Vienna calling…reflections on my research stay part 1

I am writing this piece from the library at the Department of History, University of Vienna. I am staying here for the whole of March in order to do some research and writing. Well, it was a somewhat absurd procedure that got me here: I applied for the scholarship last autumn. Humboldt University Berlin and Vienna University had concluded a new bilateral co-operation treaty (outside of Erasmus, a framework of its own so to speak), and it immediately struck me that a great colleague and sponsor of digital history is located (t)here. So I contaced Professor Wolfgang Schmale, whose name I’d already known as a student from his works on European identity construction. He has been writing on and practicing digital history for quite a while now, doing a lot of e-learning projects, databases with historical sources and endorsing a cultural studies approach to digital humanities that met my interest.

So, after I’d gotten a positive answer from him to host me, I handed in my papers at Humboldt U, and…nothing much happened. I remained patient, but asked again in January how things are with my application. Our responsible co-ordinator only left for Vienna to “negotiate” on things at the end of January. Again, I asked if I can seriously start planning my trip to Austria. “Things look good, but it’s not definitive yet…” – ooomph. What should I do? I didn’t really have a clue what I should make out of this strange situation. I kept ringing different people in Berlin and Vienna, until, finally, on the evening of February 20th (!) I got the green light for my research stay. Yay!

What followed, was a nerve-wracking, turbulent 1,5 weeks during which I booked a flight, secured a place to stay (thanks to the Austrian Exchange Service!) and made the final arrangements to leave. That said, I can’t thank my family enough because my mother-in-law readily stepped in to help my wife taking care of our three children. Phew, now I am here and one week has already gone! During which I not only got acquainted with the surroundings and the university, plus my friendly host Professor Schmale who gave a warm welcome. I also attended an interesting workshop, dealing with continent allegories in the early modern period (a project including an impressive database) and finished an article on strategies for digitizing the Norwegian cultural heritage! So far, it’s been very fruitful and I’m already fearing that I won’t get enough time to see the city…

More’s to come towards the end of my stay here.


Jan Hecker-Stampehl

wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter für nordeuropäische Geschichte · Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Nordeuropa-Institut · Begründer und Administrator von NordicHistoryBlog

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