Digital Reconstruction in Historical Research and Its Implications for Virtual Research Environments

  • Juliane StillerEmail author
  • Dirk Wintergrün
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10025)


This articles deals with (digital) reconstruction in historical research and reflects on the use of digital methods within the research cycle. For historians, reconstructions of varying degree, detail and focus are an invaluable research tool. We argue that different stages of reconstruction result in different reconstructed objects, outlining the implications in terms of publication, citation practices and the research cycle. The paper contends that these aspects need to be reflected in virtual research environments. The process of reconstruction needs to become transparent revealing the parameters of the different stages that resulted in the reconstructed product.


Digital reconstruction Historical research Virtual research environments Digital humanities Digital methods Publications Research life cycle 



We would like to thank Klaus Thoden from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science for giving feedback on this article.

URLs quoted: The nature of this article made it necessary to quote a number of websites. We last checked all the links while finishing this article in July 2016. We chose URLs that we believe are stable enough to serve as examples for this article for a reasonable amount of time. We are in doubt about the sustainability of these references but think this only reiterates the importance of establishing a sustainable infrastructure for the (Digital) Humanities.


  1. 1.
    Rubacha, M., Rattan, A.K., Hosselet, S.C.: A review of electronic laboratory notebooks available in the market today. J. Lab. Autom. 16, 90–98 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Stroeker, N., Vogels, R.: Survey Report on Digitisation in European Cultural Heritage Institutions 2014. ENUMERATE Thematic Network (2014)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Stiller, J.: Auf dem Wege zur digitalen Bibliothek: Digitalisierungsstrategien und ihre Konsequenzen. VDM Verlag (2008)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Buckland, M.K.: Information and Information Systems. ABC-CLIO (1991)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Pitti, D.V.: Encoded archival description: an introduction and overview. D-LIB Mag. 5(11), November 1999. Accessed 27 July 2016
  6. 6.
    Lemercier, C.: Formale Methoden der Netzwerkanalyse in den Geschichtswissenschaften:warum und wie? Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 23, 16–41 (2012)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rieger, O.Y.: Preservation in the age of large-scale digitization. A White Paper. CLIR Publication 141 (2008). Accessed 27 July 2016
  8. 8.
    Lopatin, L.: Library digitization projects, issues and guidelines: a survey of the literature. Libr. Hi Tech. 24, 273–289 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hughes, L.M.: Digitizing Collections: Strategic Issues for the Information Manager. Facet Publishing, Abingdon (2004)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lefèvre, W.: Inside the camera obscura: optics and art under the spell of the projected image. Preprint 333. Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (2007). Accessed 27 July 2016
  11. 11.
    Renn, J., Damerow, P., Rieger, S., Giulini, D.: Hunting the white elephant: when and how did galileo discover the law of fall? Sci. Context 13, 299–419 (2000)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Buzzetti, D., Rehbein, M.: Textual fluidity and digital editions. In: Proceedings of the International Workshop on Text Variety in the Witnesses of Medieval Texts, pp. 14–39 (1998)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dalbello, M.: A genealogy of digital humanities. J. Doc. 67, 480–506 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Wintergrün, D.: Book review. In: de Chadarevian, S., Hopwood, N. (eds) Models: The Third Dimension of Science, vol. 9, pp. 363–366. Stanford University Press, Stanford (2004). Visual Communication (2010)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    De Chadarevian, S., Hopwood, N.: Models: The Third Dimension of Science. Stanford University Press, Stanford (2004)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Jordanova, L.: Material models as visual culture. In: Models: The Third Dimension of Science, pp. 443–452. Stanford University Press (2004)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Griesemer, J.: Three-dimensional models in philosophical perspective. In: Models: The Third Dimension of Science, pp. 433–442. Stanford University Press (2004)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Renn, J.: Beyond editions: historical sources in the digital age. In: Internationalität und Interdisziplinarität der Editionswissenschaft, pp. 9–28. De Gruyter (2014)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Schmidgen, H., Dierig, S., Kantel, J.: The Virtual Laboratory for Physiology. Preprint 140. Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (2000).
  20. 20.
    Nissen, H.J., Damerow, P., Englund, R.K.: Archaic Bookkeeping: Early Writing and Techniques of Economic Administration in the Ancient Near East. University of Chicago Press (1993)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Galluzzi, P.: The career of a technologist. In: Leonardo da Vinci: Engineer and Architect, pp. 41–109. Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1987)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Valleriani, M.: Galileo Engineer. Springer, Dordrecht (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Renn, J.: Albert Einstein - Chief Engineer of the Universe. Wiley, Hoboken (2005)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Graßhoff, G., May, M.: Hans Krebs’ and Kurt Hanseleit’s laboratory notebooks and their discovery of the urea cycle - reconstructed with computer models. In: Reworking the Bench: Research Notebooks in the History of Science, pp. 269–294. Klüwer (2003)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Olsen, S., Brickman, A., Cai, Y.: Discovery by reconstruction: exploring digital archeology. In: SIGCHI Workshop (Ambient Intelligence for Scientific Discovery (AISD)) (2004)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Graßhoff, G., Berndt, C.: Decoding the pantheon columns. Archit. Hist. 2, 18 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Saldaña, M.: An integrated approach to the procedural modeling of ancient cities and buildings. Digit. Scholarsh. Hum. (2015). Accessed 27 July 2016
  28. 28.
    Leganovic, O., Schmitt, V., Stiller, J., Thoden, K., Wintergrün, D.: Anforderungen undBedürfnisse von Geisteswissenschaftlern an einen digital gestützten Forschungsprozess. In:DHd2015 - Book of Abstracts - Poster (2015)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Unsworth, J.: Scholarly primitives: what methods do humanities researchers have in common, and how might our tools reflect this. In: Humanities Computing, Formal Methods, Experimental Practice Symposium, pp. 5–100 (2000)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hennicke, S., Gradmann, S., Dill, K., Tschumpel, G., Thoden, K., Morbindoni, C., Pichler, A.: Research Report on DH Scholarly Primitives. Digitized Manuscripts to EuropeanaGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Stiller, J., Thoden, K., Leganovic, O. Heise, C., Höckendorff, M., Gnadt, T.: Nutzungsverhalten in den Digital Humanities. DARIAH-DE (2014)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Warwick, C., Terras, M., Galina, I., Huntington, P., Pappa, M.: Evaluating Digital Humanities Resources: The LAIRAH Project Checklist and the Internet Shakespeare Editions Project (2007)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Rutner, J., Schonfeld, R.C.: Supporting the changing research practices of historians. Final Report from ITHAKA S+R (2012)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Boonstra, O., Breure, L., Doorn, P.: Past, Present and Future of Historical Information Science. KNAW-DANS (2006). Accessed 27 July 2016
  35. 35.
    Hitchcock, T.: Confronting the digital: or how academic history writing lost the plot. Cult. Soc. Hist. 10, 9–23 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Berlin School of Library and Information ScienceHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for the History of Science BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations