At the Manuscripts Meet Digital Humanities workshop, I was introduced to the history of the massive collection of Arabic and Islamic manuscripts at the Gotha Library in Germany. For me what was fascinating was learning about the work that went into collecting manuscripts in the Islamic Near East (Egypt, the Levant, etc) in the 19t and 20th centuries and that that work was done by a few people who loved what they were doing and wanted to preserve knowledge of the past.
Another fascinating aspect of the workshop was being introduced to the many historians today working to digitize and catalogue the collection, not only at Gotha but at other institutions as well. And so what turned out to be a venture begun by a few people has turned into an international collaborative effort to preserve history with technology and cutting-edge tools.
But whenever I hear the words "digital humanities," I can't help but think how oxymoronic that is. It is true that more historians are learning "languages" like Python in order to integrate digital tools into their work, myself included. Probably what attracted many of us to the Islamic intellectual and cultural tradition were the beauty and power of its languages: grammar, rhetoric, morphology. The words on the pages of those manuscripts express ideas and meaning. And I think those early collectors of manuscripts understood that. As I rely more and more on technology in my work, it's important to remember the humanities dimension and to keep that at the heart of my perspective.
Announcement Workshop, more information: https://www.uni-erfurt.de/en/wissenglobal/ueber-uns/aktuelles/news/news-detail/online-workshop-zu-orientalischen-handschriften-und-digital-humanities