Maastricht University History Department Blog

Category: Blog (Page 1 of 2)

De Collectione Datorum: The challenge of developing data models and databases in humanities projects

Humanities projects, and especially historians, work with large amounts of data that come from various sources and are often unstructured. Ingesting these data into an easy-to-use database that permits complex data queries or even data visualisations is often unattainable. The blog post addresses this challenge and presents workflows in which relational or graph databases are optional end-products rather than the starting points of the research process. The DigiKAR geohumanities project which analyses spatial relations in Electoral Mainz and Electoral Saxony of the early modern period uses a combination of spreadsheets, scripts, and sample databases. These experiences can inspire other humanities projects to find low-maintenance alternatives to expensive multi-user databases with graphic user interfaces.

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Travelling, festivities and mutual congratulations: Tourism in scientific conferences

Lea Beiermann, PhD candidate at FASoS, works in the History Department and is a member of the MUSTS research group. Her NWO-funded PhD project looks at the history of microscopy in the mid-nineteenth century. In her blog, Lea deals with how microscope-using scientists started to share and preserve their slides during the mid-nineteenth century, and the kind of work that went into that.

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Always walk alone? Historians and Collaborations

Why do historians like to write alone? In this blog article, Camilo Erlichman reflects on the reluctance of historians to engage in collaborative forms of writing, tracing the reasons to the development of the discipline in the 19th century. In doing so, he argues that while mono-authorship will remain a key pillar of the discipline, historians need to embrace more emphatically collective forms of writing: not to succumb to the logics of marketisation, but to diversify their sources and widen their intellectual horizons.

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New blogpost SHCL

FASoS history department members Annemieke Klijn and Judith Van Puyvelde wrote a blogpost for the Social Historical Centre Limburg (SHCL) on Joep Nicolas and the glass-stained windows int the Statenzaal of the former provincial house in Maastricht. Read it here.

Documenting extinctions: sighting the last Przewalski’s horses in the wild

Dr Monica Vasile, PhD Candidate

Scholars warn we are currently facing a mass extinction event. To support this claim, they estimate catastrophic extinction rates. By comparison, the number of documented extinctions validated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List is tiny. Documenting the fact that a species is no more, or that it draws near the brink, proves to be a difficult task, prone to contention. Even for conspicuous species living in wide-open spaces, such as the Przewalski’s horse in the Mongolian steppes, expeditions and sightings were shrouded in controversy. How does one prove that a species has disappeared from the wild? This blog gives a glimpse into what it means to survey the wilderness and document the elusive existence of endangered species. It offers a snapshot into how humans have encountered and argued over the last surviving free-living Przewalski’s horses in the 1960s.

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Before Hamsters Became Cute

Prof Dr Raf de Bont holds the chair History of Science at FASoS, and currently runs the research project Moving Animals: a History of Science, Media and Policy in the Twentieth Centuryfunded through a VICI grant of the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The project seeks to break new ground in studying the changing relationship between humans and ‘wild’ animals. He is the recipient of the 2019 Dr. Hendrik Muller Prize for his contributions to environmental history and history of science.

In March 2020, in the midst of the Covid crisis, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gave a press conference. He called upon his compatriots to stop hoarding canned food, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. The word he used to describe such behaviour was ‘hamstering’ (in Dutch: ‘hamsteren’) – a term that refers to the habit of hamsters to collect grain stocks in their underground burrows. Rutte explicitly denounced such hoarding as ‘unnecessary’, ‘unkind’, and ‘nasty’, and his sign language interpreter reinforced the image by impersonating a particularly ghastly-looking animal. This mobilization of hamster images might surprise, given the fact that, today, the animal seems particularly associated with cuteness.  Yet, in order to understand the morally charged meaning of the term ‘hamstering’, we need to move beyond the hamster’s current reputation and explore human engagements with the animal over the long term.

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Caribous on treadmills, and Alaskan oil

Dr Simone Schleper is a postdoctoral researcher in the Moving Animal project, researching how the phenomenon of animal migration has been studied, understood, and managed, especially in cases of human-wildlife conflict. Her monograph Planning for the Planet appeared with Berghahn in 2019.

What do caribous on treadmills have to do with Alaskan oil? Alaskan wildlife conservation research and oil development have a long and entangled history. It is a complex one, too, in which the oil industry has funded various types of ecological research and in which wildlife professionals have been both against and in favor of resource development in the Arctic. This blog explores the relationship between moving animals such as caribous, and the construction of oil pipelines in Alaska.

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Confessions of a fledgling historian…

Preparing to enter “the archive”

PhD candidate Dani Shanley examines the history of ideas surrounding responsible innovation in a global context. She blogs about her first encounters with archival research. This is her first blog on her research work.

The problem with wanting to visit an archive is, you have to find one first.

Not having been trained as a historian, I found this to be a total minefield at the start of my PhD. How on earth should I know where to look..? Is X number of boxes and X cubic feet worth travelling for..? How would I know if there would be anything there that would be relevant..? Needless to say I went down many rabbit holes and had many a sleepless night in putting together my first trip to “the archive”.

After several months, I’d finally narrowed down my search, selecting a number of archives in the U.S.

Now that I knew where I was going, I became preoccupied by the question, what was I looking for..?

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