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Archive for the 'News' Category

Changes to UCLDH Management Team

Lucy JStagg5 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

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!

Finnish Visitation, 4 October 2017

Lucy JStagg30 October 2017

UCLDH Academy of Finland Banner

UCLDH Academy of Finland Banner

On 4th October 2017 UCLDH were delighted to meet with over 15 delegates from the Academy of Finland’s DIGIHUM programme, with the aim of sharing the latest British and Finnish research in digital humanities, and strengthening collaborations between the two. DIGIHUM is a multidisciplinary four-year programme, described on their website as:

designed to address novel methods and techniques in which digital technology and state-of-the-art computational science methods are used for collecting, managing and analysing data in humanities and social sciences research as well as for modelling humanities and social science phenomena.

UCLDH presented on three projects:

DIGIHUM delegates gave presentations on the following projects:

Various shared areas of investigation came out of the meeting, including manuscript studies, text and analysis tools, big data and high performance computing, OCR challenges and the social aspects of digital humanities.

Prof. Tim Weyrich, UCLDH Deputy Director, speaking to the DIGIHUM delegates.

Prof. Tim Weyrich, UCLDH Deputy Director, speaking to the DIGIHUM delegates.

Prof. Melissa Terras leaves UCL

Lucy JStagg11 September 2017

Our wonderful Director, Prof. Melissa Terras, is leaving UCL in October 2017 to take up a new position as Chair of Digital Cultural Heritage at the new Edinburgh Futures InstituteUniversity of Edinburgh.


Professor Melissa Terras

Melissa joined UCL in 2003; she was Deputy Director at UCLDH’s founding in 2010, and has been Director since May 2013. In that time UCLDH has become one of the most visible and leading centres in its field in the UK, according to the Times Higher and the National Library of France. [1] [2]

In her time at UCLDH she’s been part of many projects (including QRatorTranscribe BenthamThe Great Parchment Book and Textal), served as General Editor for Digital Humanities Quarterly, published a ton of stuff and served as Secretary for the European Association for Digital Humanities until 2013. She gave her inaugural lecture, ‘A Decade in Digital Humanities’ in May 2014.

Her passion for research, towards the work that we do in the department, and in academia overall, is contagious. If I were to sum Melissa up in four words, it would be something like this: Profound. Dedicated. Empowering. Dynamic. I couldn’t have asked for a better supervisor.” Kinda Dahlan, PhD. student

For me, Mel is the embodiment of Digital Humanities: a vibrant mix of creativity and technical expertise. It has been hugely refreshing to have a strong, loud and proud female academic role model.  UCLDH, and UCL, will not be the same without her.” Dr Claire Bailey-Ross, former supervisee

Melissa’s deep understanding of Digital Humanities, being a pioneer of this field herself, and her invaluable insight greatly benefitted, not only my PhD. studies, but also myself as an academic and a professional” Foteini Valeonti, Founder of USEUM and supervisee

Anyone who knows Melissa and would like to attend her leaving event on 10th October please email lucy.stagg@ucl.ac.uk and we will send the details on to you.

[1] “leading departments at University College London” (Times Higher Education: 2015)
[2] “Les plus visibles appartiennent au monde anglo-saxon : à Londres avec UCL” (Bulletin des Bibliotheques de France: 2012)

Learning disabilities and technology

Lucy JStagg14 July 2017

UCLDH are delighted to announce one of our team members, Pete Williams, has won a grant from Brazilian funding body CONFAP – FAPIMEG (Conselho Nacional Das Fundações De Amparo À Pesquisa – Fundações De Amparo À Pesquisa Do Estado De Minas Gerais) to work in Brazil for a month to continue his British Academy Fellowship research on learning disabilities and technology and to give a small number of talks on his past work.

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.

Translation and Transliteration of Contact Information initial report open to public comment

Chris JDillon17 December 2014

For the last year I’ve been co-chairing an ICANN working group on Translation and Transliteration of Contact Information,
an issue which will arise once the current ASCII-based Whois directory of domain name contacts is replaced by a system
allowing domain name holders to input data in their own languages and scripts.

Yesterday was the big day, as the WG’s initial report was opened to
public comment and will stay open till February 1.

New Project – MiCLUES

Nicolas EGold10 March 2014

We recently started a project called MiCLUES to develop dynamic smartphone-based visitor guidance algorithms and software for the Royal College of Music Museum of Instruments.  The aim is to enable visitors to make better use of the combined physical and digital collections and to chart both curated and personalised paths through the museum.

The project is a collaboration between the RCM and UCL and is funded by Share Academy.  Share Academy is an Arts Council England funded programme that aims to develop and foster relationships between London specialist museums and academics at UCL and the University of the Arts London.  It has funded 15 projects to help establish best practice and produce guidance for the museum and Higher Education sectors. For more information visit the London Museums Group website: www.londonmuseumsgroup.org

Sounds Like DNA – a new web installation for generative music at UCL

Nicolas EGold10 March 2014

As part of our ongoing research and teaching in computer music here at UCL, we’ve been working with a London theatre company, Penny Dreadful Productions.  They have a new show currently touring called How to Be Immortal which presents three true-life stories about love, death and DNA and explores these through music and drama.  It has been developed with input from UCL scientists.  To give an interactive element to accompany the show, we have collaboratively developed an exciting web installation entitled Sounds Like DNA, where you can generate your own music that interprets DNA codes connected with various characteristics set by sliders.  You can reach the installation here: bit.ly/DNAsound


Dawn of a new era as New gTLDs delegated

Chris JDillon4 December 2013

img: Eva Perón amid jacaranda trees

Eva Perón amid jacaranda trees

I atttended the recent ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires. It was upbeat as the first New gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains), e.g. .游戏, .онлайн, .みんな and .today have been delegated.
The New gTLDs Program is widely regarded as a success and many are predicting that the new addresses will increasingly displace the old .com addresses.

Further information: ICANN
UCL A&H’s role in all this: UCL press release

At the airport on the way home, it turned out that my passport was somehow unsullied by an entry stamp and so I was lucky to be able to persuade Immigration I wasn’t an illegal in time for the flight.