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Riding the Mail Rail 2018

By Simon Mahony, on 1 November 2018

One of the nice things about having working partnerships with other institutions is that you get invited to their events. When the invitation is from the Postal Museum for a Mail Rail event you get to explore their underground museum, enjoy their hospitality but even more importantly, you get to ride on the underground Mail Train (now converted to take passengers rather than mail sacks).

Mail Rail at the Postal Museum

Mail Rail at the Postal Museum

These are the tunnels under London where the mail from the Mount Pleasant sorting office (in the background of the image) that was destined for London would be sorted and distributed by a network of underground tunnels.

Mail Rail sorting office

Mail Rail sorting office

With a colleague from UCLDH, we met with their CEO and researchers, enjoyed their hospitality, discussed possible collaborations while eagerly awaiting our turn on the train.

Travelling Post Office

Travelling Post Office

The network was, of course, built to carry mail sacks and so the carriages are necessarily small to fit in the narrow tunnels, so this no place for the claustrophobic.

Mail Rail mini-train

Mail Rail mini-train

We have had students at the Postal Museum for several years now and riding the mail train has always been identified in their reports and one of the highlights. And all just a short walk from UCL.

Shanghai Library Forum (SILF 2018)

By Simon Mahony, on 1 November 2018

I was very pleased to be invited back to the Shanghai Library and this time to speak in the Digital Humanities strand of the 9th Shanghai International Library Forum (SILF 2018). The municipal library of Shanghai is the second largest public/research library in China (after the National Library in Beijing) and also houses the Shanghai Institute of Scientific and Technical Information.

Shanghai Library

Shanghai Library

The building is certainly impressive and a fitting venue for an extremely wide-ranging conference. I felt privileged to be included among the VIP foreign speakers.

9th Shanghai International Library Forum (SILF 2018)

9th Shanghai International Library Forum (SILF 2018)

The theme for the conference was ‘Library for All: Towards a Smarter and Inclusive Society’ with eight sub-themes including ‘smart age and smart libraries’, ‘the transformation and innovation of libraries in the age of the “internet+”‘, ‘design ideas in libraries’ and more. My session, ‘digital humanities and library services’ allowed me to talk about and highlight some of the important initiatives taking place in the West: Open Access, Open Publishing and Open Science.

 

Simon presenting at SILF 2018

Simon presenting at SILF 2018

And that context gave a welcome opportunity to once again showcase UCL Press with its strong stand on open and the recent celebration of 1 million downloads.

UCL Press 1 Million downloads

UCL Press 1 Million downloads

It was particularly pleasing to be able to be joined at the conference by two DIS students: Yamin Fu, who gave an excellent paper, taken from her PhD research, titled ‘Cognitive mapping in exploring library user experiences’, and a completing MSc Information Studies student, Yifan Wang. My thanks to them both for the photos of me above and for making sure that I didn’t get lost (too often).

As always, the hospitality was exemplary with a VIP welcome dinner plus a conference banquet featuring the many multi-talented library professionals demonstrating skills ranging from calligraphy, a traditional tea ceremony, modern and traditional dancing (not all at the same time).  The conference was rounded off with a visit to the original Shanghai Library in Yangpu, which has recently been opened to the public after considerable restoration. Do take a look at the images on the website link.

Simon with friends from SHL and PKU at Yangpu Library

Simon with friends from SHL and PKU at the Yangpu Library

The Digital Humanities research team at the Shanghai Library are involved in an impressive array of research projects with much of their output and many data sets freely and openly available.  They produced a document flyer for the conference: From Digital Library to Digital Humanities – The Practice of Shanghai Library and I include images of that here.

From Digital Library to Digital Humanities - The Practice of Shanghai Library

From Digital Library to Digital Humanities – The Practice of Shanghai Library (cover)

From Digital Library to Digital Humanities - The Practice of Shanghai Library (inside)

From Digital Library to Digital Humanities – The Practice of Shanghai Library (inside)

Melissa Terras Launches Two Open Access Books on Academia in Children’s Literature

By Rudolf Ammann, on 26 October 2018


Earlier this week: Melissa Terras presents her work at the Cambridge University Press Bookshop in Cambridge. (Photo credit: @AnneWelsh)
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UCLDH’s co-founder and former director Melissa Terras launched two open-access books of hers during this year’s Open Access Week: Picture-Book Professors: Academia and Children’s Literature from Cambridge University Press and The Professor in Children’s Literature: An Anthology from Fincham Press.

In the research presented, Melissa studies the representation of academics in juvenile literature from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. She lays out her findings in an academic monograph [free PDF] and supplements this work with an anthology of selected out-of-copyright works [free PDF].

Melissa’s research has been covered by Times Higher Education [subscription required] and The Guardian.

In a post today Melissa notes on open access book publishing in the humanities:

We are at a juncture where the sands are shifting: the major funders and government bodies are moving towards requirements for open access monographs. We don’t have a choice; we have to embrace these requirements, but there is a lot of work yet to be done about who will pay the costs for production. I believe that most universities could afford to absorb the costs of open access monograph production, much in the same way that they pay for lab costs or scientific equipment: it should be viewed as a centrally borne cost necessary for creating and sharing academic knowledge. It shouldn’t happen that individuals are asked to pay these costs themselves, as that is untenable. I can see people are concerned about how their personal costs will be met — and it is up to universities and presses to grapple with this. The danger is the open access premium: that only those who can afford to publish in open access will reap the benefits of having their work made accessible to a wide audience, and we have to keep our eyes open to that, as the academy needs diverse voices (as Picture-Book Professors and The Professor in Children’s Literature say!)

UCLDH Lunch-hour lectures: Star Wars and Hillary Clinton

By Lucy J Stagg, on 28 September 2018

UCLDH is delighted to have two team members giving UCL Lunch-Hour Lectures this term.

Team member Dr. Rachele De Felice will be discussing ‘What’s Really Going On in Hillary Clinton’s Emails?’ on 16 October 2018. Dr De Felice will explore questions of manners, who gets stuck with the boring tasks, and what kind of boss Clinton is.

Dr Oliver Duke-Williams will speak on 27th November on ‘What Can the ONS Longitudinal Study Tell Us about Time Travel and about the Force?’ Dt Duke-Williams will outline what the study is and explain how to apply to use it by drawing on two examples: the film Back To The Future; and the Star Wars films.

The UCL Lunch-Hour lectures are free and open to the public, but booking is recommended. Lectures are also live streamed. The UCL Events page explains:

Lunch Hour Lectures are an opportunity for anyone to sample the exceptional research work taking place at UCL, in bite sized chunks. Speakers are drawn from across the university, and lectures frequently showcase new research and recent academic publications.

Video abstract on imaging work within mummy cartonnage

By Lucy J Stagg, on 24 August 2018

The journal Heritage Science has released a video abstract of the paper UCLDH team members co-authored on advanced imaging for investigating inscribed papyrus in mummy cartonnage.

The full original paper is also available to read online. The co-authors are all part of the Deep Imaging research project team.

PKU Digital Humanities Forum 2018

By Simon Mahony, on 28 July 2018

When we think about Digital Humanities from our base here at UCL, it is all too easy to think about the anglophone world and the predominance of Western Europe and North America, and particularly the UK, USA and Canada. So, it was good to see this year’s ADHO conference being held in Mexico City at UNAM (DH2018) as a move to a more global digital humanities. With its theme, “PUENTES/BRIDGES”, it was also pleasing to see to that the organisers had taken a multi-lingual approach with proposals, presentations and conference material in languages other than just English. This was the first ADHO conference in Latin America and the global south.

I was very pleased to be able to visit UNAM,  Isabel Galina Russell and the National Library last year and so I was not too disappointed in not being able to attend DH2018 – although I did miss networking and catching up with many DH friends and colleagues. Instead, two weeks earlier, I took the opportunity to move beyond the anglophone world myself and presented a paper at the main DH event in China, held for the third time at UCL’s strategic partner Peking University (PKU).

The official Forum audience photo

The official Forum audience photo

The 3rd Peking University Digital Humanities Forum had the theme: ‘Incubation and Application: How Digital Humanities Projects Cater to Academic Needs’. I had the full experience of what it must be like to attend an English speaking conference if you do not speak the language – everything was in Chinese with no translations. I was the only ‘foreigner’ (non-Chinese) at the Forum which also had several speakers from Taiwan and Chinese scholars based in the USA.

Although mine was the only non-Mandarin presentation, there were a surprising number of familiar words in many of the others (metadata, big data, linked data and several others, again pointing to the dominance of the English language in our field). My presentation was in collaboration with my Chinese PhD student, Jin Gao (who could not attend as she was presenting her work at DH2018), and benefited from her translations to enable bilingual (English and Mandarin) slides to aid the audience.

On the podium at the PKU DH Forum 2018

On the podium at the PKU DH Forum 2018

I was not alone and so all was well; there were many friends there and hosts from my earlier networking visits to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Nanjing – I was not short of company. In addition, the day before the Forum I had been invited to give a presentation to the DH group at Renmin (The People’s) University in the School of Information Resource Management, following their visit to UCL DIS last year.

Renmin University, School of Information Resource Management

The delegates from Renmin very kindly picked me up from my hotel and dropped me back after dinner – always worrying that this ‘foreigner’ might get lost. I explained that I was a seasoned traveler (and sailor) so there was no problem, except perhaps crossing the road! Renmin is not far from PKU and I had strategically picked a hotel midway on the road that linked the two. PKU is a large and sprawling campus and so I was very grateful for being so well looked after. For anyone wondering about visiting China, their hospitality is exceptional and they are very welcoming to foreign visitors.

There was, in addition, a DIS student from the Information Science programme at the Forum and a PhD candidate from King’s Department of Digital Humanities who between them, together with their phone camera translations of the slides, updated me with what was being said.

The visit to PKU was rounded off with a talk in the PKU Faculty of Social Sciences.

The prize winning poster from my talk

The prize winning poster from my talk at Renmin – now on my office wall

 

Speaking and being interrogated at Renmin

Speaking and being interrogated at Renmin

And, of course and as always, the Beijing visit was completed with a dinner in the warm company of former students.

Revival of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage

By Simon Mahony, on 9 July 2018

I was very pleased to be able to accept an invitation to speak at the 2018 World Historical & Cultural Cities Expo in Nanjing in May. The organisers (Traditionow – Xihan Action) have a strategic partnership with UNESCO to protect the World historical & cultural cities and their cultural heritage. Xian Action is an NGO working on the protection and promotion of intangible heritage, especially handcraft technique, knowledge and recreation.

2018 World Historical & Cultural Cities Expo

2018 World Historical & Cultural Cities Expo

There is a danger that in an industrialised and fast developing society that traditional crafts and skills will be lost. This two-day event, Forum of Dynamic Inheritance of Intangible Cultural Heritage, had presentations from academics, craft practitioners and entrepreneurs, all interested in cultural heritage and its preservation. I was able to draw on UCLDIS colleagues’ oral history research, emphasising the importance of talking to craft practitioners to protect the skill’s memory; I used the traditional craft of paper-cutting as a case study and specifically the unusual ‘black paper cutting’ from the Nangou Village where the older inhabitants live in caves decorated with their work.

Black paper cutting at Nangou Village

Black paper cutting at Nangou Village. Image copyright Kong Qiongpei (China Academy of Art) and used here with permission.

As part of the event, there was a really inspiring exhibition of traditional craft work, which also included modern interpretations of traditional design work.

Traditionow

Traditionow

This trip allowed another opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of Nanjing University and the Digital Humanities research group there. This included a guest lecture to staff and students in the Faculty of Arts and Cultural studies as well as meetings in their Institute of Advanced Studies of Social Science and Humanities to discuss possible future collaborations and further visits.

Poster for Nanjing University guest lecture

Poster for Nanjing University guest lecture

Reflectance Transformation Imaging Training Courses available

By Lucy J Stagg, on 6 July 2018

UCLDH are delighted to be offering three 4-day RTI training courses this summer. There are still a few spaces left on each of the dates – book now to avoid disappointment!

During the course you will cover the complete RTI digital imaging work flow, from planning to archiving and publication. You will gain practical knowledge about equipment, image capture setups, and software, using examples from different areas of cultural heritage. You will follow a step-by-step guide through processing the images and how to use different viewing modes to examine details of the image.

These courses are perfect for: museum, library, and photographic staff working in conservation and education; archaeologists, historians, and anyone working with collections; anyone interested in Reflectance Transformation Imaging technology and its practical application.

You can find dates and booking details on the UCLDH website.

Dr. Kathryn Piquette undertaking RTI

Dr. Kathryn Piquette undertaking RTI

UCLDH Susan Hockey Lecture 2018

By Lucy J Stagg, on 22 June 2018

Recently we had the pleasure of meeting Professor Carlo Meghini, who came to UCL on 30th May to give the fourth Susan Hockey Lecture in Digital Humanities.

The aim of this annual public lecture series is to celebrate and promote work in Digital Humanities: the application of computational techniques within the arts, humanities, culture and heritage.  Prof Meghini spoke on ‘What can be said, can be said clearly? The role of ontologies in the Digital Humanities’.

The lecture was well attended, with over 100 people registered, and attendees had plenty to discuss afterwards over a glass of wine.

The lecture was filmed and is now available to view on the UCLDH website.

Event poster (detail)

Event poster (detail)

Digital Humanities in Wuhan, Shanghai and Nanjing

By Simon Mahony, on 8 May 2018

Within the UK academic calendar, it is probably the Easter break that affords the longest uninterrupted time for travel and this year I took the opportunity to complete my series of talks and research meetings enabled by the UCL Global Engagement fund.

Wuhan University

Wuhan University: School of Information Management

This began with a visit to the University of Wuhan (WHU) which is home to the first DH Centre established in China (2011). Professor Wang at the Department of Publishing Science hosted me for the visit which included a tour of the university and a guest lecture to staff, students and Faculty (details and poster at this link) followed by a lecture for their sophomore Publishing Science students on Designing for Online Publishing.

Wuhan University guest lecture

Wuhan University guest lecture

WHU has a huge sprawling campus adjacent to the East Lake which is built on and around a hill with a castle, which was the old library and is now the student union and student accommodation – lucky students, at the top.

Wuhan University Castle

Wuhan University Castle

Stopping off at Shanghai enabled me to visit friends and deliver two guest lectures at the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design. I enjoyed their usual open hospitality and met with visiting professors and students from HFBK Hamburg who were setting up an exhibition of their work on design.

Design exhibition at CAA, SID

Design exhibition at CAA, SID

This trip also allowed me to accept an invitation, received at my January visit, from the Digital Humanities team at the Shanghai Library to deliver a guest lecture on UCLDH and our research here at UCL as part of their research seminar series.

Shanghai Library guest lecture

Shanghai Library guest lecture

The final stop on this tour was at the University of Nanjing (NJU) to give a guest lecture to faculty and graduate students. This was followed by discussions about teaching and research at their newly established (2017) DH Centre, which is located in their History Department with close links to NJU Computer Science. The visit was rounded off with an introduction to the dedicated DH GIS lab there and a demonstration of their keynote GIS (such as Six Dynasty Archeology) and 3D projects.

Nanjing University Library

Nanjing University Library

The support, gratefully received from UCL’s Global Engagement scheme, financed the flights which enabled these meetings, discussions and lectures to take place (as well as my earlier visit and workshop in January). The trip facilitated new connections and possibilities in the areas of teaching and research between UCLDH and DH Centres in China. In addition to this, the funding has enabled me to employ a current UCL DIS research student, as part of the UCL Connected Curriculum initiative, to translate and adapt the teaching materials used for the lectures and workshops; these will be released as bilingual (English and Chinese) OERs on the new UCL Open Educational Repository later this summer.