What is 4Memory?

4Memory is one of several consortia within Germany that will jointly manage the creation of a long-term and sustainable research data infrastructure (nationale Forschungsdaten Infrastruktur, or “NFDI”) for the digital age. It brings together partners united by a common set of interests, needs, and aims related to the distinct challenges faced by those disciplines that use historical methods or that rely on data requiring historical contextualization.

The scope of the consortium includes not only the field of history as such but also other disciplines that make use of historical data as part of their methodologies, such as economics, social science, geography, and area studies. The consortium aims to ensure the quality of historical research data, thereby safeguarding the critical role of the humanities in complex, rapidly changing societies. Determining how the long-standing traditions of source criticism a speciality of the the historically engaged disciplines can be applied to digital data is a principal goal of 4Memory.

Organizationally, 4Memory aims to establish systematic, sustainable links among three main categories of the producers and users of historical data: historical researchers, memory institutions (archives, libraries, museums, and collections) and information infrastructures.

The consortium is building upon established standards of analogue research traditions and applying them to the different contexts of digital research data, thus opening up new research paths while also anchoring digital research firmly in the accumulated research traditions and ethical standards of the participant disciplines. Through this approach, those communication links that have already emerged between historically engaged research and the digital humanities can be deepened and productively developed.

4Memory aims to integrate historical data that comes in widely different data formats and that results from numerous specific application contexts and requirements. These include, among others, texts ranging from antiquity to the modern era, images, photos, audio and video recordings, statistics, structured data, metadata, ontologies, and hypertexts. 4Memory also focuses on personal data, spatial structures, and changes in classification systems and categories over time.

In terms of quality management and in order to have research results acknowledged as scholarly output, the consortium also aims to establish systems for evaluating digital research in the form of digital reviews equivalent to the high standards set by existing peer-review procedures. Its participating disciplines make 4Memory particularly qualified to reflect on the methodological and epistemological dimensions of the digital revolution. As digital literacy is not widespread among the historically engaged disciplines, we need a structured way to enable historical research in the future.

The consortium is thus engaged in working out a range of topics – whether establishing standards and norms for historical research data, enabling access to and the preservation of that data, or ensuring both that data’s quality and re-usability – that require an engagement on many levels, whether the concrete issues of software- and application-development or the seemingly more theoretical (though also eminently practical) concerns about the meaning of “digital source criticism” and “data literacy”.

This website presents information about 4Memory. Using the menu above, you can see the participating institutions, learn more about our aims and about the special challenges associated with historical research data, see up-to-date information about our activities and progress and find ways of contacting us.