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Networking event for the Enlightenment Architectures project

By Simon Mahony, on 20 February 2018

I was delighted to be invited to attend the UCLDH sponsored networking reception at the British Museum on Thursday 15 March 2018. The event was organised in conjunction with Martha Fleming and the Leverhulme-funded ‘Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues of his Collections’ project (2016-19), a collaboration between the British Museum and UCL.

The project is investigating Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) original manuscript catalogues of his collections. It is using Digital Humanities and Humanities methodologies to understand the highly complex information architecture and the intellectual legacies of this ‘meta-data of the Enlightenment’. The project is led by PI Kim Sloan, Curator of British Drawings and Watercolours before 1880 and the Francis Finlay Curator of the Enlightenment Gallery, British Museum and by co-I Julianne Nyhan, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of Digital Information Studies, UCL and Associate Director of UCLDH.

UCLDH 'bar' poster

UCLDH ‘bar’ poster

The UCLDH sponsored ‘bar’, pictured above, provided welcome sustenance to attendees of the workshop that the Enlightenment Architectures project had convened that day, thanks to funding from the British Museum Research Fund. The workshop included presentations from the ‘Enlightenment Architectures’ PI, co-I and some project team members (including Research Assistants Victoria Pickering, Alexandra Ortolja-Baird and the project-based PhD candidate Deborah Leem). A number of eminent, international colleagues from Digital Humanities and Early Modern Studies acted as respondents to their papers. They included: Kalliopi Zervanou (Utrecht University); Arthur MacGregor (Journal of the History of Collections); Susanne Al-Eryani (SUB Goettingen); Jaap Verhuel (Utrecht University); Katherine McDonough (Stanford University). Needless to say, lively conversations characterised both the workshop and the networking event!

More DH networking in China

By Simon Mahony, on 6 February 2018

Recently, I have been very pleased to be able to accept more networking and speaking invitations from the ever-growing number of DH groups in China. In November I was an invited speaker for the DH strand at the Cross-cultural, Cross-group and Comparative Modernity Conference in Fudan University Shanghai along with delegates from many different nationalities; interestingly (and fortunately for me) all the presentations were in English.

Conference banner

Banner for the conference at Fudan University Shanghai

December took me to Shenzhen, via Hong Kong, and the University Town Library there for the International Conference on Library and Digital Humanities. They had speakers, on a range of themes, from the UK and USA as well as China, and interestingly mostly from libraries where DH centres in China and the USA are usually found; my slot was in the Higher Education and Digital Humanities strand which enabled many conversations and new connections to be made.

Shenzhen conference photo

International conference at the University Town Library, Shenzhen

One new such connection was with DH researchers at the Library of Shanghai, a public as well as an academic and research library with a strong and committed DH team. In January of this year I was greeted there with a magnificent lunch, a tour of their preservation and research labs, and introduced to their research projects involving both genealogy and the historic local built environment.

Shanghai Library

Shanghai Library

The January visit to Shanghai was enabled by funding from the UCL Global Engagement Fund that I received to support networking and research into interdisciplinary and cross-cultural education. Some of this funding was marked for the translation of teaching material for an undergraduate workshop at the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design (that I have visited several times now) and as a follow up to the workshop I ran there in January 2017.

Workshop in Shanghai Institute of Design

Workshop in Shanghai Institute of Design

This is a design institute and the students are great at producing videos but have no background in the Internet or the web and so this workshop mostly covers the coding of webpages along with the all important usability and accessibility built into the design. I, of course, have a translator but this helps with their English language learning too.

Group photo of students at the workshop

Group photo of students at the workshop

Remember when giving talks to Chinese students, always allow extra time at the end for group photos and selfies.

UCL’s Global Engagement funding covered the flights for the Shanghai visit and money to pay a student to help with translating the teaching materials which will go into a collection to later be released under an open licence as Open Educational Resources. Accommodation and hospitality was generously provided by the host institution.

Changes to UCLDH Management Team

By Lucy J Stagg, on 5 February 2018

Now that our esteemed former Director, Prof. Melissa Terras has taken up her new post at The University of Edinburgh, we have needed to make changes to the UCLDH Management Team.

We are very pleased to say that the post of Director has been filled by Simon Mahony who has been part of the UCLDH team since 2010 and was co-organiser of our memorable launch event. As well as serving on the Management Team and UCLDH Steering Committee from the beginning, Simon has been our Associate Director for Teaching and Director of our MA/MSc Programme since its inception in 2011.

Simon Mahony, UCLDH Director

Simon Mahony, UCLDH Director

We are also pleased to welcome new members to our Management Team with Julianne Nyhan, now Director of the Master’s programme, as Associate Director for Teaching and Learning. In addition, and in keeping with our cross-faculty mission, we are also joined by Steven Gray as our Associate Director from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (UCL-CASA). All these details are on the UCLDH People page along with our wider UCLDH Team, Honorary Members, Industry Advisory Panel, and Affiliates. Melissa Terras will remain an Honorary Professor at UCLDH.

UCL Advanced Imaging Consultants (UCLAiC) undertake imaging projects on a range of heritage materials

By Kathryn Piquette, on 12 January 2018

Chiddingstone Castle ancient Egyptian coffin lid, probably 25th Dynasty.

Chiddingstone Castle ancient Egyptian coffin lid, probably 25th Dynasty.

It’s been about a year and a half since UCLDH announced the establishment of UCL Advanced Imaging Consultants (UCLAiC, with a core team of Melissa Terras, Adam Gibson and myself) and began offering Reflectance Transformation Imaging and Spectral Imaging services from the UCL Multi-Modal Digitisation Suite research facility based in central London. We have since been undertaking imaging projects on a range of fascinating heritage materials. From Roman lead tablets and Egyptian mummy portraits to Persian and Mediaeval manuscripts and modern works of art, the advanced techniques we use are helping to reveal hidden writing, underdrawings and other marks that are difficult to see with the naked eye.

As we wrap up work from 2017, we are pleased to report on one of the highlights from the past years’ projects, namely multispectral imaging on a 2500-year old Egyptian coffin lid held in the collections of Chiddingstone Castle in Kent, England.

This wooden lid, shaped to represent the human form, is covered with a thin layer of yellow gesso and the head and chest are embellished with red, blue and yellow paint. A column of hieroglyphic text runs down the centre of the lid, from the brightly coloured broad collar down to the feet. Intended to ensure the sustenance of the deceased in the afterlife, this offering formula is formed of hieroglyphic signs painted in black outline with a blue-green infill. The glyphs on the foot area, however, have become very faded and damaged over time yet this is the very location where the name of the owner of the coffin would have been written.

Lower part of the coffin lid showing preserved hieroglyphic text and largely ‘invisible’ name on foot panel.

Lower part of the coffin lid showing preserved hieroglyphic text and largely ‘invisible’ name on foot panel.

Keen to learn if the name could be recovered, Chiddingstone Castle commissioned me to conduct multispectral imaging on the damaged foot area. Our multispectral system (supplied by R. B. Toth Associates), uses a medium-format, 60-megapixel PhaseOne IQ260 Achromatic camera to take a series of high-quality digital images. Illumination is provided by low heat, narrowband light emitting diodes (LED) at 12 different wavelengths from ultraviolet to near infrared, with the application of a 6-position motorised filter wheel (developed and integrated by Dr Bill Christens-Barry of Equipoise Imaging). Together with the assistance of SEAHA PhD student, Cerys Jones, the multispectral system was transported from the UCL Multi-Modal Digitisation Suite to the Castle in order to conduct the imaging onsite.

Cerys Jones and Kathryn Piquette calibrate the UCL multispectral system.

Cerys Jones and Kathryn Piquette calibrate the UCL multispectral system.

We applied 12 different wavelengths from ultraviolet to near infrared. Initial results were achieved using infrared (IR) illumination. These wavelengths, which are longer than visible light, are absorbed by carbon-based inks/paints and thus provided increased contrast between the outlines of the hieroglyphs and the surrounding surface. Thanks to the flexibility of our MSI system and Cerys’ familiarity with the specific optical properties of the pigment Egyptian blue, we tested further combinations of wavelengths and filtering. Visible induced infrared luminescence (VIL) proved vital for visualising the faint traces of paint surviving in the interior of the hieroglyphs, and we were thrilled to successfully recover the shapes of the majority of the hieroglyphs spelling out the deceased’s name.

Cerys Jones and Kathryn Piquette examine the multispectral imaging results.

Cerys Jones and Kathryn Piquette examine the multispectral imaging results.

With this image data in hand, I was able to research the name and, with the assistance of other Egyptologists, determine that the hieroglyphs most likely spell out “Irethoreru”. This name was relatively common  among males during the 1st millennium BCE and can be translated as “The Eye of Horus is against them”. The name was presumably intended to protect its bearer against his enemies, although without specifying whether these enemies were material or otherworldly. UCLAiC are pleased to have contributed to the re-discovery of the name of this ancient Egyptian who lived over 2000 years ago. This exciting work also recently appeared as part of a BBC report on UCL’s research on non-destructive technical imaging for recovering ancient hidden writing (see also: UCL News) and is also reported on the SEAHA blog.

Detail of foot panel under visible light (left), infrared (IR) illumination (middle) and visible induced infrared luminescence (VIL, right).

Detail of foot panel under visible light (left), infrared (IR) illumination (middle) and visible induced infrared luminescence (VIL, right).

While the mystery of the name has been solved, there is yet much to learn about the Chiddingstone Castle coffin lid. It was acquired by Denys Eyre Bower in the mid-20th century but unfortunately its original provenance is not known. The lid is probably part of an outer coffin that held an inner coffin which, in turn, held Irethoreru’s mummified body. One wonders whether elements of his burial equipment made their way into other UK/European museums and collections. Indeed, many Egyptian artefacts from the Third Intermediate Period and beyond (c.1000–c.300 BCE) bear the name “Irethoreru” (which may also be rendered as “Iret-hor-irou”, “Iret-horru”, “Iret-[en]-Hor-eru” or “Iretenhoreru”). Further detailed research, advanced imaging and materials analysis will be necessary to discover whether any of these funerary objects relate to Chiddingstone Castle’s Irethoreru. If you think you might have further information that could help Chiddingstone Castle learn more about their coffin lid please contact: curator@chiddingstonecastle.org.uk.

For further information about the imaging services and training courses offered by UCLDH Advanced Imaging Consultants, please visit the page or contact advancedimaging@ucl.ac.uk!

Bentham Hackathon, in partnership with IBM

By Lucy J Stagg, on 2 January 2018

The Bentham Hackathon took place between 20-22 October 2017; a partnership between the Transcribe Bentham team and IBM, along with the support of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and UCL Innovation and Enterprise. UCLDH Deputy Director Tim Weyrich (Professor of Visual Computing, UCL Department of Computer Science) opened the event.

Prof Tim Weyrich speaking at the opening of the Bentham Hackathon

Prof Tim Weyrich speaking at the opening of the Bentham Hackathon

6 teams worked together to explore how digital tools could help research Bentham’s work. As the Transcribe Bentham blog explains:

The Hackathon took place over one evening and two full days between 20 and 22 October 2017 and brought together coders, developers, computer scientists, digital humanists, humanities researchers and some of the volunteer transcribers from Transcribe Bentham.

IBM’s Simon Baker said:

We are very grateful to the Transcribe Bentham Project for enabling us to be a part of the UCL Bentham Hackathon. Our digital assets were made available for the developers to gain access via the IBM Bluemix platform writing applications, back-end services and web interfaces. Many of the team used Watson Natural Language Understanding for concept extraction. The event was excellently run by UCL Innovation and Enterprise and produced very innovative and practical outcomes from the participants.

The Transcribe Bentham project is a highly innovative and novel attempt to aid the transcription of Bentham’s work. A digitisation project provides high quality scans of the papers, whilst an online “crowdsourcing” transcription tool allows volunteers to contribute to the transcription effort.

The Transcribe Bentham team are now considering the next steps in redeveloping their website and transcription platforms.

Optical coherence tomography of the first printed edition of Euclid

By Lucy J Stagg, on 2 January 2018

Adam Gibson, Professor of Medical Physics and a member of the UCLDH team, has been working with Tabitha Tuckett in UCL Special Collections to see if they can find any interesting features associated with the printed diagrams in the margins of the first printed edition of Euclid’s Elements. The printer, a man called Erhardt Ratdolt, had to work out a method for printing diagrams.

Adam has written a blog post, about his findings, where you can read more about:

how modern imaging methods might be able to cast light on Ratdolt’s 500 year old printing innovation.

Optical coherence tomography of the first page of Euclid’s Elements

Optical coherence tomography of the first page of Euclid’s Elements

Imaging the first printed edition of Euclid’s Elements

Seeking a Professor of Information Studies

By Lucy J Stagg, on 15 December 2017

UCL Department of Information Studies is seeking to appoint a world-leading scholar as a Professor of Information Studies. Various possible specialisations, including digital humanities are welcome. The job advertisement states:

The successful candidate will be required to carry out research at a world-leading standard in terms of originality, significance and rigour, and to publish in the most prestigious locations. S/he will also be expected to play a leading role in maintaining the research environment within UCL DIS, and engage in external activities that bring national and international esteem to both the department and UCL. S/he will also teach and supervise students at undergraduate, graduate and PhD level, and play a full part in the life of the department, UCL and the wider research community, including key administrative duties and the pastoral case of students.

Deadline to apply: 31 Jan 2018. See tinyurl.com/UCLDIS for more details

Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou

By Simon Mahony, on 2 December 2017

I was very pleased to be invited to represent UCL at the 2017 International Graduate Scholarship Fair in Beijing, organised by the China Scholarship Council. It is a really huge event with representatives from all the major universities worldwide. Together with a colleague from UCL Recruitment we had a continuous stream of excited students throughout the day, wanting to find out more about studying at UCL.

Image of graduate fair poster

2017 International Graduate Scholarship Fair

UCL representatives at the Graduate Fair

UCL representatives at the Graduate Fair

The trip to Beijing made possible other opportunities for networking with the growing Digital Humanities community in China. This, supported with funding from UCL Global Engagement, prompted a meeting at Peking University (PKU) where I gave a presentation about UCL and the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. PKU is a strategic partner of UCL and I anticipate further connections being made with the DH people there over the coming year.

Giving a presentation at PKU

Giving a presentation at PKU

I was hosted by the PKU Library and met with staff from there and Tsinghua University.

Meeting at PKU

Meeting DH practitioners at PKU

The funding from UCL Global Engagement allowed me to extend the trip to Shanghai and Hangzhou. Visiting my contacts at the Shanghai Institute of Design coincided with their students’ sports day and I was invited to join in the prize giving.

Prize giving at SID

Prize giving at Shanghai Institute of Design

This was followed by a guest lecture at Hangzhou Normal University, introducing the students on their Digital Media Programme to UCL and to our Digital Humanities research and practice.

Hangzhou Normal University

Hangzhou Normal University

Group photo after the lecture

Group photo after the lecture

The visit to Hangzhou made possible a meeting and the start of building connections with the Digital Humanities group at Zhejiang University City College (ZUCC). I was hosted at a very impressive hotel by the Dean and Director of their Department of Visual Communication Design and discussed several of their projects. I have been invited back so expect more on this plus photos at a later date.

Книга “Defining Digital Humanities. A Reader” вышла на русском языке

By Melissa M Terras, on 17 November 2017

Melissa Terras, Julianne Nyhan, Edward Vanhoutte, and Inna Kizhner are pleased to announce the launch of the Russian edition of their book “Defining Digital Humanities“, published by Siberian Federal University Press. The Russian edition is a translation of the English edition and the text is freely available in Open Access (CC-BY), allowing anyone to take, share, download, reuse, and remix, in any way – as long as there is attribution. Please do circulate to colleagues who may be interested in the Russian edition of this book!

Гуманитарные науки проходят через период значительных изменений, когда объективность научных исследований, необходимость поддерживать выводы анализом данных становятся важной частью работы ученого. Цифровые гуманитарные науки делают важный вклад в развитие этих изменений. Важным этапом на пути становления цифровых гуманитарных наук в России стал перевод книги “Defining Digital Humanities. A Reader” под редакцией Мелиссы Террас, Джулианны Найхан и Эдварда Ванхута. Книга вышла в Издательстве Сибирского федерального университета и будет полезна ученым и преподавателям для оценки разных точек зрения на новое направление. Полный текст книги доступен для образовательных и научных целей, а также для некоммерческого распространения (лицензия Creative Commons BY – NC) по ссылке http://lib3.sfu-kras.ru/ft/LIB2/ELIB/b71/free/i-531505996.pdf

The Editors and Translators of the Russian edition of Defining Digital Humanities, at the launch at Siberian Federal University in September 2017.

The Editors and Translators of the Russian edition of Defining Digital Humanities, at the launch at Siberian Federal University in September 2017.

New publications: ‘Computation and the Humanities’ and ‘Digitally reconstructing the Great Parchment Book’

By Lucy J Stagg, on 17 November 2017

UCLDH are happy to announce two recent publications.

Computation and the Humanities book cover

Computation and the Humanities book cover

We have an open access version of the book Computation and the Humanities: Towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities, by Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flinn, published by Springer as part of the Springer Series on Cultural Computing book series (SSCC). 

We also have an article on Digitally reconstructing the Great Parchment Book: 3D recovery of fire-damaged historical documents published in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Volume 32, Issue 4, 1 December 2017, Pages 887–917.

Related to this, the Great Parchment Book blog recently announced:

an open access set of 326 XML documents containing encoded transcriptions of the individual folios of the Great Parchment Book is now available via UCL Discovery.