Beginning in Summer 2008, CHNM undertook a two-year study of the potential of text-mining tools for historical and humanities scholarship. The project, entitled “Scholarship in the Age of Abundance: Enhancing Historical Research With Text-Mining and Analysis Tools,” was generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The project conducted a survey of historians to examine their use of digital resources and prospect for particularly helpful uses of digital technology. It then explored three main areas where text mining might facilitate the research process: locating documents of interest in the ocean of online materials; extracting and synthesizing information from these texts; and analyzing large-scale patterns across these texts. A focus group of historians assessed the efficacy of different methods of text mining and analysis in real-world research situations in order to offer recommendations. The most promising approaches informed two case studies, one based on Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, in collaboration with the ARTFL Project at the University of Chicago, and the other on the correspondence of Victorian mathematicians.