How and why does KBR work with Digital Humanities? 5 projects to know more

DH Benelux conference

This year was the 11th edition of the DH Benelux Conference. It took place at the Irish College in Leuven. The theme of the year was “Breaking Silos, Connecting Data: Advancing Integration and Collaboration in Digital Humanities”.

The mission of Digital Humanities Benelux? “Make research in Digital Humanities more visible and foster collaboration in the Benelux region”.

Digital humanities at KBR in 5 projects

What are digital humanities?

Digital Humanities refers to the intersection between new information and communication technologies and the disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, arts and humanities. (Source Cairn Info)

At KBR many researchers are developing projects in the field of digital humanities. The use of digital humanities tools, methods and theories empowers them to analyse and showcase KBR’s collections in innovative ways, attracting new users and fostering deeper engagement with traditional humanities research. Besides, KBR puts a focus on facilitating research in her 2022-2024 action plan.

LabEL or how to preserve and make Belgian Digital literature accessible

LabEL is short for Laboratory for Electronic Literature. But what is electronic literature? It includes all digital-born literary in which the meaning and/or the aesthetics are closely linked to the characteristics of digital media. The work in the Lab aims to guarantee a sustainable archiving of the electronic literature, to make this literature visible and accessible to the larger public and to conduct research on the corpus of Belgian electronic literature.

During the conference, our colleague Isabelle Gribomont presented the project with a focus on a database of Belgian electronic literature, which is currently being developed.

Be Comics Lab, Pop Heritage, ARTPRESSE or three projects to study and promote popular culture

During the conference, our colleagues Julie Birkholz, Benoît Crucifix, Erwin Dejasse and Sébastien Hermans presented their paper that focused on how computer vision and machine learning techniques can help extracting comics from Belgian illustrated periodicals in the interwar period. For the technical side of the project, colleagues from KBR have been supported by Krishna Kumar Thirukokaranam Chandrasekar and Bas Vercruysse from Ghent CDH.

To do so, they are relying on three KBR projects that are supported by the Digital Research Lab, a lab for text and data mining research on KBR’s digitized and born-digital collections. The three projects are:

  • Be Comics Lab: the project aims to study the Belgian comics heritage, to develop its identification, to preserve it and to bring it to life.
  • Pop Heritage: the project focuses on the exploration and curation of Belgian mass-market print heritage
  • ARTPRESSE: the project consists in an intermedial study of Belgian art as a network structured as seen through the lens of the mass media magazines in the interbellum years.

Julie Birkholz de KBR fait une présentation sur la recherche en BD lors de la conférence DH Benelux

NAVEZ project or how people networked in the past

Did you know that networking wasn’t a recent activity? The NAVEZ project dives into the life and the social network of François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869) – a prominent neoclassical artist and director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles to explore the the intricate social connections within the art landscape of Brussel. The main goals are to unravel key figures in Navez’s social network to find how and if his social circles played a crucial role in his success in the 19th century art scene.

This project is a collaboration with the Digital Research Lab, DIGIT and GhentCDH. Our colleagues Fien Messens & Julie M. Birkholz presented this project during the conference.

MetaBelgica or a shared database between Federal Scientific Institutes

KBR is not the only Federal Scientific Institute that works with data. Others do it too and that can lead to the same data described many times. The MetaBelgica project was created in order to avoid this specific case and to encourage the collaboration between Institutes. It consists in a shared database and a web platform that allows to consult the data. The main goals of the project are to make people’s search for Belgian things related to cultural heritage easier and to improve the data quality.

This project is a collaboration with the Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts and the Royal Museums of Art and History. During the conference, our colleague Sven Lieber presented the MetaBelgica project.

BelgicaWeb or the opening up of born-digital data for researchers

Born-digital data are data that only exist digitally and that have no analogue equivalent. Therefore they are vulnerable and that also due to rapidly changing technology. In this context, the BelgicaWeb project aims to make those data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). The project focuses among other things on providing a sustainable access to the born-digital data, to create collections by capturing social media and web content and to raise awareness about Belgium’s born-digital heritage.

Our colleagues Friedel Geeraert and Christina Vandendyck led a workshop on the project during the conference with the aim of identifying best practices, sharing insights, and facilitating new avenues for exploring archived social media.