Appel à contribution – On the Way to the Future of Digital Manuscript Studies

On 27-29 October 2021, the ERC Project PASSIM (Patristic Sermons in the Middle Ages, Radboud University Nijmegen) will organize the International Workshop On the Way to the Future of Digital Manuscript Studies.

The Workshop

Over the last decades, the ability to exploit digital potential has radically impacted research in the field of manuscript studies. From the most basic facilities, such as the increasing availability of digitized images and documents, to sophisticated attempts at automatizing the entire process of critical editing, the development of digital tools is extraordinary: it has created unprecedented opportunities to mine the data, achieve innovative results, and display them, in ways which previously could only be imagined.In such a dynamic context, the number of valuable enterprises continues to grow: the time is ripe for a consideration of the achievements already obtained, and of the foundations that our current work is laying for long-term development of the field. Through the organization of this workshop, the ERC Project PASSIM seeks to provide an occasion to pursue this goal.

The meeting aims at gathering scholars who engage in groundbreaking projects in the field of digital manuscript studies. We want to bring together colleagues who work from methodological and theoretical perspectives with those who apply digital techniques to specific subjects, and thus to facilitate fruitful interactions between bottom-up and top-down approaches. The conference environment will be designed to stimulate dialogue and knowledge exchange: we consider cooperation, interoperability and integration at the largest scale as essential to realize the potential of digital manuscript studies, and to help each other in the search for a dynamic, secure and cooperative future for the field.

Early career scholars and scientists (Ph.D. and Post-Doc) are particularly encouraged to apply, as we will reserve some lecture-spots specifically for this group.

Scientific Committee: Mariken Teeuwen (Utrecht Universiteit – Huygens ING-KNAW), Olivier Hekster (Radboud Universiteit – KNAW), Shari Boodts (Radboud Universiteit), Gleb Schmidt (Radboud Universiteit), Riccardo Macchioro (Radboud Universiteit).

Confirmed Speakers include Marjorie Burghart, Mike Kestemont, Thomas Köntges, Inka Moilanen, Elena Pierazzo, Matthieu Pignot, Philipp Roelli, Dominique Stutzmann, Mariken Teeuwen, Anne-Marie Turcan-Verkerk, Martin Wallraff.

The Papers: Scientific issues involved

Among many others, three key areas are crucial for the advancement of digital manuscript studies: 1) the contribution of research projects with a specific goal to the field as a whole; 2) the capacity to expand their (web)application(s) to other disciplines rooted in textual source-material (such as history, philology, cultural studies, and more), and vice-versa; 3) the challenges entailed in developing and implementing common/universal standards and data models (e.g. for data structuring, storage, and interoperability), which is a need becoming more and more crucial within such a quickly evolving domain.

We welcome papers that, taking into account this overall framework, engage in the manifold challenges launched by Digital Manuscript Studies through a wide range of perspectives, methods and approaches. The main focus of the contributions can be on the scholarly problems, as well as on the technical issues involved.

Possible topics include (without being limited to):

Digital approaches to historical phenomena: evaluation of the social impact of a given literary corpus; the reconstruction of disintegrated manuscripts; the digital restoration of dispersed medieval libraries; how digital frameworks enhance the study of the interaction between the materiality of manuscript objects and intellectual concepts like content and organization.

Data management, sustainability, interoperability: construction of big repositories of searchable metadata; the building of shared standards to encode metadata on manuscripts; networking, sustainability of structuring standards, interoperability and reusability of the data accumulated.

Digital stemmatology: translation of stemmatic principles into reception studies; approaches to stemmatology from a digital point of view; automatic grouping of manuscripts; approaches to overabundant manuscript traditions by means of automatic collation tools.

Computational approaches: deep learning and/or machine learning techniques for computational analysis (script identification, full-text analysis, authorship attribution, …); search for a balance between accuracy, exhaustivity, and serendipity, while programming and processing computational-statistical analysis; development and employment of OCR transcription tools.

Interaction between the machine and the human scholar: harmonization of (digital) phylogenetics with the exigency of a not (too) mechanic evaluation of the data; strategies to evaluate and classify the results obtained by launching queries on huge amounts of data.

Visualization strategies and tools: interpretation of the results of overarching queries; representation of connections between complex objects such as collections of texts; innovative digital editions.

Practical information

Abstract submission. Presentations will be approx. 25 minutes long, followed by discussion. Please send your paper proposal, consisting of an abstract of ca. 350 words and a concise CV (max. 1 page), to Riccardo Macchioro ( and Gleb Schmidt ( before 10 May 2021. Acceptance will be communicated by 15 May 2021. More practical information will follow when your abstract is accepted.

The workshop will be held on 27-29 October 2021, either on location in Nijmegen (ideally), in a hybrid form, or online depending on the development of the Covid-emergency. Board and lodging expenses will be borne by the Organization; unfortunately, we are unable to guarantee coverage of travel costs at this time.

Proceedings. We plan to publish the Proceedings as quickly as possible after the workshop as a volume or special issue of a relevant journal; they are intended as a state-of-the-art portrait of current achievements and potential, as well as a valuable tool for those trying to find their way in the field.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any questions and further information:

Riccardo Macchioro ( – Gleb Schmidt (

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