The Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH-EU) is proud to announce it has signed a Cooperating Partnership agreement with the Institute for Literature, Folklore and Art (ILFA) at the University of Latvia in Riga.
DARIAH is a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) whose mission is to empower research communities with digital methods to create, connect and share knowledge about culture and society. In addition to having 20 member states and one observer country, DARIAH has also established a network of cooperating partners in non-member countries.
“We are very pleased to be the first research organization from the Baltic States to join DARIAH,” said Sanita Reinsone, ILFA Deputy Director for Strategic Development. “Our ultimate objective remains to obtain full membership for Latvia and cultivate stronger ties with the European digital humanities research infrastructure. Given the impressive advancements made in digital humanities in the Baltic States over the past decade, it seems only reasonable to anticipate other organisations in the region to follow us.”
ILFA is the advanced humanities research institute that prioritizes innovation and creativity in research and maintains wide-ranging collaborative networks. Its main focus is on cultural studies and the advancement of humanities. ILFA hosts the Archives of Latvian Folklore, one of the oldest and technologically sophisticated folklore archives in Europe, develops digital resources for humanities and art studies and keeps an extensive portfolio of cultural heritage crowdsourcing initiatives. Besides, ILFA is an active promoter of digital humanities in Latvia and takes a lead role in the interinstitutional digitalhumanities.lv initiative.
Research Strengths of ILFA
The ILFA Digital Humanities Group was established in 2016 and has been under the leadership of Sanita Reinsone ever since. The digital humanities are reflected in a broad range of research projects and interests at the Institute. However, to date, ILFA’s primary areas of development are the creation of digital resources for the humanities and arts, as well as the development and exploration of participatory and crowdsourcing methods for digital cultural heritage.
ILFA’s digital infrastructure HUMMA (humma.lv) hosts nationally relevant and broadly used digital resources, such as the digital platform documenting Latvian literary processes (literatura.lv), the Digital Archive of Latvian Folklore (garamantas.lv) and participatory/citizen science platform (iesaisties.lv).
Research on digital participatory methods is one of the most persistent interests of ILFA, aiming to explore the design of participatory digital humanities tools, investigate virtual volunteer communities, and seek meaningful forms of collaboration between researchers, cultural heritage institutions, and volunteers in digital environments. The garamantas.lv virtual volunteer community is one of the success indicators of this practice-led research. Since 2016, volunteers have devoted more than 45,600 hours to ILFA’s digital resources, mostly for manuscript transcription.
However, ILFA has also experimented with knowledge sharing and creative response crowdsourcing techniques. In 2020–2021, ILFA conducted a crowdsourcing initiative titled “Diaries in the Time of Pandemic,” which garnered significant media attention and an excellent public response. The initiative resulted in a unique text corpus and digital collection documenting the first wave of Covid19 through personal experiences. The most recent crowdsourcing campaign was launched in early May 2023. ILFA joined forces with the University of Latvia’s Institute of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, the UNESCO Latvian National Commission, and the Latvian Open Technology Association to start a country-wide campaign, named “Balsu talka,” (balsutalka.lv) aiming to gather speech data.
Integration with DARIAH
The cooperation with DARIAH will provide ILFA with access to data and tools for humanities studies. Furthermore, this collaboration will strengthen and further encourage ILFA’s participation in international digital humanities research networks, find allies with similar interests and broaden the knowledge and skills of the staff in DH methods. Alongside this, ILFA will benefit also in its efforts to promote and develop digital humanities in Latvia, strengthen DH in higher education curricula and widen the Latvian DH community.
“We are really pleased to welcome ILFA to the DARIAH community,” said Edward Gray, DARIAH’s Officer for National Coordination. “Their expertise on crowdsourcing will be particularly useful for the DARIAH community while we are looking forward to building on their experience for our own initiatives, such as the SSH Open Marketplace. Beyond that, we are counting on this partnership to help advance DARIAH’s missions not just in Latvia, but in the wider Baltic DH community.”
For more information on the Cooperating Partners membership in DARIAH, their role, tasks and benefits, have a look at our detailed post here.