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Will Big Data kill the Census? Financial Times, 11 April 2018

Lucy JStagg16 April 2018

Dr Oliver Duke-Williams (UCLDH team member, and Senior Lecturer in Digital Information Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCL) has been giving his thoughts on proposed changes to how the Census is collected and the impacts of this on the resulting dataset. His comments were published in a Financial Times article entitled ‘Will Big Data kill the Census?’, published on 11 April 2018:

Oliver Duke-Williams, senior lecturer in digital information studies at UCL, who works on Census data, is concerned in particular about the longitudinal study, which has followed 1 per cent of the UK population in each Census since 1971. “The strength of it is that every 10 years you can add more data to it, so it’s a very rich dataset. If we switched to an administrative data methodology, you would not have that continuity anymore.”

Read the full Financial Times article

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

KathrynPiquette12 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!

The E17 Art Trail

Oliver WDuke-Williams9 June 2017

Two UCLDH related events are picked out in local press coverage as highlights of the E17 Art Trail, 3 – 18 June 2017:

‘Painting with Light’ (9th June) is being delivered by Martin Zaltz Austwick and me, together with friends from CASA and Geography. In this workshop we will produce a series of images floating in space using an experimental device known as a PixelStick, while discussing the history of St Michaels Church and parish. The PixelStick produces images that are visible yet indecipherable to the naked eye, but are revealed when viewed through long-exposure photographs.

‘Invisible Numbers’ (10th June) is a collective of several artists; part of it is about a locally born (and UCL alumnus) computing pioneer, for which I’m doing a talk on early British computing.

The Digital Music Lab: A Big Data Infrastructure for Digital Musicology

Lucy JStagg20 March 2017

A paper describing the infrastructure of the Digital Music Lab framework has been published in the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH). The paper is available to download from UCL Discovery. The project also got a write-up in Motherboard

Digital Music Lab is an AHRC project aiming to to develop research methods and software infrastructure for exploring and analysing large-scale music collections. The £560k project is being carried out collaboratively between City University London, Queen Mary University of London, University College London, and the British Library.

"Big data and the death of the theorist", article in Wired

SarahDavenport25 January 2013

UCLDH co-director Melissa Terras is quoted in an article on the effect big data is having on academic disciplines.

Read the whole article here: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-01/25/big-data-end-of-theory

Day of Archaeology 2012

AnneWelsh30 May 2012

Posted on behalf of Lorna Richardson.

Following on from the success of 2011, we are happy to announce that this year’s ‘Day of Archaeology’, the public archaeology mass blogging project, is scheduled for *June 29, 2012*. Last year’s event, supported by the Centre for Digital Humanities, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the Archaeology Data Service and L-P Archaeology saw over 400 archaeologists sign up, and almost 450 separate blog posts were created, including lots of photos, video, audio and more. The Day of Archaeology project has been shortlisted top 3 for the British Archaeological Award for the Best Representation of Archaeology in the Media. The award will be presented on the 9th July at the British Museum.

You can read more about the first Day of Archaeology from 2011 on the website. The general hope for the project is that by raising awareness about the truly diverse nature of archaeology, we will also in turn emphasize the vital role that archaeology plays in preserving our past for everyone’s future.

If you would like to find out more, or sign up to write about/film/photograph your archaeological day on the 29th (or as near the day as possible), please email us at dayofarchaeology@gmail.com

Digital Humanities on YouTube

SimonMahony21 May 2012

One of our PhD students, Greta Franzini, has put together this YouTube playlist of DH videos and made it available. I’ve been looking through and see there are some familiar names there!

This is a good way of collecting together resources – thanks Greta. Do we have any other examples?

QRator is Wired

Claire L HWarwick3 March 2011

Well actually it works on wireless. But we are feeling very chuffed indeed that UCLDH’s and CASA’s QRator project is featured in Wired UK today in a report on the opening of the new Grant Museum at UCL. There is also a beautiful photo gallery which includes a picture of the iPad itself in situ in photo 5. QRator will go live at the launch of the new Grant on 17th March and will allow visitors to join in a conversation about museum objects, by scanning QR codes attached to cases in the museum. These then link them to the CASA Tales of Things website where they can record their views. Or visitors can use an interactive label in the form of an iPad on which they can leave a comment and see those that others have left.

This changes fundamentally the way that we interact with museum objects. At the moment the only label we see in a museum is provided by curators. As a result of this world leading work visitors will now be able to see what curators say, but also join in a dialogue with them and with others about the object and the questions that they feel it raises. We’re very excited to be taking part in this work with CASA and UCL Museums, and can only say thank you again for the vision of Claire Ross, UCLDH PhD student, who had the idea in the first place.

Look out for a Digital Excursion to the Grant in May at which you’ll be able to hear all about QRator and play with all the lovely kit.

Web Comics: London Seminar #4

Claire L HWarwick6 January 2011

We are proud to announce that Ernesto Priego, one of our UCLDH PhD students who has just submitted his thesis will be giving a seminar on Comic Book Markup Language: Challenges and Opportunities on Thursday 13 January in room G32 of Senate House at 5.30. Ernesto is passionate about comics, their phenomenology, and their new existence on the web and mobile platforms and this promises to be a very enjoyable talk as a result. Do join us if you can.

Transcribe Bentham makes the New York Times

SarahDavenport27 December 2010

UCLDH’s very own Transcribe Bentham project gets written up in the New York Times:

Starting this fall, the editors have leveraged, if not the wisdom of the crowd, then at least its fingers, inviting anyone — yes, that means you — to help transcribe some of the 40,000 unpublished manuscripts from University College’s collection that have been scanned and put online. In the roughly four months since this Wikipedia-style experiment began, 350 registered users have produced 435 transcripts.

These transcripts, which are reviewed and corrected by editors, will eventually be used for printed editions of the collected works of Bentham, whose preserved corpse, clothed and seated, has greeted visitors to the college since 1850.

Other initiatives have recruited volunteers online, but the Bentham Project is one of the first to try crowd-sourced transcription and to open up a traditionally rarefied scholarly endeavor to the general public, generating both excitement and questions.

Read the full article.