Funding for digital humanities project on WW2 eyewitness testimonies

Although eyewitnesses of the Second World War have become ever more prominent in the media, there is no systematic research on the content of their testimonies. Even though the transmission of eyewitness memories, with the loss of the eyewitness generations, has been given more and more importance. Historian Susan Hogervorst, a researcher in the EUR research program ‘WAR! Popular Culture and European Heritage of Major Armed Conflicts’, has received a Research Pilot Grant for such a research project from CLARIAH, Common Lab Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities.

Digital humanities

CLARIAH is a digital research infrastructure for the humanities and social sciences. The infrastructure allows researchers to have access to large collections of digital data and to innovative applications for the analysis of these data. A total of 16 proposals has been awarded, with which the existing digital tools and methods will be further improved and expanded for future researchers.

Comparing eyewitness testimonies

In the new project, Hogervorst focuses on three types of digital sources: newspapers, program descriptions of radio and television broadcasts, and transcripts of oral history interviews, from 1945 to the present. Within the project, an appropriate and user-friendly tool will be developed that allows a (semi-) automatic extraction of relevant text excerpts, in this case quotes from eyewitnesses in newspaper articles and media broadcasts.

The contents of the three different types of eyewitness testimonies will be then analyzed and compared: Which topics are actually being addressed in eyewitness accounts (and which not), and how has this changed over time? How did this relate to other types of war documentation? And are there any differences between these three media regarding the nature and frequency of eyewitness accounts? The project starts in September 2017.

About Susan Hogervorst

Hogervorst is an assistant professor in Historical culture and history didactics at the Open University of the Netherlands. From there, she participates in the WAR!-research program at the EUR, in which she studies the use of video testimonies on war in education, museums and online.

Project partners

  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS)
  • Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NIBG)
  • NIOD/Netwerk Oorlogsbronnen

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