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“Because I had something to say”: Amsterdam

‘Omdat ik iets te zeggen had’
Nederlandse schrijfsters uit de 19e eeuw

In Atria, Institute on Gender Equality and Women’s History, focus of the exhibition is on books and documents held by the Atria archives and library. We hope inspiring visitors to use the Atria materials: students can decide to write MA-theses about these authors; researchers can find fascinating ego-documents; potential Wikipedia contributors can also read here books or articles published about these women. Recent books and other publications are surrounding the showcases, which in fact are invitations to read these women: they considered they “had something to say” to their contemporaries – potentially also to us now….

The authors’ being connected or comparable to each other was another central point in the selection of authors to be presented. The European HERA research project of which this exhibition is a part, is not focusing on individual authors, but considers women’s authorship – during the 19th century – as a transnational phenomenon that can be visualized as a “network”, it actually IS visualized as such, in the exhibition and also here. Authors were commenting upon each other, translating each other’s works, or practicing women’s historiography, these connections are illustrated in the Atria showcases (see some examples).

In all this, Digital Humanities – including both texts that, after having been “hidden”, are now visible on-line, and advanced IT tools – play an important role. To begin with, the large numbers of women writers whose existence we are aware of, would have been impossible to imagine otherwise: for the Dutch 19th century we know the names of several hundreds of women who wrote and published their writings (see the list). Admittedly, for many of them, further research is required, and in some cases they may prove to be men using a female pseudonym…

This also illustrates the need for large-scale collaborating, not only between researchers and students, but including interested readers, who under the heading of “citizen scientists” can be invited for collaboration. The present exhibition was actually prepared together with a group of such voluntary participants (most of them, but not all, women), to whom we are extremely grateful for their enthusiasm.

An appropriate context for this collaboration seems to be Wikipedia: in particular given the “gender gap” which is quite visible in the Wikipedia pages, and led to discussions including Wikimedia, Atria and our present HERA TTT project. We decided to collaborate. The Wikipedia rules are quite strict, however, and several problems need to be addressed. In particular the immense amount of data and texts available on the internet, which basically seems to be a blessing for women’s historiography, provide also difficulties – in particular for Wikipedians who would not be professional specialists in the field they are interested in. How will they make the distinction between uninformed and prejudice-based comments dating back to the first half of the 20th century, and valuable indications informing us about the authors’ contemporary reception ? All this, together with outcomes of recent research is to be found on the internet (see here).

About this kind of questions, Atria organized, April 20th, a Workshop and an Expert meeting (to be held in Dutch...).
Please find here announcement and program:

SvD, April 2016

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