manuscripts, in which students learn how to program and apply palaeographical mining tools. All four modules contain courses on both methodological reflection and practical application.