The role of memory institutions in developing digital humanities

Mari Sarv, Estonian Literary Museum

Although the computers were created to spare the time, the digital has become an essential component of the world. It has not changed the basic essence of the humanities, but there are still two domains important from the viewpoint of humanities: the possibilities to present and make available the source materials, and the computational methods that permit to work through much more bigger data amounts.

The contemporary sources can be collected through the web, but the large part of the humanities is dealing with historical data — source materials located in some place. Mostly in the memory institutions and the research collections. Estonian materials, of course, are located mostly in Estonian institutions — whose task should be make the materials available for research, easily and comfortably. Another question is, what is comfortable for the researcher, which kind of presentation? In case of manuscripts it may be the scanned picture, pure text, tagged text, or special environment for presentation and research offering also the tools for research?

We should ask these questions from the researchers – what do they need – but where is this humanities research with the abilities to freely operate with the digital materials and computational methods? He is not born yet, except than in linguistics. To grow up the researchers able to work with the sources of Estonian humanities – should be the task of Estonian digital humanities, and the development of it depends on the efforts and openness of memory institutions to make their collections easily available.