Reassembling the Republic of Letters: Conference, Training School and COST Meetings

Oxford, 21st-25th March 2015

The first major combined event of the COST Action network took place at the University of Oxford from 22nd to 25th March 2015. Generously funded by COST Action IS1310, this multi-faceted event combined Working Group meetings and a public-facing two-day conference, with the aim of providing all participants a comprehensive and up-to-date understanding of current developments relevant to the network. Running alongside these, a digital humanities Training School inducted newcomers into the current state of the field. The conference, Training school, and Working Group meetings were also bracketed by meetings of the Action Steering Group and Management Committee.

This unique set of co-located events brought together a vast array of leading scholarly and technical experts in order to pursue the reassembly of the Republic of Letters through the opportunities generated by the digital humanities.

Download the full programme

Audio files from the conference sessions are available for download below (large files)

Download audio from Working Group 1 Download audio from Working Group 2 Download audio from Working Group 3 Download audio from Working Group 4 Download audio from Working Group 5 Download audio from Working Group 6

Selected presentations from the conference are available for download below.

Williamson: Early Modern Letters Online and Cultures of Knowledge

Van Miert: Introduction to the Republic of Letters


Oyvind Eide: Space from Text

Grover: Geoparsing Historical Documents


Ruth and Sebastian Ahnert: People and Networks

Gray-Jones: Representing Prosopographical Data for Problem Solving


van den Heuvel: Texts and Topics: Toward a VRE of a Virtual Republic of Letters

Jefferies: IIIF, Shared Canvas

Trausan-Matu: Natural Language Processing and Topic Modelling

van den Heuvel: CKCC and ePistolarium: Topic Modeling and Network Analysis

Czaika: From Digital to Print, from Print to Digital – What is in it for me (as a researcher)?


Boran: Documents and Collections


Staecker: Data Exchange and Strategic Planning

Popham: Generating large quantities of digital catalogue records

Van Hyning: Humanities research at the Zooniverse: How we deploy crowdsourcing in the humanities

Pobezin: Examples of web-mounted archives of printed and manuscript correspondence  (this is a Prezi and will open through

Monok: Sharing Digital Metadata: A brief introduction to Open Access polities for metadata, images, documents, and full digital editions


Doerk: Shifting between Situated Perspectives on Data

Mantegari: Data visualisation and information design for humanistic inquiries

Min Chen: Four Levels of Visualization

Hotson: Visualization and Communication

Training School


22nd – 25th March 2015


The Training School saw key network members and associates delivering sessions that explored some of the key techniques and resources involved in applying digital technology to the study of the early modern republic of letters. The Training School also incorporated the COST Action conference as a means of providing trainees with a broad, up-to-date conspectus of technical and scholarly developments in the field.


Supported by trainers from within and outside the COST Action network, 23 trainees have been selected to attend the training school.


Download the programme below, which included:

  • GIS (Geographic Information System), session led by Ian Gregory
  • Humanities+Design, Stanford University, on their visualisation tool Palladio
  • Ruth and Sebastian Ahnert, leading a session on network analysis
  • Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the 17th-century Dutch Republic (CKCC), presenting their textual visualisation platform, ePistolarium
  • Cultures of Knowledge, Oxford, presenting Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO).
  • An interactive visualization tool developed by Density Design, session led by Paolo Ciucarelli.
Download Training School Programme



22nd – 23rd March 2015


The purpose of the conference was to give all Working Group members a reasonably comprehensive and up-to-date non-technical overview of current developments relevant to the project with a view to establishing the agenda for the Action and each of the individual Working Groups. This complemented the Training School and also ensured that each WG member developed their understanding of the scope and structure of the Action as a whole, and where their own contributions fit within it.


Working Group members, Trainers, and Trainees. Some spaces were also provided for attendance by members of the public.


The format of the conference followed the structure of the Working Groups, each of which was allocated a two-hour slot. The sessions were composed of a series of brief ‘flash presentations’, which present problems or developing solutions relevant to some of the key items in each WG’s agenda. This formed a representative cross-section of the problems and proposed solutions which will be pursued in the Action.

Download detailed Conference Programme

Working Group meetings


24th March 2015


The purpose of the Working Group meetings was for WG members to choose the individual agenda items to which they would like actively to contribute. WGs also began determining which concrete steps will be taken to advance these agenda items, and who will be responsible for what, in the interval between face-to-face meetings. It is only by dividing up the tasks in this way, and assigning to each person the tasks which relate most directly to their own aspirations and expertise, that the agenda as a whole can be pursued without overburdening a small number of individuals.


Working Group Members only. A small number of Action affiliates were allowed to audit these meetings.


Three pairs of Working Group meetings running in parallel, of approximately 2 hours’ duration. Time was allowed for Working Group leaders to have final discussions and formalise plans after the meetings.

Download the detailed WG Schedule

Management Committee meeting


25th March 2015 (morning only)


This summary meeting at the end of the event allowed the Working Group Leaders to feed back to the rest of the Management Committee a brief overview of their Working Group meeting, the conclusions reached, and the work plans developed.


Members of the Management Committee and their pre-authorised substitutes only.


The conference and Working Groups met at St Anne’s College, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HS. The Training School will take place at IT Services, 13 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6NN. Trainees also attended the conference sessions.