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Managing Uncertainties: Small-scale Crowdsourcing of Author Letters

Conference paper
Authors Jenny Bergenmar
Published in CEUR Workshop Proceedings. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 4th Conference (DHN 2019), Copenhagen, Denmark, March 5-8, 2019., [ed] Costanza Navarretta, Manex Agirrezabal, Bente Maegaard
ISSN 1613-0073
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Language en
Keywords Citizen humanities, letters, Selma Lagerlöf, crowdsourcing, cultural heritage
Subject categories General Literature Studies


Abstract The increased digital accessibility of cultural heritage materials has brought to the fore the need to make these resources searchable and useful, for example by engaging the public in transcription and data tagging. However, engaging the public in the collection of cultural heritage material is more uncommon. This paper presents the project Remembering Selma Lagerlöf, a crowdsourcing initia- tive to collect the letters Lagerlöf sent to her audience and publish them in a dig- ital exhibition, along with letters from the public to Lagerlöf. The methodological challenges connected with crowdsourcing projects that involve the collection of cultural heritage material are discussed. This paper particularly focuses on issues concerning public engagement and the relation between researchers and contrib- utors, as well as on issues concerning the material, such as contextualization and ethical considerations. The letters form a microhistory of the individuals who, for various reasons, contacted Lagerlöf; the contributors submitting the letters have also proven to be an important source of factual information about the context of the letters. The letters to Lagerlöf from the public can be described as a passively stored memory, which is included in the archive of memory, but not in the canon of public knowledge. However, in many cases, these letters may be actively re- membered within the families they concern, who preserve the personal contexts of the letters and consider them relevant.

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