Conference Agenda

Keynote 4, Long Papers
Friday, 20/Mar/2020:
9:00am - 10:50am

Session Chair: Coppélie Cocq
Location: Ziedonis Hall
Ground floor

Keynote speaker (50min)

From Cow Sheds to Computer Screens: Some Thoughts on the Uses of Digital Humanities for the Study of Folkloristics in Iceland and Other Nordic Countries

Terry Gunnell

University of Iceland

In this lecture, I will be comparing the state of the art in Nordic Folkloristics as it was when I entered the field in the nineties to the present state of affairs, underlining among other things the role of digitisation in not only saving but opening up the archives and understanding their contents. The focus will be on several projects, at the heart of which will be the Icelandic folk legend database, Sagnagrunnur, which has been introduced at earlier conferences, and which is now both integrating and being integrated with several other local and international projects. Far from being an expert on computers myself, I will underline the reasons behind why in the early nineties we decided to make a database of all Icelandic folk legends in print as a means of not only making the printed collections more accessible to researchers, but also of opening up new ways of interpreting the material contained within them, not least reconnecting them with the countryside from which they sprang, and the people who told them. (A key problem in Folkloristic research in the past was related to the way physical card indexes in the folklore archives often restricted searches rather than opening them up.) In relation to this, I will discuss how and why in the Nordic countries we have now returned to mapping (something many folklorists had become wary about by the turn of the century), and how and why we expanded this particular project to bring in manuscript materials and a wide range of other contextual materials, ever expanding the borders to allow us to connect and communicate with other Nordic databases such as those at present being developed by Timothy Tangherlini and Fredrik Skott in the US and Sweden, and Theo Meder in Holland. Some discussion will also be made of our work in Iceland on making our survey of national folk belief more interactive, and of two other interdisciplinary databases we have created in recent years relating to the “creation” of “national culture” (in close relation to the Joep Leerssen’s wide-ranging on-line Encyclopedia of National Romanticism [E. R. N. I. E.] in Amsterdam), databases which are now being connected in various ways to Sagnagrunnur and other Nordic projects, something that has led to a wider international project charting the development of what we call “The Grimm Ripples”. Here we have a prime example of how increased interconnectivity effectively opens up new means of understanding the local (which is very much at the heart of Folkloristics). I will end by discussing briefly how we see things developing in the future (including dreams of connection to the sound archives), and those problems that might hinder such development.

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Long Paper (20+10min)

From Research to Revitalization: Fighting Language Endangerment with Digital Humanities

Joshua Wilbur

Tartu University, Estonia

While the number of endangered languages has increased at an alarming rate in recent decades. Revitalization efforts are a common attempt to mitigate language endangerment, and such ventures are in their essence practical undertakings aimed at bringing about real-world change. On the other hand, linguistics research is – nearly per definition – theoretical. Increased language endangerment has arisen more or less simultaneously with the the digital age; simultaneously, digital tools and computational approaches to linguistics continue to be developed. Against this background, I have been working on documenting and doing linguistics research on Pite Saami, a critically endangered Uralic language spoken in northern Sweden by about 35 speakers. Interest in revitalizing the language has increased significantly over the last decade. In recent projects, I have adapted and developed language technology tools to help streamline my research, especially aimed at increasing efficiency in corpus annotation.

In this paper, I will look at the overlap between revitalization efforts and digital linguistics resources for Pite Saami as a case study for how digital practices in humanities research can influence practical reality. Specifically, I look at how these digital resources (developed mainly for theoretical linguistics) can be successfully utilized in meeting the practical needs of the language community in their revitalization efforts.

Long Paper (20+10min)

Supporting Research Use of WEB Archives: A ‘Labs’ Approach

Olga Holownia1, Sally Chambers2

1IIPC, British Library, UK; 2Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities, Ghent University, Belgium


The use of the archived web as an object of research remains at the fringes of (digital) humanities research (Winters, 2017). While a number of surveys and studies have identified common challenges and researchers’ requirements (See e.g. Costa & Silva, 2010; Costea, 2018; Riley & Crookston, 2015; Stirling, Chevallier, & Illien, 2012), the conclusion saying that ”there is still a gap between the potential community of researchers who have good reason to engage with creating, using, analysing and sharing web archives, and the actual (generally still small) community of researchers currently doing so” (Dougherty et al., 2010, p. 5) largely holds true. In our paper we argue that Library Labs – a growing network of experimental environments which provide data-level access to digitised and born-digital collections – can help bridge that gap.

Research use of web archives

Although many researchers in the humanities and social sciences still need to begin to explore the web archives, some projects have already investigated their potential. Mapping the Danish Web (Brügger & Laursen, 2018; Brügger, Laursen, & Nielsen, 2019), Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities (BUDDAH) project (Hockx-Yu, 2011; Winters, 2015),[1] text-mining projects such as Néonaute (Cartier, Stirling, & Aubry, 2018) and Semantic Change Detection (McGillivray & Basile, 2018), the research being undertaken by members of the RESAW network (Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials)[2] and PROMISE (PReserving Online Multiple Information: towards a Belgian StratEgy)[3] (Geeraert, Michel, & Vlassenroot, 2018; Vlassenroot et al., 2019) being particular examples. The Internet Archive Research Services have provided important use cases that expand beyond national domains while the Archives Unleashed Project[4] has focused on developing a toolkit, a cloud service to work with WARC files and a community around their regular datathons.

Access and labs as “incubators for research”

As a result of legal restrictions, many web archives still remain solely accessible through dedicated computers inside (national) libraries. Additionally, managing archived web-resources as large, complex and messy datasets, requires a relatively advanced level of digital literacy, not always at the fingertips of all humanities researchers. In this paper, we will consider whether the concept of ‘library labs’, as pioneered by organisations such as the British Library, and more recently, exemplified through the international Building Library Labs network [5] (Chambers et al., 2019) could be a) an ideal incubator for both increasing access to archived-web resources, such as within national library buildings themselves and b) whether the inclusion of web-archives as one of the many available resources alongside e.g. digitised newspapers, etc. could increase their take-up and usage in the humanities and social sciences research community. We will also examine case studies from national and university libraries that have experimented with offering datasets from their web archives as part of labs or research services (e.g. Library of Congress, Royal Danish Library, Austrian National Library and British Library). Furthermore, the recently established Research Working Group of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC), which a) seeks to promote the use of web archives and IIPC collections among researchers, b) share information about web archiving research projects at IIPC member organisations, including workflows and lessons learnt, and c) facilitate ways for dissemination and discussion of use cases, which could be an ideal framework for fostering research-use of archived web material[6], will be introduced.


Brügger, N., & Laursen, D. (2018). Historical Studies of National Web Domains. In N. Brügger & I. Milligan (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Web History (1. ed., pp. 413-427). London: SAGE Publications.

Brügger, N., Laursen, D., & Nielsen, J. (2019). Establishing a corpus of the archived web: the case of the Danish web from 2005 to 2015. In N. Brügger & D. Laursen (Eds.), The historical web and Digital Humanities: The case of national web domains (pp. 124-142). Abingdon: Routledge.

Cartier, E., Stirling, P., & Aubry, S. (2018). Néonaute: mining web archives for linguistic analysis. Paper presented at the IIPC Web Archiving Conference, Wellington.

Chambers, S., Mahey, M., Gasser, K., Dobreva-McPherson, M., Kokegei, K., Potter, A, Ferriter, M. and Osman, R. (2019). Growing an international Cultural Heritage Labs community. Retrieved from

Costa, M., & Silva, M. J. (2010). Understanding the Information Needs of Web Archive Users. Retrieved from

Costea, M.-D. (2018). Report on the Scholarly Use of Web Archives. Retrieved from

Dougherty, M., Meyer, E. T., McCarthy Madsen, C., van den Heuvel, C., Thomas, A., & Wyatt, S. (2010). Researcher Engagement with Web Archives: State of the Art. Retrieved from

Geeraert, F., Michel, A. , & Vlassenroot, E. (2018). Critical reflections on unlocking web archives for humanities research. Paper presented at the 5th DH Benelux Conference.

Hockx-Yu, H. (2011). Up close and personal - Researchers and the UK Web Archive Project. Paper presented at the IIPC Web Archiving Conference, The Hague.

McGillivray, B., & Basile, P. (2018). Exploiting the Web for Semantic Change Detection. Paper presented at the 21st International Conference, DS 2018, Limassol, Cyprus.

Riley, H., & Crookston, M. (2015). Awareness and Use of the New Zealand Web Archive: A Survey of New Zealand Academics. Retrieved from

Stirling, P., Chevallier, P., & Illien, G. (2012). Web Archives for Researchers: Representations, Expectations and Potential Uses. D-Lib Magazine, 18(3/4). doi:10.1045/march2012-stirling

Vlassenroot, E., Chambers, S., Di Pretoro, E., Geeraert, F., Haesendonck, G., Michel, A., & Mechant, P. (2019). Web archives as a data resource for digital scholars. International Journal of Digital Humanities, 1(1), 85-111. doi:10.1007/s42803-019-00007-7

Winters, J. (2015). Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities. Paper presented at the IIPC Web Archiving Conference, Stanford.

Winters, J. (2017). Coda: Web archives for humanities research: some reflections. In N. Brügger & R. Schroeder (Eds.), The Web as History: Using Web Archives to Understand the Past and Present (pp. 238-248). UCL Press: London.

[1] Further information about the BUDDAH project is available at

[2] Further information about the RESAW project is available at

[3] Further information about the PROMISE project is available at

[4] Further information about the Archives Unleashed project is available at

[5] Further information about the Building Library Labs Network is available at:

[6] Further information is available at