Transatlantic knowledge production and conveyance in community-engaged public history: German History in Documents and Images/Deutsche Geschichte in Dokumenten und Bildern

Matthew Hiebert (, German Historical Institute Washington DC, United States of America and Simone Lässig (, German Historical Institute Washington DC, United States of America

This poster presents the technical redesign of the web resource
German History in Documents and Images/Deutsche Geschichte in Dokumenten und Bildern (GHDI) as a transatlantic knowledge production and conveyance model for community-engaged public history. It is a multilingual project led and based at the German Historical Institute Washington (GHI) in partnership with DARIAH-DE, the Max Weber Foundation, and the University of Southern California. It was awarded a three-year development grant from the German Research Foundation/Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in 2017. We display the project’s theoretical foundations and aims, the resulting technical design, and report on the proof-of-concept phase and first-year of development.

GHDI was first conceived in 2002 by a group of academic historians who sought to make a large collection of German historical documents openly available online in German and English translation. GHDI would consist of ten chronological volumes to cover German history from 1500 to 2009, each of which includes an introduction and a selection of historical documents, images, and maps, accompanied by interpretations. The site currently contains 1,784 German documents (along with an equal number of English translations), 2,374 images, and 55 maps (for a total of 16,068 pages), with content being expanded in the revamp. The project has developed a large and diverse international community of users, registering approximately 100,000 unique visitors a month.

The reconceptualization and revamp of the GHDI includes the encoding of original and new materials in TEI P5, Dublin Core metadata for all content, a site-wide co-created bibliography, and a scholarly annotation system. The integration of, and project development contributions to,
Scalar—a robust open-source authoring, editing, and publishing platform with support for RDF content—allows users to navigate content in diverse ways and along various critical historiographical paths, challenging “master narrative” approaches to German history. The Scalar adapters developed by the project will link a number of important German archives to English-speaking scholarly communities for the first time, and the GHDI platform will ultimately allow users to use and “mix” this and other content to produce their own and collaborative scholarly outputs.

Data resources of the project are being described using Dublin Core metadata vocabulary.  Sources with annotations or other semantic enhancement adhere to TEI (Text Coding Initiative) P5 using the DTA base format.  Linked-open data representations are being be stored in RDF-XML.  Using Scalar’s built-in API, all content will be made available directly via URL-based requests in RDF-XML.  This is also the technical basis for user content “remixing” and user publication facilitation being developed within the GHDI environment. Authority control for personal names and other entities, both in consumption and publication, will be assured through GND and similarly broadly accepted standards.  Resources suitable for language analyses tools conform to Component MetaData Infrastructure (CDMI) as prescribed by CLARIN-DE data centers.   Geographic data is being encoded in GeoJSON.   All data will be published to prioritize permissiveness of use under Creative Commons licensing. 

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