Principles of the prize
A new competition entitled “the AFHE Prizes in Digital Humanities” is organized in Paris to reward digital humanities projects in the field of economic history. The competition, organized and funded by the Association Française d’Histoire Économique (AFHE) under the patronage of the IEHA, is open to all researchers and institutions.
A special session will give the opportunity for each selected candidate or team to present their project during 15min presentation on their project. Furthermore, candidates will have the opportunity to display their projects on a large video screen in the Grand Équipement Documentaire on Campus Condorcet
The competition is divided into 2 categories: “Science Outreach” and “Research”. It offers the opportunity to promote ongoing and achieved projects involving new technologies in economic history.
Science outreach. We welcome all propositions based on a digital support dedicated to the popularization of knowledge, data and heritage collections for large audiences in the field of economic history. Accepted supports are: blogs & websites, videos, serious games, computer graphics, academic documentaries, digitisation projects, apps or other digital supports.. Each candidate will have to submit a 2 000 words essay presenting the research and to provide access to the digital product. Accepted supports should fit an on-screen presentation.
Digital Innovation & Research. We welcome all propositions from researchers using new digital tools (websites, software, apps, databases, etc.) and methods (mapping and spatial technologies, data visualisation, text encoding and analysis, network analysis, digitisation projects… etc) in the field of economic history. All kinds of academic research : published papers, dissertations, funded projects… etc will be accepted. Each candidate will have to submit a 2000 words essay presenting the research and to give access to the digital product. Accepted supports should fit an on-screen presentation.
Winners of the prizes
Winner of the prize for Science outreach
Authors : Bruno Gabriel Witzel De Souza (Georg-August-University [Göttingen] ( Germany), Leonardo Antonio Santin Gardenal ( Centro Universitário Herminio Ometto de Araras ( Brazil)
Projet Labor, livelihood, and immigration in a Brazilian plantation: the archives of Ibicaba farm (1840-1970)
With the mass digitization and online open access publication of Brazilian endangered archives, this project creates an outstanding resource for studying the economic history of Brazilian economy and society.
Besides, the project uses those archives for public history and pedagogical initiatives, exhibitions and artistic performances, creating new links between the past and present of the communities involved. For its social impact and its effort in re-loading memory and heritage through digital archives, the project Labor, livelihood, and immigration in a Brazilian plantation: the archives of Ibicaba farm (1840-1970) receives the “Science Outreach” award.
2 winners ex aequo of the prize for Digital Innovation :
- Zhao Mengyue, independent scholar, project “The Mass Digitization of Historical Tables Using Open-Source AI and Machine Vision Tools“
- Antonio Iodice, University of Exeter ( United Kingdom) and Università di Genova ( Italy), project “The AveTransRisk Database: Mapping Trade, Risk, and Disasters in the First Globalization”
Winner 1 : Zhao Mengyue, independent scholar. The Mass Digitization of Historical Tables Using Open-Source AI and Machine Vision Tools
For two decades, mass digitisation projects (google books, Gallica, the numerous digitisation projects of ancient newspapers, etc.) have allowed historians to access more and more data online. At the same time, OCR has become an important issue: working with massive data cannot be done through the online reading of PDFs. Though methods to analyse big data are better and better, OCR methods are still a step backwards – better than they used to be, but they remain unsatisfactory for historians.
Furthermore, economic historians have some specific needs: the automatic optical recognition of tabular data for instance. Large sets of tabular data are today present in digitised ancient newspapers. Some research projects are already using it, but they need to put strong efforts into correcting / processing those tabular data.
The workflow presented by Mengyue Zhao in her paper « The Mass Digitization of Historical Tables Using Open-Source AI and Machine Vision Tools » is a strong step forward to better optical recognition of tabular data. This should help economic historians trying to get tabular data from newspapers, books, registries, etc. published in the XIX and XX centuries. Those tables are, for instance, particularly numerous in specialised newspapers and hard to recognise and to pre-process. As the proposed workflow is based on an optimisation of open source tools for a specific task, the results obtained by this workflow are far better than the more generic workflows of non-specialised OCR tools. If her project is, per se, not an economic history project, its potentialities for economic historians are particularly important
Winner 2 : Antonio Iodice, University of Exeter ( United Kingdom) and Università di Genova ( Italy), The AveTransRisk Database: Mapping Trade, Risk, and Disasters in the First Globalization
The jury of the French Association for Economic History has awarded the 1st prize ex aequo for Digital Innovation to the AveTransRisk Database. We have appreciated the ambition of a project making complex premodern data about international trade available online, with all the information necessary for researchers to use it. The data was broken down into relevant categories which can be queried easily and located on a map, in a simple, efficient and robust interface. We particularly liked the fact that the origin of the data was well documented, and that the database could be downloaded freely, which opens a wide range of analysis by researchers. The concern for cooperation and integration into other existing projects like Navigo was also a model for the sustainability of the project in an ever-changing academic world.
To see all the competing projects :