EAUH Conference 2018


Session M36. Digitizing the Urban Archive: Towards a New Digital Urban History

Coordinators: Søren Bitsch Christensen (, Jonathan Soffer (

In the last five years digital technologies have provided urban historians and the general public with many new tools for the reproduction, classification, and study of archival materials. Projects in many cities around the world are digitizing city council minutes and other records of municipal governance, allowing new kinds of searches and studies that illuminate the relationship between politics, development and the economy. Dissemination of documents to a wider public is not the only effect of the digitization of archival materials. The full effects and possibilities of the searchable digitized archive are only just beginning to emerge. We are seeking papers that will answer questions including:
* What are the contours of the new urban historiography that is emerging from digital sources?
* Are current digitization projects allowing historians to construct histories over the longue durée and taking into account individual projects and transactions that was previously impossible?
* How can digitized sources provide new insights into the economic and political history of the city, and in particular reveal development patterns and explaining who financed and who benefitted from historical patterns of urban development?
* Will ‘big data’, the processing of vast numbers of data, help historians identify correlations and frequencies of political, economic, and social discourses that are not otherwise recognized?
* What patterns of urban development have been most sustainable?
* How can archivists, historians, and computer scientists work together to improve digital sources?
* How does mapping of data, and particularly of infrastructure contribute to our understanding of urban development?
* What is the relationship between graphic representation of newly digitized data and the creation of more conventional historical narratives?

Biography and Organizing Experience of Organizers:
Jonathan Soffer is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of Technology, Culture and Society at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and Associated Faculty in the NYU Department of History. He has organized and presented at numerous conference sessions, including the EAUH conferences in Stockholm and Lisbon, and is a former board member of the Urban History Association (North America). He is co-organizer, with Prof. Lisa McGirr, of Harvard University, of a roundtable session at the Organization of American Historians to be held this spring in New Orleans on “Corruption as a Category of Historical Analysis.”

Søren Bitsch Christiansen is Director of Aarhus City Archives and former Associate Professor in Urban History at the Danish Centre for Urban History, Aarhus University. He was a member of the International Committee of EAUH for eight years and has arranged sessions and presented at several EAUH conferences. Since 2016, he is Secretary General of the Steering Committee, Section for Local, Municipal and Territorial Archives, ICA
Keywords: digital archives; new digital urban history; computer science; cooperation archives-researchers