Success Story
Published: 3 years ago

Recesses of Low German Hanseatic Days: A Hanseatic journey with Transkribus

Over the last 150 years, large edition series have shaped hanseatic research. Around 1900, a group of historians had collected and brought between book covers a vast amount of material up to the 1530s. From the 16th century onwards the material was not manageable though. The inventories of selected archives at least provided an overview of the available material.

Digitalisation has reshuffled the cards; especially Transkribus opens up new possibilities for making the almost endless amounts of unedited material accessible to a wider (research) community. At the FGHO, the Research Center for Hanse and Baltic History, we mostly focus on the so called “recesses”, the minutes of resolutions passed at the Hanseatic Days and other low German town conventions, as at these conventions a lot of hanseatic history ‘was made’ at a time.

In just two to three years and with just a small team, we were able to transcribe several hundred pages of archival material, to label them with person and place names and to make the material available on a Read&Search website – and more pages are in progress. So far, we have transcribed mostly manually, i.a. in order to provide material for special handwriting models. In this process students of the University of Greifswald assisted us. Furthermore, with our Citizen-Science project ‘Read.Hanse.Sources!’, we involved interested citizens – a small but committed team which will hopefully grow in the future. None of it would have been possible without Transkribus. Since it is very important for us to communicate hanseatic research to the outside world or to provide opportunities for public participation, the involvement of the interested public is a great opportunity for scientific communication. At the same time, it helps us to make continuous progress with the project through activities for which our colleagues hardly have any time left.

What will the future bring? Of course we want to use HTR models and further develop them ourselves, but we also want to continue working on the material with volunteers. Not only do we want indexes of persons and places, we also want to label topics. E.g., parallel manuscripts of the conventions which will be made accessible. Moreover, we want to make accessible at least one manuscript of each convention between 1537 and 1669. With the help of Transkribus and the services offered by READ-COOP, within a few years, a small research unit is able to make accessible sources on hanseatic history to an extent that has not been possible since the beginnings of hanseatic research around 1900. Furthermore, open data will be generated and will serve as a foundation for many interested parties and for further work on the material (e.g.  critical editions, text analysis, and much more).