Category Archives: Project Updates

Announcing ‘Networking Archives: Assembling and analysing a meta-archive of correspondence, 1509–1714’

We are pleased to announce the award of a three-year, AHRC-funded research grant for a project entitled ‘Networking Archives: Assembling and analysing a meta-archive of correspondence, 1509–1714’ (, led by Professor Howard Hotson (PI, University of Oxford), Dr Ruth Ahnert (Co-I, Queen Mary University of London), and Dr Sebastian Ahnert (Co-I, University of Cambridge).

Networking Archives‘ will create a meta-archive of nearly 450,000 letter records — which will form this country’s largest curated dataset of its kind for the period — and pioneer a combination of traditional scholarship and quantitative network analysis to reveal previously unexamined patterns of political and scholarly information-gathering. This meta-archive will be created by uniting three roughly commensurate datasets: the data already published on ‘Early Modern Letters Online’ [EMLO], supplemented by records of the c. 130,000 letters in the Tudor State Papers 1509–1603 (domestic and foreign), curated but not yet published by the AHRC-funded project ‘Tudor Networks of Power’, and a still larger quantity of letter records, freshly curated by the project team, from the Stuart State Papers, 1603–1714 (domestic and foreign). The project will combine quantitative network analysis with traditional research approaches to discover what the ‘meta-archive’ reveals about the ways in which ‘intelligence’ was gathered and transmitted in the early modern period in the service both of consolidating of state authority and of open intellectual exchange within the international ‘republic of letters’.

This collaborative work will be structured around a series of interdisciplinary ‘laboratories’ in which experiments will be conducted on the newly curated and merged data. Alongside an easy-to-use, exploratory web-interface developed to lower the barrier for researchers employing common quantitative network-analysis methods, a series of algorithms and scripts will be developed to examine more advanced research questions involving overlapping networks and their change over time. Parallel to the laboratories, the project team will develop a curriculum to support the teaching of data curation and network-analysis methods to early career researchers, which will be trialled through a set of training schools and a colloquium, and then shared for reuse as standalone course packages.

The research outputs from these activities will be presented in a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional settings, including large-scale datasets, technical papers, informal blogposts, peer-reviewed scholarly articles, a popular history on espionage and surveillance in the early modern world, a collaboratively researched case study of intelligencing at the centre of the meta-archive, and an edited collection of essays emerging from the training schools and colloquia. At the conclusion of the project, all components of the project’s infrastructure (data, software, documentation, and methods) will be consolidated and shared under open access/open source to simplify its deployment and reuse at other institutions.

For more news and information (including forthcoming job postings funded by the project), please follow ‘Networking Archives’ on Twitter (@networkarchives) or visit the website (

Mellon funds Phase III of Cultures of Knowledge!

We are delighted to announce the award to Cultures of Knowledge of a third round of funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This grant of $744,000 will take Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO] through another two years of development, from April 2015 to March 2017. We are deeply grateful to the Foundation — and to all our partners, contributors, and team members — for their invaluable support and continued confidence in the significance of this rapidly growing project.

Phase I website

The CofK Phase I website, with our seven founding catalogues.

From its inception in 2009, Cultures of Knowledge [CofK] has evolved continuously. During Phase I (2009–12), the aim of creating the nucleus of a union catalogue moved from the periphery to the centre of the project. During Phase II (2013–14), the aspirations for EMLO evolved from creating a finding-aid to devising a suite of digital tools for collecting, standardizing, merging, publishing, navigating, analysing, and visualizing unprecedented quantities of epistolary metadata. The core objective of Phase III (2015–17) is to complete the evolution of EMLO from a resource designed, built, and populated in Oxford to one designed, built, and populated collaboratively.

Nicole Coleman describes EMLO at the COST Conference

Nicole Coleman from Stanford’s Humanities+Design describes EMLO at the COST Action Digital Humanities Conference in March 2015.

The ultimate aspiration of the project is now to create a platform for radically multilateral scholarly collaboration — a ‘scholarly social machine’ — which can furnish an entire community of scholars and repositories with the means of piecing back together the millions of scholarly letters scattered across and beyond a continent during the early modern period. Once developed for such a purpose, this technology can be applied to earlier and later periods, and to the documentation of other forms of learned exchange, while the workflows and cultures created can be repurposed to bring other communities of expertise to bear on analogous problems.

Working hard at the Digital Humanities Training School, 22-25the March 2015, co-organised by COST Action IS1310, CofK, and Huygens ING.

Working hard at the Digital Humanities Training School, 22-25 March 2015, co-organised by COST Action IS1310, CofK, and Huygens ING.

In pursuing these ambitious goals, the further development of EMLO will be informed by discussions coordinated by the new COST-funded, pan-European network, ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters, 1500–1800’, chaired by CofK’s Director, Professor Howard Hotson, from April 2014 to April 2018. Together, CofK and the COST network are designed to produce a community designed, user-tested blueprint for a transformative piece of transnational digital infrastructure capable of harvesting and analysing data on an unparalleled scale, which will form the core of the further large-scale applications needed to fund its full development.

CofK’s agenda in Phase III is built around four core activities.

I. Metadata acquisition through community building:

II. Automating collaborative metadata creation based on Linked Data:

  • Objective: to increase the efficiency of editing, matching, and merging new data from all sources through semi-automation of mechanical aspects of workflows, thereby preparing for high-volume contributions and uploads.
  • Components: publishing EMLO as controlled-access Linked Data; semi-automating the standardization and matching of records in data entry, in existing datasets, and within existing EMLO data to enhance records and resolve any data fusion problems.

III. Visualization of epistolary and prosopographical metadata

  • Objectives: to integrate existing means of visualizing epistolary metadata, to develop new means of visualizing prosopographical metadata, and to explore use of visualization for interrogating and searching all data on EMLO.
  • Components: integrating components of Stanford’s second-generation visualisation tool, Palladio, into EMLO’s user interface for visualizing epistolary metadata; enhance the prosopographical element begun in Phase II and explore cutting-edge visualizations of this complex data.

IV. Events, dissemination, and networking

  • Objectives: to experiment with means of engaging both a local and an increasingly dispersed contributor community through Mellon-funded outreach events, and participating as required in COST-funded travel, training schools, and conferences.
  • Components: Online exhibitions and outreach; local community engagement; EMLO user engagement.
  • Partners: contributors providing material and resources for the creation of digital exhibitions.

Here at CofK HQ we are hugely excited about everything in store for 2015. To keep up to date with the latest news you can follow us on Twitter (@cofktweets) and sign up to our mailing list. If you have metadata on early modern letters that you would like to publish on EMLO, please get in touch with us for an informal chat. Learn more about us on the CofK, EMLO and COST websites.

Q&A: What is a Digital Project Manager anyway?

Elizabeth Williamson

With only a few days left to apply for the two jobs currently available at Cultures of Knowledge, I wanted to provide a little more detail on the EMLO team and what it’s like to be a Digital Project Manager and a Projects Administrator for this fast-growing and exciting enterprise.

How would you summarise the role of the DPM?

It is a really wonderful post, very varied and stimulating! The position bridges different fields – project management, editorial, technical, scholarly, promotion – though we have a wide and very talented team of specialists, so my main job is coordinating their work to keep every aspect in service of the project as a whole. We have specialist systems developers and a skilled digital editor who, with my guidance, progress the substance of the technical and editorial agendas respectively.

What’s it like to work for Cultures of Knowledge?

It’s a fantastic team and we’re all really passionate about the project. In the History Faculty we have a project office where the two new recruits will be based, and an editorial office which houses our Digital Editor Miranda Lewis, visiting scholars, and our team of Digital Fellows. We work with some great developers in Oxford and internationally, plus a postdoc in Leiden and editorial collaborators all around the world. It’s important that the DPM provides a core presence for the team; that’s why I’m handing the role to a new person, as I’m moving to the USA for personal reasons.

How technical is your role?

I’d say that currently I do a lot of managing of the technical agenda and specifying of needs, but that doesn’t require specialist knowledge of the coding languages themselves as we have a Technical Strategist who advises on structural choices, and we also have the new post of Technical and Community Manager coming on board imminently. So I don’t need to know how MongoDB or node.js work, for example, but I do need a general knowledge of our systems, what they do, what their limits are, and to be able to assist the editor in determining what is needed in terms of development. It’s about translating the requirements of the scholars and editors to the technical team, and helping to ensure that work moves forward on time and on spec.

What do you find yourself doing most often?

As said, managing the technical agenda and specifying needs is central. There is also a large role in representing the project, online and offline, and promoting/explaining EMLO to the scholarly community. I love this part, and it will be expanding further. The post requires an understanding and overview of each aspect of EMLO and Cultures of Knowledge, in order to help steer the group individually and as a whole. It might be bouncing ideas for editorial workflows with our Digital Editor, communicating with potential collaborators explaining why they might want to put data on EMLO, outlining project milestones with the team, or drawing up feedback for a technical tool. There’s also a need for reporting to our funders, the Mellon Foundation, and strategizing to explore future options, including funding applications. But on the whole I’d say a large part of my role is anticipating and understanding needs, organising, and communicating.

How does CofK relate to EMLO?

EMLO (Early Modern Letters Online) is the union catalogue and digital platform that the research project Cultures of Knowledge created and runs. We work with many different contributors to gather, standardise, and centralise metadata on early modern letters, including curating it ourselves. Have a browse of this website and/or EMLO itself to find out more:

How does CofK relate to the COST Action network?

These are two separate projects, but they benefit each other. CofK is one voice in the wider COST network, and our Director and the project were also centrally involved in the proposal. We were also the local hosts and co-organisers for a recent multifaceted COST event, comprising a conference, set of meetings, and digital humanities training school. The network itself is made up of scholars, archivists, librarians, and technologists from over 30 countries, coming together over four years to collaborate on all aspects of rolling out truly international infrastructure to facilitate the reassembly of the epistolary material of the republic of letters.

How can I find out more about the COST Action?

Check out the website here, beautifully designed and constructed by Density Design at Politecnico di Milano.

What can you tell us about the COST-CofK administrative post?

This is a fantastic opportunity to be involved at ground level in both projects. It’s 0.6 FTE so would work well around other family or work commitments. Part of their time will be spent supporting the new Digital Project Manager at CofK with all sorts of administrative and financial tasks concerning EMLO, from helping run events, to helping process our team of Digital Fellows, to keeping detailed budget logs. The rest will be dedicated to the COST network; this is important work, and would require developing a good understanding of COST’s rules and requirements in order to communicate with Action members, advising them as needed on matters like reimbursement eligibility, setting up contracts and payments for activities such as website development and video production, and working with local event coordinators in the network. The ideal candidate will need a good head for figures, the ability to digest complex information, and an eye for detail. The scholarly work and actual activity of the network is well distributed amongst several key individuals, like Working Group Leaders and the Short Term Scientific Mission Coordinator, so you’ll be supporting – and be supported by – a highly engaged and skilled team.

Sounds great! How do I apply?

The deadline for both positions is midday on 8th April. Please ensure you have your application in by then! Further particulars and a link to the application form is here for the Project Manager, and here for the Projects Administrator.

Good luck, and Happy Easter!

Update! We’re hiring a new Administrator and a Digital Project Manager

CofK and COST Administrator

UPDATE! 10.03.2015: We are delighted to announce that a post is now available for a part-time administrator (0.6 FTE), working on Cultures of Knowledge and the COST Action network ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters‘. Do you have administrative and finance experience? Would you like to work with a dedicated and friendly team on two major digital history projects? Then take a look at the further details and apply here!

Digital Project Manager

We are excited to announce that we are seeking a full-time project manager for Cultures of Knowledge, tenable from April 2015 to March 2017. Do you love early modern letters? Are you passionate about the possibilities of the digital humanities in our connected world? We’d love to hear from you!

This is a unique opportunity to help lead one of Oxford University’s largest and most exciting digital humanities projects. As Digital Project Manager of Cultures of Knowledge, you will coordinate the development of our flagship union catalogue, Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO), liaising between our technical and editorial teams and helping to coordinate our expanding community of contributors.

EMLO collaborates with a growing range of individual scholars, projects, editions, publishers, and repositories in order to bring together many tens of thousands of records on early modern learned correspondence, allowing manuscript, print, and digital resources to be cross-searched in a single, central, open-access, online catalogue. Further, by standardising huge quantities of person, place, and letter records, we are opening up unprecedented opportunities for analysing, visualising, and exploring early modern letters and the international intellectual networks documented by them.

The Project Manager anchors a vital role at the very centre of this project. Reporting to Project Director Professor Howard Hotson, and supported by a part-time administrator, the successful candidate will ensure that all aspects of Cultures of Knowledge are delivered on time, on spec, and on budget. You will be an excellent communicator with superb organizational skills and a higher degree relating to the early modern period, the digital humanities, or project management. No specialist technical or coding skills are required, but you will have some understanding of, and a keen interest in, the use of digital technologies in humanistic research. You will be able to juggle competing priorities, and represent the project with enthusiasm and dedication.

As the current post holder I can tell you that this is a fascinating and stimulating position, working alongside fantastic people – if you are passionate about the digital, the historical, or the editorial (ideally all three!), and have excellent organizational and people skills, then please do apply!

Further particulars can be downloaded from the University website. Please address any queries to the current Project Manager, Dr Lizzy Williamson (elizabeth.williamson[at] To apply, please submit a supporting statement and CV on the University website, to arrive not later than 12.00 noon (GMT) on 8th April 2015.

Project update: new EMLO calendar and new CofK podcasts available

New calendar: Joseph Justus Scaliger

We are delighted to announce the publication of our newest calendar in EMLO, that of the 1,669 letters of Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540 – 1609). In 2012, the eight-volumed edition of The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540–1609) published by the esteemed Librairie Droz, Geneva, under the direction of Max Engammare, was launched in style at the Divinity School of Oxford’s Bodleian Library at a reception hosted by Cultures of Knowledge. We are delighted now, through our continued collaboration with the Librairie Droz, to be able to make available within EMLO the metadata for this extensive correspondence.

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New EMLO catalogue: the correspondence of Athanasius Kircher

Hard on the heels of the recent EMLO redesign and the publication of metadata for c.20,000 largely Protestant letter records originating in the Dutch republic, here at Cultures of Knowledge we are especially thrilled today to be celebrating the release of a major Catholic catalogue of Italian correspondence, that of the Jesuit polymath and scholar Athanasius Kircher. This important occasion is the result of a long-standing partnership between Cultures of Knowledge and the esteemed and innovative Stanford-based project Mapping the Republic of Letters.

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EMLO re-launch! New website, new catalogues, and old friends

It gives us huge pleasure to announce the re-launch of Early Modern Letters Online – EMLO – our union catalogue of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth- century letters, comprising of a complete aesthetic makeover for the website and the release of nine new collections focused on significant figures of the republic of letters.

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The Practice of Scholarly Communication: Correspondence networks between Central and Western Europe, 1550-1700

Workshop report by Dr Robin Buning.

More than five years after the workshop Apocalypticism, Millenarianism, and Prophecy: Eschatological Expectations between East-Central and Western Europe, 1560-1670 in January 2009, which was the first event of the Cultures of Knowledge project, Prague was again the scene of a two-day conference on intellectual networks.

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