Twelve million euros for digital infrastructure in the humanities

1 July 2014

CLARIAH, a research consortium in the humanities that includes three institutes belonging to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, is to receive EUR 12 million in funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to develop a digital infrastructure.

The aim of the consortium is to link large quantities of data and software in different humanities disciplines to create a searchable digital infrastructure. This will allow researchers to explore major questions about culture and social change across the disciplines.


The CLARIAH consortium’s lead applicant is Lex Heerma van Voss, director of the Huygens Institute for Netherlands History. The Academy’s Meertens Institute and International Institute of Social History are also involved in the project. The three Academy institutes will be largely responsible for building and maintaining the digital infrastructure and play an important role in safeguarding its continuity. CLARIAH is one of the six projects covered under the Roadmap that the NWO will be presenting to the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, Sander Dekker, on 1 July.

Digital Humanities

CLARIAH will provide the infrastructure for the paradigm shift that is taking place in the humanities. Many researchers consider the Digital Humanities – the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities – as the most important recent development in the field, but so far it has not been possible to gain a coherent picture of the growing amount of digital data in each separate discipline.

Lead applicant Lex Heerma van Voss, director of the Academy’s Huygens Institute for Netherlands History: ‘We have to collect, process and store digital files. That’s a huge undertaking. We want these efforts to be useful to researchers working in different disciplines. Thanks to CLARIAH, it will be easier for historians, linguists and media researchers to work with the same data. That will open up new perspectives for them and can produce completely new insights.’

Joining forces

CLARIAH’s impact on society may be huge and the business sector has also expressed an interest in the sort of research that the new infrastructure will facilitate. Information scientists are good at defining algorithms and humanities scholars are skilled at interpreting human messages. Getting these two groups to join forces is the next great challenge in information technology.

CLARIAH stands for Common Lab Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities. CLARIAH represents the Netherlands’ contribution to the European research infrastructures CLARIN and DARIAH.

Three disciplines are playing a leading role in CLARIAH

  • Social and economic history: Utrecht University, VU University Amsterdam and the International Institute of Social History (IISG)
  • Linguistics: Meertens Institute (Academy), VU University Amsterdam, and Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Media studies: University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

In addition to the institutions listed above, numerous other researchers and institutions in the humanities will be involved in CLARIAH.

For information on the project, watch the short video or go to