Not only the rapid development of technologies that have significantly influenced practices and research methods in this field, but also the emergence of organizations and infrastructures have played an important role in the history of the digital humanities.

Milestones in the history of the digital humanities

The history of the digital humanities can be viewed from several perspectives. The first one concerns the technologies that have significantly influenced practices and research methods in this field. Another important aspect involves the individual projects that have influenced the digital humanities and their further development. Infrastructures and institutions are undoubtedly an important area for the development of the digital humanities, enabling communication among scholars involved in research in this field, providing access to data repositories, organizing conferences, and often also offering educational materials.

  • 1949

    Roberto Busa and Index Thomisticus

    While there are a number of milestones that have shaped the development of the digital humanities, the beginnings in this area are associated with the efforts of the Jesuit Robert Busa, who, in cooperation with IBM, used computer technology to analyse the writings of Thomas Aquinas and created the so-called Index Thomisticus, a database that lemmatizes the entire work of Thomas Aquinas and related authors. This event is considered to be the first “Digital Humanities” project.

  • 1950s

    Onset of the optical character recognition (OCR) technology

    This marks the beginning of the widespread development of OCR (optical character recognition), although the Austrian engineer Gustav Tauschek obtained a patent for it already in the 1920s.

  • 1963

    Origin of GIS

    Roger Tomlinson, known as the “father of GIS”, created and developed the first geographic information system (GIS) for use by the Canadian Land Inventory in the early 1960s.

  • 1966

    The first journal on the use of computers in the humanities

    The journal called Computers and the Humanities, founded by Joseph Raben, was the first periodical in the field of application of computer methods in the humanities.

  • 1966

    The first mention of the term Humanities Computing

    One of the first references to the term “Humanities Computing” (predecessor of the term “Digital Humanities”) in an article in the Computers and the Humanities journal.

  • 1970

    The first conference in the field of Humanities Computing

    The first conference of the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (since 2011, European Association for Digital Humanities) was held at the University of Cambridge.

  • 1978

    Establishment of the Association for Computers and the Humanities

    The Association for Computers and the Humanities was established as a forum for research, discussion and technical research in the field of humanities.

  • 1980

    Index Thomisticus completed

    After thirty years of work, Roberto Busa completed his work Index Thomisticus.

  • 1986

    SGML language created

    SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), adapted from the IBM’s generalized markup language (GML), was approved and published in October as ISO 8879:1986.

  • 1987

    Launching the Perseus project

    Launch of the Perseus digital library, one of the early projects in the DH area, with photographs and texts contributed by archives, special collections, libraries, and museums.

  • 1989

    World Wide Web

    World Wide Web (WWW), created by Tim Berners-Lee, was originally developed to share information among scientists at universities and research institutes all over the world.

  • 1990

    The Rossetti Archive project

    Jerome McGann begins his work on the Rossetti Archive, an edition of facsimile and transcription of manuscripts, paintings and publications by the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

  • 1996

    The first draft of the XML language

    The first XML (Extensible Markup Language) draft was created. XML was designed for easy implementation and interoperability with SGML and HTML.

  • 1998

    The first Digital Humanities conference

    The first joint ALLC-ACH conference was held in 1989 at the University of Toronto, later to become the annual ADHO conference.

  • 1999

    The Women writers project

    The Women Writers Project published on the website. A long-term research project dedicated to pre-Victorian women writers, which uses TEI encoding.

  • 2000

    The concept of Distant Reading introduced

    Franco Moretti presents the concept of Distant Reading in his article “Conjectures on World Literature”.

  • 2001

    Wikipedia founded

    Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia based on a model of editable content, where anyone with an Internet access can write and make changes to records.

  • 2004

    Google Books project launched

    The launch of the Google Books project, containing millions of books, provided by publishers, authors and libraries, that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition (OCR), and stored in its digital database.

  • 2001

    The first use of the term Digital Humanities

    The term “digital humanities” is presented in the publication: The New Companion to Digital Humanities by John Unsworth.

  • 2006

    ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium)

    The establishment of ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium), which later became DARIAH, an organization that provides services to research communities in the field of digital humanities.

  • 2008

    The first prototype of the Europeana project

    A prototype of the European digital library network, the predecessor of Europeana, a web portal with more than 10 million cultural and scientific artefacts from European cultural institutions, was launched.

  • 2011

    The first projects in the field of cultural analytics

    Culturomics - “Science” publishes the work of Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel on the topic of “Culturomics”, in which they describe the concept of quantitative analysis of digitized texts for the purpose of studying cultural phenomena.

  • 2011

    The Selfiecity project

    Introducing Manovich’s Selfiecity, which analyses and visualizes thousands of selfies from five global cities and explores how people represent themselves through photos on social media. Manovich’s work is essential for the field of cultural analytics.

  • 2017

    Establishment of CzADH (Czech Association for Digital Humanities)

    The official establishment of the Czech Association of Digital Humanities (CzADH), which brings together more than 30 researchers and several institutions involved in the research in the digital humanities.

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