BASE KX Excursion …and a thought about Digital Humanities

By Nicole Ingra, on 19 November 2015


Last night, there was an excursion to the BASE King’s Cross, which is a brand new innovation hub (a.k.a. a place) for people with bright ideas to come and work. There is a similar venue in Shoreditch, called IDEALondon.  From what I understood, they are part of UCL Advances, which is the entrepreneurial arm of UCL, supporting students successfully launch their business. They offer funding, free training and some interesting events – check them out!



BASE King’s Cross communal area.   Photo: Sarah Davenport


We also heard some interesting people talking about their business…

Playbrush is a device that you can attach to any toothbrush and it will turn your brushing routine into a fun game, where you help a tooth fairy defeat some horrible bacteria. It’s to be used by children, but yeah, some grown people might enjoy it too (no self-pointing fingers). The device is a bit pricey, but because it’s detachable and reusable, you’ll only need one per household. In case you’re interested in buying, you can use the code base15, which will give you 15% discount until the end of November. The iOS version of the game launches next week and the Android version two weeks after, and they are shipping for Christmas.

Next, there was Interesting Content.  With clients like Disney, Tesco and 7thingsmedia, they are a digital video production agency, admittedly telling stories informed by data (our BFF in DH), creating online content.  They are located at BASE King’s Cross and are also hiring! Although I don’t remember the mention of an email address, there is a contact form in the website.

Before these two guys, there was a girl who spoke about how pitching her business idea to UCL Advances was the best decision she’s took. Maybe she said it was the best experience she’s had. Either way, she said it was really good, and spoke highly favourably about it. Like most of us, UCLDH students, she has a humanities background, but that didn’t stop her from pitching her tech business idea – and it should not stop anyone. If you are a UCL student and have an idea that you think it’s brilliant, get in touch with them. They might be able to advise you and point you into the right direction. You might even get some funding!


One extra thought!

I noticed that even though the speakers were into humanities and worked with digital, they had no clue what Digital Humanities is. Well, I guess most of us don’t really know, but we should at least aim to make it more fashionable (like using italics). We have a mixture of undergrad (and cultural) backgrounds and different academic and professional aims – and that’s a huge advantage! We know different things, look at problems from different points of views and will have different solutions. That probably means we will have different definitions of what DH is because DH will be applied differently by each one of us. But there’s one common thread, somewhere, beyond JavaScript and XML.

I’d love to know your thoughts about this, so if you’d like to get together to talk about this over a coffee, get in touch!

Moving Forward Digital Art History – Report from a UCLDH Workshop

By Melissa M Terras, on 8 October 2015


People in UCL Art Museum

A day of lively discussion topped off with a visit to UCL Art Museum, so see some of UCL’s own art treasures.

In June 2015, UCLDH hosted an invitation only workshop titled “Moving Forward Digital Art History” at University College London. The aim of the workshop was to explore “digital art history” – a phrase that has become a shorthand reference to the potentially transformative effect that digital technologies hold for the discipline of art history. The latest tools and techniques allow researchers to handle large volumes of digitized images and texts, trace patterns and connections formerly hidden from view, recover the past in virtual environments, and bring the complex intricacies of works of art to light as never before, to name just a few opportunities. We aimed to discuss how art historians acquire the knowledge to explore these new possibilities, explore the state of digital art history in the UK, and identify potential professional development opportunities and strategies, such as summer institutes, to help the field move forward. We’ve had permission to summarise the findings and discussions of the workshop here, to share with the wider community.

The workshop was hosted by Melissa Terras (UCLDH) with assistance from Anne Helmreich (formerly of the Getty Foundation) and had attendees from the The National Gallery; CHArt (Computer and the History of Art), Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London; Courtauld Institute of Art, London; History of Art Department, University of Oxford; Slade School of Fine Art, UCL; Slade Archive Project, UCL; Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge; UCL Art Museum; The Tate; Department of History of Art, UCL; Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; Oxford University Museums and Collections; UCL Department of Information Studies; and the Bodleian Library. This interesting mix of practicing art historians from different institutional contexts, those working with art collections, and those using digital methods in humanistic study, made for a lively debate.

The meeting first discussed the state of digital art history in these institutions – and what it meant to be using digital methods in this space, in those institutional contexts – covering a range of useful and related initiatives, such as the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School; the London Charter for the Computer-based Visualisation of Cultural Heritage; the CHArt, Computers and the History of Art (est. 1985) conferences; the Paul Mellon Centre’s new online journal, British Art Studies, which will appear this autumn; the Slade Center for Electronic Media in Fine Art; research projects at the National Gallery which investigate digital documentation and data such as the Mellon-funded Raphael research project and IPERION CH, a large EU networking and joint research project that includes developing digital documentation and data; the National Gallery’s contribution to the Getty’s Provenance Index, British Sales, a major online database; developing a new project to make the archives and inventories of major country houses publicly accessible online; the 3D digital reconstruction of the Florentine church of Santa Chiara; and work by various institutions in the development of apps and online systems. The group also discussed persuasive projects that could help articulate the value of digital art history, such as the Cranach Digital Archive, Bosch Research and Conservation project, and Picturing the Netherlandish Canon (with the observation that while this project may seem out of date by today’s standards it was transformative for the scholars involved). Various project themes emerged, including the uniting of disparate collections and archives and facilitation of contributions to these resources; new forms of publishing; and the opening up of collections to make them available for new pathways of investigation and other forms of digital scholarly inquiry.

Is there an interest and appetite for Digital Art History?

The discussions articulated that scholars have a general interest in learning more about how digital resources and tools could advance their research, but don’t want it to come at the cost of displacing art history’s core concern with the original art object or supporting research resources such as paper archives. Art historians clearly see the benefit of using digital technologies to access collections and resource, and there is a sense of urgency regarding the younger generation who may be more prepared to use digital tools than senior colleagues who are not sufficiently trained to frame a useful/significant project.

What potential challenges or barriers are there for d\Digital Art History?

Various challenges were identified and discussed (summarized here briefly – the challenges are legion!) Image copyright issues create limitations on what scholars might be able to do with images in the online environment. Art historians may not know which tools already exist, such as III-F, and how they might use them. There was discussion on the role of computer scientists in joint projects: are art historians prepared to undertake such collaborative work and could this type of collaborative work support art historical research questions? There is a difficulty in finding art historians qualified to teach digital art history or review digital publications/projects; digital projects can be overlooked in state of the field reviews/reviews of earlier scholarship or standard bibliographies. The term digital may be off-putting to some listeners, and it might be preferable to refer to digital art history as “art history now,” or an integrated art history that brings together research inquiry with building digital resources and online publishing. There may be a perception and anxiety that the digital surrogate will replace the interest in the original object at the heart of art history. Concerns exist that resources will be diverted from supporting outstanding work related to existing research repositories, such as paper archives, that are not yet catalogued. The technological needs for digital projects may exceed what academic university departments can provide. The learning curve for mastering new technologies/systems/approaches may be perceived as too steep, particularly if outcomes are not assured. Art historians may not be able to conceive of research questions well suited to available data, and have difficulty in framing questions appropriate for that data. Because art historians don’t know where to start, don’t know what questions to ask, don’t know how to articulate their digital needs, they may not be taking advantage of already existing training opportunities and resources. Digital specialists tend to be grant-supported and migrate from project to project so that teams must be re-assembled and knowledge leaves institutions. Digital projects tend to be one-offs and not designed to be built upon; they also tend to be more expensive and harder to accomplish than “traditional” projects.

How can we move the use of digital methods in Art History forward?

Various potential solutions were mooted in a brain-storming session (it is acknowledged that some are simpler to provide than others!):

  • The community should address the increasing need for open access resource outlets, support current online publications (e.g. British Art Studies, Tate Papers, Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide) while also considering whether new homes for digital scholarship are needed;
  • To encourage more kinds of digital publications that go beyond print, it would be useful to have a sort of toolbox for art historians to demonstrate what is possible;
  • The stimulation and validation of digital scholarship can be accomplished by encouraging reviews of digital projects in the scholarly literature;
  • Digital Humanists should work collaboratively (museums and universities) with professional art history organizations;
  • If postdoctoral fellowships could be created in this area, they could be tied to digital projects such as online publications, creation of new digital resources/repositories, exhibitions;
  • Greater visibility could be brought to the work of scholars who have undertaken digital projects since they are typically powerful advocates for the transformative possibility of the digital and can also demonstrate how digital scholarship can be deeply motivated by the original object;
  • Identify “flag-bearers” willing to promote these approaches within Art History;
  • Undergraduate teaching is needed, whether a dedicated course or a module within a course, that could help students build digital literacy and incorporate these skills into art historical research inquiry;
  • Encourage leaders of digital projects to include fulsome accessible documentation to let others understand/learn how a project was developed and implemented;
  • Encourage digital resources, such as online image collections, to become more open; that is, to allow users broad search pathways so that they can find new patterns in the data or obtain large amounts of data. In short, recognize that content management systems and licensing can influence what researchers can find and use;
  • Support tools such as III-F that allow researchers to bring together images from different repositories and facilitate side by side comparison;
  • DH centers could function as brokers between computer scientists and art historians to foster the cross-pollination of ideas; could also help art historians frame new research questions using already digitized resources; bring in the resources of technologists and designers that can impact the long-term success of a project; and bring together art historians and technologists;
  • A survey of the field could identify which digital projects art historians are using, building upon, what do people like about these projects, why are they continuing to use them.
  • It is necessary, at all stages, to get academic leadership from within Art History, and Art Historical collections, involved and on board, to help establish digital methods as a bona fide approach in Art History.


This was a stimulating discussion, and as you can see we covered a lot of ground that day – although there is a lot ahead of us to be done! There is huge potential in opening up digital methods within the Art Historical context, and we hope (now we have been well met) to continue the discussion and to work together to tackle provision in this area. The day finished up with a visit to the recently refurbished UCL Art Museum – which brought us back to the things that matter most of all in our discussions on using digital methods in art history, the collections, the objects, the artists, and the art.

We’d like to thank UCL Art Museum for having us! Final thanks go to Anne Helmreich from the Getty Foundation who gave permission for her notes to be edited up and shared, and who helped shape the day, and thanks are also due to the workshop attendees for joining in such a helpful debate.

CASA/Survey of London project awarded AHRC funding

By Sarah Davenport, on 22 September 2015

Congratulations to UCLDH team member Martin Austwick (CASA), who is involved in a project that has just been awarded a major grant from the AHRC. He, and other members of CASA, will be working with Survey of London on a three-year collaboration exploring the Whitechapel area, to develop an online platform to find new ways to engage audiences with the work of the Survey.  Martin has written a blog post about this, and another Bartlett-funded collaboration with Survey of London focusing on the Oxford Street area.

Tutorial: How to Access UCL’s Virtual Private Network Using Linux

By Rudolf Ammann, on 18 September 2015


Tux, interpreted by the author, ca. 2002

Some of this university’s computational infrastructure is tucked away behind a VPN login: If you’re trying to reach it from the outside, you need to establish a Virtual Private Network connection to get through. This may be more onerous for users of a Linux operating system than it is for those who rely on Microsoft or Apple products, especially since UCL insists that VPN connections may only be established using one particular VPN client, Cisco’s AnyConnect. This client has its problems, but it also comes with a superior FOSS alternative: OpenConnect.

I will discuss the use of the two clients in turn.


UCL’s How to set up a VPN connection for Linux tutorial offers instructions on how to install the AnyConnect client. The tutorial does not mention that AnyConnect will fail to work when it is run with restricted privileges. Neither does it mention that AnyConnect, when it attempts to establish a VPN connection while running with restricted privileges, is likely to hang indefinitely, consuming all available CPU, flooding all available RAM, and eventually bringing the system to its knees — unless the runaway process is killed in good time.

To work as advertised, AnyConnect needs to run as root or under sudo. So, once the application is installed, open a terminal and launch it by issuing the following command:

$ sudo /opt/cisco/anyconnect/bin/vpnui

Once you’ve entered your sudo password, this command should pop up a dialog with a single ‘Connect to:’ field. Type ‘’ into this field, but be prepared to deal with further complications, as you may need to lift a block and ignore a warning before AnyConnect will establish a connection with UCL’s VPN.

UCL’s VPN uses what seems like a legitimate SSL certificate issued by Terena:

$ openssl s_client -connect |& sed -n '/^issuer=/s/.*CN=//p'

AnyConnect may not recognise this certificate and respond with an error message that reads: ‘Untrusted VPN Server Blocked!’ To work past this barrier, hit the ‘Change Setting…’ button, which will take you to AnyConnect’s Preferences dialog. In that dialog, untick the ‘Block connections to untrusted servers’ option and hit the ‘Close’ button.

Close and restart the application, then type ‘’ into the ‘Connect to’ field and hit the ‘Connect’ button. This will trigger a warning: ‘Security Warning: Untrusted VPN Server Certificate!’ Ignore this warning and hit the ‘Connect Anyway’ button!

The next dialog will have RemoteAccess pre-entered into the ‘Group’ field. Supply your Username and Password, hit the ‘Connect’ button, and you’re in!

In theory, it should be possible either to export the Terena certificate as a .pem file from the Firefox Certificate Manager or to download it from Terena’s repository and copy it to /opt/.cisco/certificates/ca/, the directory in which AnyConnect stores its certificates. This should cause the software to recognise the certificate and to stop returning error messages. I have not been able to make this work, however, and not for lack of trying.


The command-line utility OpenConnect offers an alternative to the above procedure.

You will need to install both OpenConnect and cURL. Binaries of both should be available for your distro of choice via the usual package management.

OpenConnect will need to invoke a shell script that is known as a ‘CSD-wrapper‘, which uses cURL to handle the transfer of data with URL syntax.

Copy the following script (which is adapted from here) into a plain text file, save the file as, and render it executable:

#set -x


# delete the csdXXXXXX temp files so they don't start piling up
rm -f $1

exec curl \
--globoff \
--insecure \
--user-agent "AnyConnect Linux" \
--header "X-Transcend-Version: 1" \
--header "X-Aggregate-Auth: 1" \
--header "X-AnyConnect-Identifier-Platform: linux" \
--header "X-AnyConnect-Identifier-PlatformVersion: $platform_version" \
--header "X-AnyConnect-Identifier-DeviceType: $device_type" \
--header "X-AnyConnect-Identifier-Device-UniqueID: $uniqueid" \
--cookie "sdesktop=$CSD_TOKEN" \
--data-ascii @- "https://$CSD_HOSTNAME/+CSCOE+/sdesktop/scan.xml" <<END

Then issue the following command to establish the VPN connection:

$ sudo openconnect --csd-wrapper /path/to/

The network should now prompt you for your username and password. Supply those, and you’re in!

Of course, you might object that running OpenConnect under sudo is less than desirable from a security perspective, and you’d be entirely right about that. There’s a workaround available.


Thanks to Emma Cardinal-Richards at UCL’s Information Services Division and to security analyst Dr Name Withheld from W., both of whom provided valuable assistance towards solving this issue!

Dr Rudolf Ammann is the UCLDH Designer at Large and a research associate at the UCL Department of Information Studies. He runs the Arkstack consultancy.

Seminar: Digital technologies and the Herculaneum Papyri

By Simon Mahony, on 11 August 2015

Digital Classicist seminar logoThis week sees the final seminar in this Summer’s series.

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies Seminar 2015

Friday August 15 at 16:30 in room G21A, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

Sarah Hendriks (CISPE: Centro Internazionale Studio dei Papiri Ercolanesi, Naples): ‘Digital technologies and the Herculaneum Papyri’

The technology available today could not even be dreamed of over 250 years ago when the Herculaneum Papyri were first discovered. Although technological developments have always been crucial for accessing the papyri, the dawn of the digital age and the subsequent innovations in technological resources have seen a dramatic increase in our ability to read these long-buried texts. Drawing on examples from PHerc. 78, the so-called Caecilius Statius, this paper will outline the history of technology and the Herculaneum papyri, and how changing resources have, and continue to enable, new discoveries among this unique collection.




The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

The full abstract is available on the seminar programme page.


Seminar: Graecum-Arabicum-Latinum Encoded Corpus (GALEN©)

By Simon Mahony, on 4 August 2015

Digital Classicist seminar logoDigital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies Seminar 2015

Friday August 7 at 16:30 in room G21A, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

Usama Gad (Heidelberg): ‘Graecum-Arabicum-Latinum Encoded Corpus (GALEN©)’


GALEN is a long-term project to produce the first comprehensive digital corpus of translations between Greek, Arabic and Latin. The project seeks not only to include the medieval translations from Greek into Arabic (8th-10th Century AD) and again from Arabic into Latin (11th -13th Century AD), but also to comprise the modern translations of Greek and Latin literature into Arabic (19th -21st   Century AD). Moreover, the project would ideally include Arabic translations of Greek and Latin Papyri found in Egypt. The main idea behind this project is then to integrate as much Graecum-Arabicum-Latinum sources as one could in both Arabic and classical studies, presenting these sources to both scholars and students in a digital format with open access license CC BY-SA.

Anemonê_ê_phoinikê_25v_Dioscoride_Vienne (1)


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

The full abstract is available on the seminar programme page.

The full 2015 programme is available on the Digital Classicist London seminar page.

Seminar: DAMOS – Database of Mycenaean at Oslo

By Simon Mahony, on 28 July 2015


Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies Seminar 2015

Friday July 31 at 16:30 in room G21A, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

Federico Aurora (Oslo): ‘DAMOS – Database of Mycenaean at Oslo’

DĀMOS is an annotated corpus of all the published Mycenaean texts, allowing for a corpus linguistics approach to the study of the earliest attested Greek dialect. Text files, reproducing the most updated editions of the texts, have been imported into a relational database (MySql) and are now being annotated for morphology, syntax and lexical information. Noteworthy is that DĀMOS allows for storing multiple, competing analyses of a given linguistic unity (e.g. a word). A rich set of metadata, including – automatically imported – detailed epigraphical information, is also available for searches and can, thus, be crossed with linguistic data. Online edition.

2MY Oi 704 (Mycenae)


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

The full abstract is available on the seminar programme page.

The full 2015 programme is available on the Digital Classicist London seminar page.

Seminar: A Collection of Greek Ritual Norms (CGRN)

By Simon Mahony, on 21 July 2015

Digital Classicist seminar logo

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies Seminar 2015

Friday July 24 at 16:30 in room G21A, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

Saskia Peels (Liège): ‘A Collection of Greek Ritual Norms Project (CGRN)’

This talk presents the project A Collection of Greek Ritual Norms, abbreviated CGRN (University of Liège). The CGRN is an online collection and database of over 200 Greek inscriptions with a religious subject matter, notably normative texts concerning sacrifice and purification. Using the EpiDoc XML standard, we have lemmatized the inscriptions and encoded geographic, chronological and thematic information, so that this corpus will be searchable in many different ways. Thus, our website serves not only scholars wanting to study individual inscriptions, but we hope that our tool may further our understanding of what are usually called ‘sacred laws’ more generally.


As always the seminar will be followed by discussion over wine and refrshments.


The full abstract is available on the seminar programme page.

The full 2015 programme is available on the Digital Classicist London seminar page.


Digital Classicist seminar: Integrating Digital Epigraphies (IDEs)

By Simon Mahony, on 14 July 2015

Digital Classicist seminar logoDigital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies Seminar 2015

Friday July 17th at 16:30, in Room G21A, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Hugh Cayless (Duke)

‘Integrating Digital Epigraphies (IDEs)’


Integrating Digital Epigraphies (IDEs) is being developed as a Linked Data platform for digital epigraphy. The first round of development leverages data from partner projects including the PHI’s Searchable Greek Inscriptions project, the SEG, the Claros concordance of epigraphical publication data, and epigraphy articles in JSTOR to develop a set of web services. Identifiers from any of the projects may be used to retrieve related data from any of the others. The goal of IDEs is not to be a portal or aggregator superseding partner projects, but a data hub that allows all of them to leverage each other’s work.


As always the seminar will be followed by discussion over wine and refrshments.


The full abstract is available on the seminar programme page.

The full 2015 programme is available on the Digital Classicist London seminar page.

UCLDH academic promotions

By Sarah Davenport, on 10 July 2015

We’re very pleased to announce that many of our UCLDH team members have been successful in the 2014-15 round of academic promotions!

– Tim Weyrich, Deputy Director of UCLDH, has been promoted to Professor of Visual Computing

– Julianne Nyhan, Oliver Duke Williams and Antonis Bikakis have all been promoted to Senior Lecturer

Many congratulations to all, very well deserved. All positions are effective as of 1st October 2015