DHBenelux2014: Boosting Digital Humanities in the Benelux states

DHBenelux 2014, June 12-13, 2014, The Hague, Netherlands

Hosted by the Royal Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) and Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands  

The so called Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg) share a long common history and are acting in modern Europe often together, as three small countries acting united can achieve more than three small countries acting alone. This was definitely true for the first joint DHBenelux conference this June in The Hague.

The amount and diversity of attendees was astonishing, given that this was the first conference of its kind (have a look at the DHBenelux-Website for the program and attendees)! Amongst the speakers were not only some of the most prominent DHBenelux-researchers, but the organizers were also able to draw as keynote Melissa Terras (Director of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and Professor of Digital Humanities at University College London (UCL)).

I departed at 5 in the morning by train from Göttingen and was really lucky that the serious thunderstorms the days before had not blocked my travel route completely. Because I first had to go to my hotel (I did stay at a very tiny, but very nice hotel called Statenhotel), I missed a few minutes of the very inspiring keynote by Melissa Terras (and lucky me, I was even able to discuss a little bit with her during the coffee break…).

Thursday afternoon and Friday morning were filled by sessions of three researchers each, a live demonstration of some projects (Chordify was definitely very popular, but they brought a real guitar), the conference diner, and poster presentations. I will not start mentioning all the names here and also not go into details concerning the content of the presentation, as some very good reviews have already been published by Marisa Martinez (http://dixit.hypotheses.org/348), Heidi Elaine Dowding (http://dixit.hypotheses.org/tag/dh-benelux), and Max Kemman (http://www.maxkemman.nl/2014/06/grasping-technology/) and many researchers were tweeting live during the conference using #DHBenelux or @DHBenelux. Wout Dillan even made a textual analysis of the tweets with Voyant tools. More blogposts about the conference might be collected here.

Wout Dillan's textual analysis of DHBenelux twitter feed

Wout Dillan’s textual analysis of DHBenelux twitter feed

Truly funny was the experience that although all speeches were given in English, the breaks were full of Dutch and only occasionally some French, German or English. However it might have felt strange for Dutch natives (and all the other non-English speakers as well) to communicate during the official part of the conference in English, the non-Dutch speakers truly appreciated this effort because it was opening up the discussion for all. So I truly hope that the language policy will not change next year. I guess we have to accept that English has become the lingua franca in international research communities (and probably most researchers nowadays prefer English to Latin, which was the academic lingua franca up to the 19th century, just saying that…).

KB Aula wall poem

KB Aula wall poem

The organizing team of DHBenelux 2014 (Steven Claeyssens, Karina van Dalen-Oskam, Mike Kestemont and Marijn Koolen has done a great job by putting together a varied program of speeches, posters and live presentations. The organizing heart of the conference was Suzanne van Kaam, who did a great job, never loosing track of any tiny detail. I am very thankful for having my speech about coding the Vierde Partie by Lodewijk van Velthem in TEI accepted (abstract: http://dhbenelux.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/unstable-data-wuttke.pdf, the slides are available on Slideshare: http://de.slideshare.net/DHBenelux/towards-a-digital-edition-of-the-vierde-partie-of-the-speigel-historiael). I definitely learned a lot! Thank you all for the great hospitality!

Given this overall success all participants were happy to hear next year’s conference announced to be held June 11-12 2015 at Antwerp. I am convinced these kind of activities can truly boost DH research in the Benelux-states as they not only give a platform for DH Benelux researcher to meet and share ideas, but it is also boosting DH activities in the Benelux on an international level.

See you in Antwerp!



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