Digital Approaches to the History of Science – Workshop I

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Digital Approaches to the History of Science, the first of two planned workshops on this topic, was held at the History Faculty in Oxford on 28 September 2018. A total of nearly sixty attendees assembled to hear presentations from a selection of the most exciting current projects in this field from around the UK. Professor Rob Iliffe, representing the Newton Project, addressed the ongoing challenges and complexity of digitizing and presenting the manuscript writings of Isaac Newton, and Alison Pearn spoke of the related issues faced by the digital side of the ongoing Darwin Correspondence project. Lauren Kassell, of the Casebooks Project, introduced a very different type of material and spoke of the need to find new ways of representing, encoding and searching the mass of information contained in early modern medical-astrological casebooks.

After lunch two speakers discussed from complementary perspectives the opportunities represented by the very rich archive of the Royal Society. Louisiane Ferlier discussed the digitization of Royal Society journals and the work needed to clean and link the metadata about the articles in them. Pierpaolo Dondio described his work modelling and visualising the network of authors, editors and referees who controlled the content of those papers, and provided examples of the kinds of research outcomes such work can produce. A final talk turned to the use of digital humanities resources in the university classroom: Kathryn Eccles and Howard Hotson described the Cabinet project, which has made a rich ecology of digital images and objects available to students on a growing list of Oxford undergraduate papers.

Rich discussions took place both around the individual presentations and over lunch and coffee, and this sell-out event has certainly stimulated interest and ongoing discussion about the distinctive opportunities for history of science created by digital scholarship and resources. The event was supported by the Centre for Digital Scholarship (Oxford), ‘Reading Euclid’, the Royal Society and the Newton Project, and was organised jointly by the Centre for Digital Scholarship and ‘Reading Euclid‘.

Many thanks to all the participants — we are already looking forward to the next workshop!

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