ReConFort (Reconsidering Constitutional Formation) gains researchers and laypeople access to formative legal texts of Europe’s history, some of them never seen before in digital form.
The ReConFort project focuses on the experimental ambiguity or indetermination of constitutional texts with regard to state organisational core elements in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe. To enable this international research and to make it accessible for other researchers, the ReConFort Open Database is contributed.
Through analysis of debates, constitutional drafts and public media, constitution becomes comprehensible as an evolutionary achievement of the interplay of the constitutional text with its contemporary societal context, with the political practice and with the respective constitutional interpretation.
This approach keeps historic constitutions from being simply log-books for political experts, but makes apparent how sovereignty as constituted power is not only the body of the constitutional text itself, but rather the agreement of those to be ruled that creates it.
Realizing the lack of a specialised contextualisation in comparable repositories and solutions, it became a core research classification of ReConFort. Not just the common metadata must be recorded and archived, but also affiliations and category information. Thus, we have concluded that it is necessary to develop both an adequate schema for metadata representing research-specific data, as well as a web application for curating and providing such data.
Our research data is required to be accessible and usable both by researchers as well as the public, using a suitable web application. But before anybody can access this database and the historical knowledge within, the documents have to be digitized.
The Digitisation Process is separated into three steps: Collection, Quality Review, and Integration. It demonstrates the process, beginning with the selection of relevant documents for the ReConFort Categories, to the integration of the digital copy within the ReConFort Open Database.
During the Collection phase of the Digitisation Process, researchers examine libraries and archives to select relevant documents. The researcher has to provide both Meta-Information and the digital copy of the document for the Quality Review. In the Quality Review phase of the Digitising Process, a trained team revises the Meta-Information and scans for each document, resulting in a revised version of Meta-Information. During the Integration of the Digitising Process, the relevant document and/or the revised Meta-Information will be uploaded using the PDF/Link Integration Form.
The ReConFort Open Database is currently publicly available via sources.reconfort.eu. At the time of writing, the database contains 720 documents. The work of ReConFort has led to the unearthing of a plethora of heretofore little-known drafts and proposals that shaped the eventual outcome. The sheer number of these drafts, and their availability via the ReConFort Open Database, represents a vital step in both the historicisation of present European constitutionalism as well as a democratisation of that history.
The features of the ReConFort Open Database have been designed specifically with the usability for future researchers in mind, and it is our intention and hope that the database will develop to be and remain an invaluable source of European historical knowledge and cultural heritage for the foreseeable future.
Playing the video will send your IP address to an external server.
A quick demonstration of how to use the ReConFort Database: Select any of the many options and you’ll be presented with all relevant documents for your search.
Learn more about the process in:
A. Gerl, U. Müßig and H. Kosch, "ReConFort Open Database - Digitisation of Historical Documents Influencing the Constitutional Forming Process in Europe for Open Access," 2020 10th International Conference on Advanced Computer Information Technologies (ACIT), Deggendorf, Germany, 2020, pp. 885-890, doi: 10.1109/ACIT49673.2020.9208828.
ReConFort / Dr. Gerl