A blog about the Master Programme in Digital Humanities at Uppsala University

Category: Being a student at the Department of ALM (Page 1 of 2)

New year and new opportunities

Next week a new academic year for the Masters program in Digital Humanities starts. The first year students at the program start their first course Introduction to Digital Humanities. During the course they will be welcomed by Olle Sköld, who is coordinator for the program.

The first year students will take part in education in a online environment .Image by Bonnie Taylor from Pixabay

The programs first year will initially be held in a digital environment using digital tools, as a way to adapt to the current conditions during the ongoing covid-19-pandemic. This will mean new challenges for learning for both students and teachers, as we can really try to see the potential in a Zoom-based learning environment.

During the first course the 1st year students will learn the foundation of what Digital Humanities are. The course also introduces the digital tools used in humanistic research and the historical development of digital humanities. The contemporary position and characteristics of digital humanities will be studied through significant projects, research and research praxis in the field.

To learn more about the upcoming courses on the program, you can search through the posts on this blog or be on the lookout for new posts over the coming months.

Choices, internships and information science

For the second year students, many whom have been previously introduced on this blog, their third semester offers many opportunities to customize their program after their own interest. Some students have chosen their own elective courses during the spring. With subjects ranging from machine learning to linguistics to english literature, the students have the opportunity to choose their own direction within the masters program in Digital Humanities based on the courses found at Uppsala University.

Others have take a different route and instead chosen to deepen their knowledge in Library- and Information science through courses offered at the Department of ALM. These students will next week start the course Information Management and Information Structures. The purpose of that course is to study information systems and information structures with a point of departure in various theoretical perspectives.

Students will study how knowledge-intensive organisations manage various types of analogue and digital documents and how they manage their internal and external communication. The course will be headed by guest researcher Nadzeya Charapan and researcher Lisa Börjesson.

The students will attend an internship during some point during the third semester of the program. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

During the third semester the second year students will also do an internship at a work place of their choosing. More information about this will hopefully be published on this blog in the future, when the students are able to share their experience. The ongoing covid-19 pandemic poses new challenges for work places, but we hope our students get a satisfying internship experience under safe conditions.

Theories and Methods in Digital Humanities

Today the students start one of their most important courses in the Masterprogramme in Digital Humanities: Theories and Methods in Digital Humanitites. Course Coordinator is Olle Sköld and Nadya Charapan. Olle is also the programme coordinator for the programme as a whole. You can read more about Nadya on the blog here.

The course will have specific focus on those theories and methods of particular relevance to research in the digital humanities. Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

After completing the course the students are expected to have achieved, to name a few examples, in-depth knowledge of scientific theories and methods of relevance with to digital humanities and gained the ability to formulate an appropriate theoretical approach to a research problem and to select a suitable method for approaching said. research problem.

The purpose of this course is to give students the tools for their thesis work. Image by Daniel Nettesheim from Pixabay 

The course examines general theories and methods of relevance to the humanities and social sciences with a specific focus on those theories and methods of particular relevance to research in the digital humanities.

The course also functions as a preparation for the forthcoming master’s thesis course, as the student will choose a subject for their thesis and begin to formulate theoretical approaches and methodological choices. This will apply to students that take the one year masterprogramme as well as the two year masterprogramme.

Student post: Intership at Gustavianium Storage Facility

Maureen Ikhianosen Onwugbonu Masters in Digital Humanities

Internship Dates: 20th January – 24th January, 2020


Figure 2: That’s me writing the numbers from the metal tags on a new paper tag.

During the internship I was made to understand that it is necessary for museum collections to be documented. Not just documented but it should be according to professional standard which includes a full identification and description of each object, its associations, provenance, condition, treatment and present location. All information should be kept and made available giving access to museum personnel and other users.

Internship description

 I had the opportunity to work in different sections, all in connection to different boat graves. Boat graves 15 and 12 precisely. First section was working on boat rivets and documenting, the second was to digitize objects and lastly carve polystyrene.

Figure 1. Boat Grave

There were piles of metals from these boat graves called rivets. These rivets had labels on them which were written on metals as well. Metal on metal contact will cause a negative effect on the rivets which might cause the rivet to break into two or more pieces on the point of the metal tag. I learnt how to take the metal tags off the boat rivets with the use of small pliers. The labels on the metal tags were numbers that described what boat grave the rivets belonged to and its position in the boat. The numbers where then written on paper tags which I had to attach in little boxes made from cardboards, this was done after placing the boat rivets in each box. This wasn’t the last part of it. All rivets were also documented in the computer, inputting the right metadata so that accesses can be gained not only physically but also intellectually.

Figure 3: Objects metadata using FileMaker Pro

The second section was learning to digitize objects with the use of a camera and computer. The computer is usually connected to a server, where all digitized objects are saved.  Firstly, was to take a good picture of your object, then edit on the computer using photoshop. I learnt how to take a good picture, by looking into the camera lens, ensuring the object is in the little square which is the centre of focus. This can be adjusted to remove extremities. One other thing to take into consideration is to ensure there is good lighting for a good outcome. The picture is then saved into a nif file. Nif files are raw photographs that makes it is easy to work on a picture in whatever way you want instead of jpeg files which has lots of pixels but usually not the best quality  you would want . One major rule in editing is to ensure that you do not save over the original file.

Figure 4: Camera and Computer for digitizing
Figure 5: Editing the picture of a sword using photoshop.

Polystyrene is a synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer made from the monomer styrene. It can last for a very long period of time and it is nonacidic. The importance of this material to objects is that it helps hold them firmly to prevent breakage and also prevents loss of any parts of the objects as most of these objects are very fragile and needs to be handled with care. So, I carved out the shape of objects into the polystyrene before placing the objects into it. Ensuring too that their number tags is attached to each item.

In conclusion, I had a wonderful and useful experience at the Gustavianum Storage facility, but I still feel I need to develop more on the digitization aspect in making use of the camera and the photoshop program. I also wish the internship period was longer to enable me perfect the skills I developed.

Figure 6: Objects in carved polystyrenes

Student post: Internship @ museum Gustavianum collections

Aikaterini Charalampopoulou                                       20-24 January 2020

In January 2020, I had the chance to do a one-week internship at the Gustavianum collections – an internship that was part of The Master’s Programme in Digital Humanities at Uppsala University. Time was short, but we were assigned to a series of different tasks so that to get the most out of our stay there. The collection we mainly worked with was the Valsgärde boats. Valsgärde is an area, around 3km north of Gamla Uppsala, along Fyrisön. The site was found in the 1920s and many archeological excavations were conducted in the decades that followed. The Valsgärde findings consist of 15 ship graves, dating from the 6th century and the Vendel Age to the 10th century and the Vikings times

Being engaged in this particular collection was of great personal importance to me. Valsgärde was the very first place in Uppsala I tried to visit, only a couple of days after my arrival in Sweden some years ago. I got to know about it in an old French tourist guide from the 1980’s — the famous Guide Bleu — and I immediately decided to visit it. I was never sure if I actually reached the correct location, until I showed my pictures to John Worley who confirmed that it had been the correct site.

John Worley is a curator for the Scandinavian Archaeological collection at Gustavianum and was responsible for our internship and the planning of our daily tasks. He is in many ways responsible for making it possible for us to delve into the collection despite the time limitations. This was accomplished by working with the Valsgärde boats in three ways: the actual objects, their documentation in the database and their photographic documentation. Those three approaches gave as a chance to work with the collection on different scales and from different perspectives, and at the same time to acquire a general knowledge about how life at the curation unit of the museum is.


Valsgärde boats were around 10m long each and the archaeological findings consists of valuable objects contained in the boats, as well as animals and human relics. As wood has mostly disintegrated, what has remained from the boats are their rivets. Each boat was put together with the help of more than a thousand iron rivets that archaeologists have documented by registering their coordinates, size and condition. Those rivets we had the opportunity to work closely with, freeing them from old metal labels that unfortunately have contributed to their erosion and providing them with new acid free slots. For the larger or more impressive findings of the Valsgärde boats we created customized cases by polyethylene foam, so that objects can be easily and safely kept and transferred.

The documentation in a FileMaker Pro database consisted of consulting simultaneously various sources: the diary (Grävdagbok) that was handwritten at the site the time of the excavation, the list of findings (fyndlista) which was a typed document mostly drawing on the diary, and various maps, both small and large scale. The aim of this task was to cross-check and supplement the available data, plus to translate it from Swedish to English so that the collection eventually reaches a wider audience beyond the language barrier.

Work at the photographic lab included taking digital pictures of items in the collection. The photographic process started with the gentle placement and support of the object, and continued with selection of the correct exposure and shutter speed in order to take photographs which need as little manipulation as possible. We also familiarized ourselves with the camera’s software and Photoshop tools in order to be able to bring forward details that are not easily visible with the naked eye. Photographs taken would then be inserted to the item’s entry in the database.  

Last but not least, I was given the chance and I was encouraged to follow my own research interests and gather material both for my upcoming master’s thesis and other assignments currently running on the Master’s program. In my experience, it is as much useful to enter the Gustavianum collections as open and receptive as possible, absorbing all the knowledge that is generously offered, as to have particular research questions in mind that can work as guide in the multiple and labyrinthine paths of the Gustavianum collections. In conclusion, my experience in the museum both satisfied my curiosity regarding the “backstage” of a museum i.e. its curation units, and it supported my confidence towards how I can participate and contribute in different curatorial tasks. It was an internship harmoniously related to the Master’s curriculum and I would surely repeat it if given the opportunity.

Collaborative Document Annotation

This week the students on the program had a workshop with Anna Foka, a teacher and researcher working at the Digital Humanities Lab at Uppsala University. The workshop was part of the course Tools and methods: critical encounters.

Anna Foka (middle ) showing students the software Recogito

Recogito provides a personal workspace where you can upload, collect and organize your source materials – texts, images and tabular data – and collaborate in their annotation and interpretation. The topic of the workshop was collaborative document annotation.

The students were introduced to and was instructed how to annotate and map texts and images in Recogito, connecting names in songs to actual geographical locations in the software.

Students annotating song texts from the 90s

Anna Foka used examples during the workshop from her own research on conflicted cartographies, which you can find more about through this link.

First day of semester!

Today we have welcomed the new semester at the Department of ALM and the first students at the Digital Humanities have gotten introduced to their two years at the programme. I know the whole department is eager to meet the new students and curious about what perspectives and ideas they will bring to the educational environment. Many of them are coming from abroad and do not only need to orient themselves in a new educational programme, but also in a new country and culture. 

While finding their place in Swedish society is something that students mostly have to deal with on their own, teachers of the programme can at least support program orientation and overview. Today, all the teachers presented themselves and their courses. 

I myself gave a brief overview of Information Mediation and User Perspectives in the Digital Era, which will be given in April next year. However, April is still many experiences and insights away, and until then I can only wish the students best of luck with their studies!

All you need to know as a digital humanities student…almost

Today there was a workshop concerning the practical arrangement of teaching at the DH master programme. Most of the lecturers for the programme attended, and we shared a both informative and nice afternoon, discussing how to provide the best basis of education for both students and lecturers.

Although most of the information communicated during the workshop primarily is important for teachers, it can also be good to be updated on this as a student as it may help to ease your planning around you studies if you know how things like this work.

So, here goes some of the take-aways that I want to share with you:

  • A preliminary schedule is published prior to five weeks before the course starts. In that way, students can plan social life and activities around their studies, but be aware that changes can come through up till one week before the course starts. You find the schedule at the department web site http://www.abm.uu.se/education/student/schedule/
  • Can’t wait for the course literature? Relax, we have all been there… 😉  Literature lists for the courses will be published prior to five weeks before the course starts. This mean there will be plenty of time for students to find the right literature and also for the book stores to order the titles we put on the literature lists. Most courses of the programme is 7.5 credits, meaning around 1,000 – 1,500 pages for each course. To save your self time and effort, it might be worth purchasing books that are used through several courses (if the library does not offer it as an e-book).
  • For every course, there is a study guide (only a document I’m afraid, even though it actually may work as your own” study-guardian angel”) to inform students about the knowledge, skills and abilities that are expected of students after they have completed the course. Here you can usually also find information about mandatory parts of the course and examinations. The study guide is published on the learning platform Student Portal.

A more thorough introduction of everything one needs to know as a student at the Department of ALM will of course be presented during the first days of the programme. Until then, you can read up more about rights and working conditions for students on the web.


Last day to apply for Master Programme in Digital Humanities!!!

…is not today, but on 15th of April. And sorry to say (if you are not a Swedish citizen), that is for Swedish students. If you live outside Sweden and wants to study digital humanities, you have to wait to next year before you can apply. Do not forget that we wish you to write a “statement of purpose” which according to instructions should include an explanation of why you wish to study the programme and a summary of a thesis (bachelor or master level) produced by you.

Please remember that you are welcome to contact Görel Tunerlöv if you have questions about the program. She is study councilor at the Department of ALM and know almost everything you need to know about the application process.

Go to www.antagning.se to apply, search for “Masterprogram i Digital Humaniora”. Good advice is to do it a bit before April 15 23.50, as the site sometimes tend to go down due to the pressure of last-minutes-applications…

Best of luck!

Studying at the Department of ALM. Part 2: Social life

This is the second part of an interview I did with John, one of our students at the Master Programme in ALM (Archives, Library and Museum Studies). The first part of the interview you can find here.

Besides talking about what the Department of ALM can offer, John and me also talked about life beyond studies. As a student it is important to have a good work-life balance, at the same time as there can be soooo much that one have/want to do and be engaged in. John explains that life of a master student can be summarized as great freedom with great responsibility. “There are maybe three to five scheduled lectures or seminars a week, although it differs depending on different courses in the programme. One has to use the time in a responsible way, setting your own time plan.” John seems to manage that without problems, and he tells me: “I use to sit in the campus library (Karin Boye-biblioteket), where I can feel like I’m in a bubble of my own. I know that there is going to be quiet and easy to focus. But I also like to try out different study environments. Sometimes I sit at campus, other times I go to the main library building, or read in a café.”

I ask him what he thinks about the student services that are offered by the university, such as the student gym Campus 1477, study assistance services or all the different courses, workshops and lectures outside academic studies. Taking a sip of water, John answers that he knows about them but have not tried out so much of this himself. “In exception for the courses in information seeking offered by the library. I have attended that course several times, actually, it’s very useful and you learn how to best use the library resources”

We talk some more about campus Engelska parken. This is the site for the Department of ALM and also where most of our teaching takes place. “Compared to other campus of Uppsala University, Engelska parken is more intriguing and interesting. I especially like Physicum, the building where the old Department of Physics used to be, but the university main hall as well. Both are old but beautiful buildings, on the outside as well as on the inside.” The buildings John refers to are built in the 17thand 19thcentury and I ask him how he believes those historic milieus contributes to his studies. “Well, I’m not sure that they effect my studies… But they make me feel…part of something greater, in a way. It feels…authentic. The long history of the university is materialized through those buildings and their surrounding.”

However, old architecture cannot make up for good friends (even if you are found of history) and I ask about social life and activities. John told me earlier that he is from Visby, but came to Uppsala when he was 19 and I wonder how he managed to adjust to a new city, far from family and old friends. He smiles when he explains that “…there is so much to do on the side of your studies while being a student! If you are new in the city, there is easy to meet new people that are in the same situation as yourself, and you can quickly find new friends and nice people to hang out with.” He continues; “I would really recommend to engage in one of the thirteen student nations (social clubs for students with their own estates, businesses, activities, scholarships, and housing opportunities). You can get working experience and learn new skills, beside your academic studies.”

Another thing that John recommends for new students is to join the student association that is connected to your programme of study. For example, at the department, we have Studierådet för ABM, which offers students a way to influence their education but also to arrange social activities like quiz nights. “When I was a student in history we had our own association which I was, and still am, very engaged in. We arranged a welcome party for new students and lots of other fun stuff. We also invited guest lecturers of our own choice, in co-operation with the department.”

Overall, I got the impression that John is content, both with his studies at the Department of ALM and with the university. Maybe a bit too content? I ask him if there is anything he is critical about or thinks should be changed. He gives it some thought, but no, nothing in particular, he says. I just nod, hoping it is an honest answer and that he is not only being polite. At the department, me and my colleagues all try to give our students the best opportunities possible, and hopefully we succeed, I think to myself.

“Be open to new perspectives! For me, the programme was not as I expected, as a matter of fact, it is better!

I finish the interview by asking John about his best advice for the new students of the Master Programme in Digital Humanities. “Be open to new perspectives! For me, the programme was not as I expected, as a matter of fact, it is better! One reason are the courses in programming and databases. Some people don’t appreciate them, they do not perceive it as something that they chose to study or see the relevance of it, but for me they gave new perspectives on information and museum studies.”

The power of coffee breaks

Going to a conference or meeting means a lot of things. Listening to presentations, learning new stuff, meeting people, seeing new places, smalltalk…. I can tick all of these things off from from my list of activities this week, thanks to the LAMC3-workshop in Copenhagen.

LAMC3 stands for Libraries, Archives, Museums: Changes, Challenges and Collaboration and is a network project that brings together Nordic research in the LAM-field. Except seminars and lectures, the participants got guided tours of key cultural institutions in Copenhagen. Both the Royal Library and The City Archive were natural places to visit but also newer and perhaps more experimental institutions invited us, like Enigma – Museum of Post, Tele and Communication.

However, one of the best take aways from the workshop-days is meeting new PhDs and researchers but also learning to know the ones I already knew even better. It is easy to underestimate the power of coffee breaks, but for the purpose of strengthening bonds to colleagues, they are invaluable. Chatting over a cup of coffee is not only nice and social fun, but also important to be able to do better collaborations in the academic community; writing papers together or co-arranging seminars or courses for students.

At the Department of ALM, we try to encourage our students to travel to conferences, workshops and meeting so that they also can get important academic- or work connections for their future career. Every semester a number of students get grants from the department for going away. We have sent students to UK, Estonia, Argentina, Finland, Germany…. Many of them have shared their experiences in the department journal, Tidskrift för ABM. For non-swedish speakers, I am sorry to say that most of the travelogues are in Swedish.

If you are going to study at the Department of ALM (or maybe do that already), I really recommend you to use the opportunity to get your research trip funded by the department. The application does not need to be all that complicated and the approvement rate is fairly high. 

« Older posts