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Education University of Groningen Summer Schools

Things That Matter

Material and Culture in/for the Digital Age

“Things that Matter” addresses the tension between the materiality of sources and their digitization.  The Summer School maps the possibilities and challenges posed by the digital age for researchers, curators and the public. We discuss the changing nature of objects such as books and scientific instruments as source materials – what distinguishes an original from its digital copy and does it matter?  What challenges are involved in the practice of collections and collecting through digitization, both technologically, environmentally and intellectually? How do virtual collections and exhibitions influence user experiences and expectations?  What collections are digitized and why those? Who makes the selections? How do we meet scientific demands on systematic design and transparency when working on online search engines and on differing (and sometimes incompatible) designs of databases?

The Summer School brings together experts from both academia and the cultural heritage sector. Over the course of one week of intensive teaching, they will deliver lectures, lead seminars and hands-on sessions in libraries and museums, and supervise student-led projects and presentations.

Practical information

Dates & location
“Things that Matter” consists of 2 components, which can be taken together or independently:

1. The online course Curating a Virtual Exhibition, starting 15 April 2024. Total hours: 60 over 5 weeks.

2. The on-site Summer School, 17 - 21 June 2024. Total hours: 140 hours of group work and assignments to be turned in afterwards.

Groningen, the Netherlands and/or Online

Fee (incl. excursions)

Participation is free participants from consortium partners and ENLIGHT partners.

€250 for external participants

Academic coordinators
Prof. Raingard Esser (University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts)

Applicants from the consortia partners:

  • University of Groningen: Raingard Esser,;

  • Uppsala University: Mikael Alm,;

  • Durham University: Graeme Small,;

  • Universität Bern: Tobias Hodel,;

  • Universität Tübingen: Daniel Menning,

All others contact:

Raingard Esser:

The Summer School is developed in collaboration with the Research Master Classical, Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Groningen and the related Master programmes at Uppsala and Durham. These programmes offer interdisciplinary and cross-chronological approaches to the study of the societies and cultures in the premodern and early modern world.


This summer school is designed for MA students and PhD students in History, Cultural Studies, Art History, Curatorial and Museum Studies and related disciplines.

It is expected that the participants have a sufficient command of the English language to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English .

Course schedule

Please see the course schedule for the on-site summer school below.

Introduction to lecturers
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Raingard Esser is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Groningen. Her main research interests are early modern migration and borders. She is also Director of the Graduate School for the Humanities and FIT fellow for Innovative Teaching.

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Tobias Hodel is assistant professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Bern. As a trained historian with a focus on medieval studies, he applies machine learning techniques to various fields in the Humanities. His work includes studying video games, extracting information from large premodern text collections, and developing linked open data infrastructures.

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Mikael Alm is a professor of history at Uppsala University. His research has mainly focused on political and social culture in the Age of Revolutions. He is currently the manager of the research infrastructure project Gustav’s Hand, aiming to digitise and digitally enhance the private archive of Swedish King Gustav III.

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Graeme Small is a professor of History at Durham University, with a particular interest in the political and historical culture of Burgundy, France and Scotland in the late Middle Ages. He is currently developing a project on the social history of archives, focussing on city and town books in Britain and Ireland, with a strong digitisation component and the application of HTR software.

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Daniel Menning is Associate Professor at the Institute of Modern History, University of Tübingen, Germany. He works on the history of the nobility, the stock market and retailing between the eighteenth and twentieth century.

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Karen Hollewand is an Assistant Professor in Cultural Heritage, Identity, and Early Modern History at the University of Groningen. Her research concentrates on the history of sexuality, science, and gender, in relation to cultural heritage and the formation of identities. She is currently developing a project on gender in the historical medical and obstetrical collections of the University of Groningen, which includes dealing with human remains.

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Adrie van der Laan is a classicist and curator of Special Collections in the University of Groningen Library. His main interests are medieval and early-modern book culture as well as early humanism in Frisia and the Low Countries. He is also president of the editorial board of Erasmi Roterodami Opera Omnia.

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Andrew Simon Tucker is an associate professor for film and audiovisual media at the University of Magdalena, Colombia, and PhD candidate at the University of Groningen. His current research focuses on novel affordances of expanded reality and signification processes of digital artefacts, highlighting the potentiality and ethical limitations of virtual re-creations of sacred spaces and objects.


Leonardo Salvador Arriagada Beltrán is a passionate Chilean researcher dedicated to exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI), philosophy, and contemporary art. I take pride in obtaining a prestigious Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree from the University of Groningen. Furthermore, I hold a PhD in Philosophy, Aesthetics and Art Theory, from the University of Chile, as well as a master's degree in Contemporary Thought: Philosophy and Political Thought from Diego Portales University.

My career has been recognized with the Noorden Digitaal Talent Award for Best Discovery and the Audience Award at the Nederland Digitaal Conference in 2021, both distinctions bestowed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, under the leadership of Secretary of State Mona Keijzer. Currently, I am honored to serve as an ambassador for this prestigious recognition. My research focuses on the captivating realm of computer-generated art (CG-art), staunchly advocating the thesis that AI possesses the capacity to create artworks.

Furthermore, I have worked with the Chilean National Fund for Cultural and Arts Development (FONDART), and I dedicate my efforts to disseminating my ideas beyond the confines of scientific articles. My commitment to public outreach is evident through active participation in various events accessible to the general public, as well as numerous appearances in web-based press releases, radio programs, podcasts, and school visits, among other activities. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm for philosophy and art with the community at large, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of these disciplines within our society.

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to:

1. critically evaluate the challenges of digitization for our understanding of historical objects and artefacts 

2. understand and be able to apply the specific requirements and challenges of virtual exhibitions. 

3. critically reflect on the politics of collection and collections in different national contexts.


Online course/International Classroom

Total number of hours: 60

1. Critical Reading: Prepare and assess key readings related to the subject “Things that Matter”. Students reflect in writing on required reading, identify 4 key questions guiding principles to be applied to the design of the virtual collection (task 2) (week 2, 30%, ca. reading, + writing = ca. 20 hrs ) ca. 1500 words.

2. The Virtual Exhibition: students design a virtual collection of materials specific to the host Library/University Museum. These collections will then be assessed for their relevance in the respective university context, thus sensitizing students to the different national agendas and the socio-political agents in charge of collecting, preserving and presenting objects. At the "virtual opening" of the exhibition, the students provide a handout, in which they reflect on their choice, its use for historical research, the ethics of collecting and the role of digitization in using or popularizing these objects (weeks 3-5, 70%, reading, collecting
+ discussing = ca. 40hrs).

International Summer School

Total number of hours: 140

Programme: Five days of teaching and learning activities over the course of one week (Monday-Friday). Typically, the Summer School will consist of lectures, hands-on sessions and student-led group work.

Active participation in all components of the Summer School: 140 hours

Components of the summer school:
1. Creative writing and reflection task: An Itinerary of an Object: a collaborative essay written by student groups during the week on the Itinerary of an object (2000-3000 words) and finalized for assessment (56 hours).
2. Presentation of research in progress on the itinerary accompanied by a brief hand- out: 14 hours.
3. Writing an essay in which the students critically discuss the themes of the Summer School in relation to their own research (3000-4000 words, 56 hours)
4. Write a SWOT analysis of the Summer School in which they reflect critically on their learning experience (750-1000 words, 14 hours)

Upon successful completion of the programme, the Summer School offers a Certificate of Attendance that mentions the (respective) workload. Students can apply for recognition of these credits to the relevant authorities in their home institutions, therefore the final decision on awarding credits is at the discretion of their home institutions. We will be happy to provide any necessary information that might be requested in addition to the certificate of attendance.

Application procedure

In order to apply, please send in your application to the email address related to the relevant institution, see below for the contacts. Make sure to include the following:

  • Curriculum Vitae (max. 2 pages)
  • Motivation letter, clearly stating why you want to join this summer school, what you will bring to the school and what you hope to learn (max. 1 page)
  • Ensure to mention your home institution.

The application deadline is 31 March 2024.

Applicants from the consortia partners should apply via:

  • University of Groningen: Raingard Esser,;

  • Uppsala University: Mikael Alm,;

  • Durham University: Graeme Small,;

  • Universität Bern: Tobias Hodel,;

  • Universität Tübingen: Daniel Menning,

All others contact:

Raingard Esser:

University of Uppsala
Durham University
U4 network
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Last modified:08 April 2024 12.14 p.m.