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The C²DH celebrates its 5th anniversary

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Published on Friday, 27 May 2022

On 25 May 2022, the University of Luxembourg officially celebrated the fifth anniversary of its third interdisciplinary research centre, the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH).

The centre’s mission, as presented by its director Prof. Andreas Fickers, is to explore the history of Luxembourg and Europe while also reflecting on digital tools and methods – their inherent tensions and challenges but also the opportunities and potential they offer for the practice of history in the 21st century. History research today is largely characterised by a hybrid approach that combines established academic and disciplinary traditions with heuristic exploration and empirical experimentation using new technologies and digital methods.

“History can certainly teach us a lot, for example that history has long been misused and instrumentalised for political, ideological or belligerent purposes,” said Prof. Andreas Fickers at the anniversary ceremony. “Neither historians nor historical research will ever be able to prevent this, but it is our task to speak up and deconstruct the ongoing fabrication, recycling and dissemination of historical myths and legends in the public sphere. At the moment, the biggest challenge for the C²DH and contemporary history research in Luxembourg more generally is access to sources. A revision of the Archives Act, currently under review on the initiative of Culture Minister Sam Tanson, is therefore vitally important.”

At the ceremony, the Rector of the University of Luxembourg, Prof. Stéphane Pallage, emphasised that “History doesn’t always have a capital H. And without it we are nothing. Whatever it may be, we need to make sure that it is never silenced. It may be disturbing, it may make us doubt ourselves. The C²DH enables us to look history in the face.”

In the field of contemporary history of Luxembourg, the C²DH has particularly focused on the two world wars and on issues such as occupation, resistance and collaboration, which have dominated discussions on national identity in Luxembourg (with projects like Warlux, iWalk and the Digital Holocaust Memorial in Luxembourg). The transition from a steel-dominated industrial sector to an economy characterised by services, especially financial services and audiovisual production (Letterbox, Finlux Seminars, etc.), is also a priority research area, as is the process of migration and the related phenomenon of multiculturalism, driven by economic growth and European integration (Foreign workforce in the Minett, Memorecord, Russian migration in Luxembourg, etc.). In addition to its many publications, the centre has produced several virtual exhibitions and documentaries that are freely available online (First World War, history of the Luxembourg postal service, history of BNP-Paribas, history of East Belgium, popular culture in the 1960s – Popkult60, A Colônia Luxemburguesa, etc. One major project, Legionnaires, explored the history of Luxembourgers who enrolled in the French Foreign Legion, with research results presented in an exhibition in the Musée Dräi Eechelen.

In connection with the centre’s strategy of bringing history to citizens, Forum Z is a series of public events on topics related to history or digital technologies that aim both to share research results with a wide audience and to get people involved in methodological reflections. Major projects such as REMIX (Esch2022) and HistorEsch also involve the public in research activities and outcomes.

The current challenges facing Europe, whether political (Brexit and the rise of nationalism), social (migratory movements and human rights) or health-related (the COVID-19 crisis), encourage us to look at European history in all its complexity, identifying commonalities as well as divisions and paradoxes. The team investigates Europe in terms of institutionalisation and memories, dissenting views, media and experts, taking a network-based approach rooted in digital history, with projects such as AWAC2 (Analysing Web Archives of the COVID Crisis through the IIPC Novel Coronavirus Dataset) and WARCnet (Web Archive Studies Network Researching Web Domains and Events).

At global level, the C2 DH is currently one of the most active centres in the world in the field of digital history, with several international projects such as impresso, Tropy and LuxTIME, and multiple European and transatlantic collaborative partnerships, especially with George Mason University and the University of California. Sean Takats, an internationally renowned US expert from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, joined the centre in 2019 via an FNR PEARL chair and is currently leading the Digital History Advanced Research Projects Accelerator (DHARPA).

The C²DH has established close cooperation with the academic publisher De Gruyter, with the introduction of three book series and the launch of the Journal of Digital History, a highly innovative journal in terms of both methodology and techniques.

The C²DH is also committed to knowledge transfer and teaching. After a first “Digital Humanities and Hermeneutics” Doctoral Training Unit, a new DTU entitled “Deep Data Science of Digital History” (D4H) will be hosting PhD students from autumn 2022.

The centre has grown from 39 staff members in 2017 to 120 in 2022, with 32 doctoral candidates and 20 post-docs. The C2 DH currently leads nearly 100 research projects and organises around 50 public lectures each year. Third-party resources are on the rise and now represent 35% of the total budget of the C2 DH. The centre recently received a substantial grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the leading funding body in the arts and humanities in the United States. In 2021, the Luxembourg National Research Fund recognised the centre’s efforts with two FNR Awards, the Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public Award and the Outstanding Mentor Award.

The C²DH is constantly exploring new tools and new methods for research and knowledge transfer. Find out more with the series “Five years of the C²DH – Five ways of innovating and sharing history”:

For more information about all the centre’s projects and activities, we would encourage you to visit the website and check out the 2017-2018-2019-2020-2021 Annual Reports.

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