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Digital Humanities: DH@UCT

A guide to Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities Projects at UCT

What do you want to do?

Do you want to do some spatial analysis of your data with GIS? Transcribe early copies of South African newspapers so the text can be analysed? Develop a database organised site to showcase the rehearsal process of a theatre production? Build a linked collection of media related to endangered African languages?

These are just some of the digital humanities projects we are working on at Digital Library Services. Such projects from part of our support of digital Scholarship that introduces digital methods, tools and frameworks to support scholars in finding novel innovative ways of enquiry, and visualisation techniques to query their data. We aim to provide support to these projects with our digitisation services as well as guidance for curation and showcasing.

If you are working on a DH project or keen to start working on, contact us: or chat to your Subject Librarian.

Data Collection and Gathering

If you are looking for digital humanities data, many Galleries/Gardens, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAMs) around the world are making a lot of their resources available online.  

How to find them:

Ingesting and Manipulation

Humanites "data" is a bit different to other disciplines' data. It comes in different legacy formats or even physical objects: 















 The digitsation team at DLS offers a digitisation service for the university, being able to convert legacy media objects to a variety of digital formats. DLS not only has the required equipment to handle a variety of formats, from still media to moving audio visual, but also the team with the skills to ensure these conversions are completed according to international standards. Read more about what we digitze here


Many Digital Humanities projects strive towards some form of presentation and publishing. With collections with lots of media and interrelated content, the Ibali online showcase platform (combination of Omeka S and IIIF) would be the most suitable place. This also allows an element of user experience customisation as it allows the building of sites and pages to lift and highlight content, enabling narrative experiences with digital objects. Both tools also insure that digital objects remain well organised and accessible.

Digital Library Services is launching Ibali at the start of 2021, with several collections already in development.

Omeka S is a tool for GLAM (Galleries Libraries Archives and Museums) to showcase Digital Collections. It is a next-generation web publishing platform for institutions interested in connecting digital cultural heritage collections with other resources online.

Omeka S’s primary focus is on organising elements of a collection such that the links in between items and the greater elements of the internet are strengthened. All digital objects are “tagged” through a form and connected to each other and other data on the internet.

The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) defines several application programming interfaces that provide a standardised method of describing and delivering images over the web, as well as "presentation based metadata" (that is, structural metadata) about structured sequences of images. If institutions holding artworks, books, newspapers, manuscripts, maps, scrolls, single sheet collections, and archival materials provide IIIF endpoints for their content, any IIIF-compliant viewer or application can consume and display both the images and their structural and presentation metadata.’

Project Steps

Steps to a Digital Humanities Project

  1. Data Collection and Gathering
    • Libraries, archives, repositories, and digital libraries
  2. Classification and Documentation
    • Spreadsheets, databases, ontologies, vocabs
  3. Ingesting and Manipulation
    • Digital conversion, Crowdsourcing transcriptions
  4. Analysis and Knowledge Enhancement
    • Image Analysis, Data Mining, Text Mining
  5. Publication
    • Showcasing Digital Collections, Dissemination, User Experience
  6. Preservation
    • Ensuring access for future generations

Classification and Documentation

Together with the conversion from analogue to digital, DLS, together with Special Collections, engages in a rigorous process of indexing and classification of all digital media. As part of the Digital Humanities project, we seek to identify the appropriate and required metadata schemas to be used for the description of any digital items. This information would ensure that the following steps in the publication of archives and preservation would be able to be followed, but more importantly ensuring that the digital objects are findable or searchable.

We support and encourage good Research Data Management Practices for any Digital Humanities Project. Have a look at some of our training materials on our Research Data Services Site.

Analysis and Knowledge Enhancement

With any digital humanities project, this phase is where the digital really sits as computational analysis and enhancements take place and seek to shed new light and connections with the data.

At DLS, we seek to develop various forms of knowledge enhancement into the archive. This enhancement is guided towards making the elements of the archive more linked, and it involves developing extra steps in the indexing and cataloguing, together with linking other processes such as the involvement of GIS. We also aim to connect archives that come out of Digital Humanities projects to the semantic web, to ensure that all datasets are linked, structured and part of linked open data.


We also assist researchers with the use of digital tools such as OpenRefine to clean up data and perform more advanced analysis. 

We have a catalog of digital scholarship tools which we can recommend and assist with. 


Digital Preservation is concerned with providing long-term access to digital objects, preserving continuity in form as well as functionality. It is not simply a backup of data, because long-term digital preservation must consider format, software and hardware obsolescence, among other issues. Although it is possible for anyone to read a page from a book written 100 years ago, the same is not true of (e.g.) a floppy disk containing WordPerfect files from twenty years ago.

Izolo, the new UCT-wide digital preservation service, ensures that digital files created today can be found and used tomorrow. In recognition of imperatives around the safeguarding of digital data, UCT Libraries have implemented a Digital Preservation Strategy. During 2020, UCT Libraries will be launching Izolo, running on Arkivum Perpetua Usability and Preservation modules, to b provide business-process driven, structured data preservation workflows for the entire campus community.

Contact DLS

DLS supports and look to build Digital Humanities projects that

  • do not limit themselves to only a study of digital artifacts 
  • do not limit themselves to a single methodology or focus
  • stay present and liminal 
  • should maintain multiple identities – respectful, renewing and critical
  • continue aiming towards a modeling/representation/linking
  • challenge the mental, bureaucratic and physical silos of the academy
  • to enable new forms of research that were difficult or impossible to undertake before  
  • to reflect multiple interpretations of works, authors, or ideas alongside each other – a realisation of de-centred critical authority  
  • to engage in new activities that we haven't yet envisioned

Adapted from Source: A Companion to Digital Humanities, and Svensson, P., 2016. Big Digital Humanities. University of Michigan Press, xiii