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Managing library collections with friends, favours and a spoonful of sugar

By David Beavan, on 31 March 2017

Last week I had the great pleasure to host our most recent UCLDH Seminar. Our guest speaker was Claudia Mendias, Manager of the Library Digital Services team at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), who addressed a full room of DHers and Librarians from across London and beyond. Entitled ‘Managing library collections with friends, favours and a spoonful of sugar’, Claudia took us on an enlightening journey of the amazing digital content SOAS holds, and the library systems and research tools which support scholarship. From the advantages and responsibilities of open source platforms, to the systems and tools used to manage the growing digital resources within the collections, you too can enjoy the talk.


Many thanks to Claudia for agreeing to share her slides.

Oceanic Exchanges: Tracing Global Information Networks in Historical Newspaper Repositories

By Lucy J Stagg, on 31 March 2017

We’re delighted to announce UCLDH staff Ulrich Tiedau (PI) and Melissa Terras (Co-I) have just received confirmation their Oceanic Exchanges project is one of 14 award winners in Round Four of the T-AP Digging into Data Challenge:

Each of the fourteen winning teams is composed of researchers from multiple scholarly and scientific disciplines, working collaboratively to demonstrate how cutting-edge big data techniques can be used to investigate a wide range of research questions across the humanities and social sciences. Since its inception in 2009, the Digging into Data Challenge program has helped to spark exciting new research avenues for the humanities and social sciences utilizing computational techniques.

The Oceanic Exchanges project will look at patterns and connections in information flow in newspapers during the 19th century.

Museums and Virtual Reality: VR in the Grant Museum

By Lucy J Stagg, on 24 March 2017

Virtual reality and augmented reality are creating new avenues of exploration for museums, allowing their visitors greater interaction with their content and materials. Nicholas Klein, Timothy Lambden and Hector Leach-Clay from UCL Natural Sciences, and Alex Muller, a UCL alumnus, recently tested a virtual reality app in UCL’s Grant Museum:

The reaction to VR:Cell at the Grant Museum was overwhelmingly positive – once people saw it they wanted to try it. Queues formed quickly at the sight of the obvious delight expressed by other visitors using the headset, as people snatched at thin air trying to grab parts of the virtual cell with big grins on their faces. Even parents were itching to try it after seeing their children’s reactions and, to our entertainment, behaved similarly to their children once they finally got to have a go!

Read more on the UCL Museums and Collections blog

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

By Lucy J Stagg, on 20 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.

Digital Publishing workshop at the Shanghai Institute of Design

By Simon Mahony, on 24 January 2017

I was back in Shanghai again at the close of 2016 to follow up my earlier guest lecture at the Shanghai Institute of Design with a week long workshop. They have a Master’s level programme on Digital Publishing in the Department of Digital Publishing and Exhibition Design but with little Faculty expertise on the web or Internet. After discussion with the Institute’s President and the Programme Convenor we decided on the title, ‘Getting over the Great Wall’, where I would cover the history and development of the Internet, cultural influences on design, publishing online, accessibility and usability design, and information design (it is the Institute of Design). This would be finished off with student presentations of their projects: to design a digital product (for the web or mobile device) that in some way brought together aspects of cultural difference. The cultural differences could be within China itself as none of the students had traveled outside China. The first task was to ban Flash and Dreamweaver and explain why this was the case!

This workshop, of course, also afforded the opportunity to showcase UCL.

Introducing UCL at the start of the workshop

Introducing UCL at the start of the workshop with greetings on the chalk board.

Interestingly, I’m the only one not wearing a coat here and that only happened on the first day. Not only is there no internet connection or wifi in the teaching rooms (something we take for granted) but there is no heating either – only fans (look carefully at the photos below) to keep cool in the summer; apparently south of the Yellow River building regulations permit buildings with no heating.

Students in the teaching room

Students in the teaching room – note the coats, hats and scarves.

A workstation and projector is set up in each room but my outstanding TA had to improvise as the remote control was missing (sounds familiar!). Much of my teaching material had been kindly translated by current UCLDH students but I still needed an interpreter/translator. Everything was presented in English and Chinese as they are all learning English too.

Analogue remote control in the hands of my TA

Analogue remote control in the hands of my outstanding TA & translator (Qiongpei Kong – UCL IoA alumna)

They felt sorry for me when the temperature dropped further and moved my class to the executive lecture room which has heating. The heater, however, only pointed at the lecture station and it was not possible to move it to warm the students who still needed their coats and scarves. Interestingly, no one sat in the front row (clearly a Chinese tradition too).

The executive lecture room

The executive lecture room – with heating but only for the lecturer.

As well as lectures, we had a series of group tutorials where we discussed the student projects while wearing many layers of clothing. As a Design Institute, they have very talented artists among the students. The images shown here were ideas for new style masks for the Peking Opera to encourage a younger audience. Interesting and considering how central it is to Chinese culture, only two projects featured food; others were concerned with opera, architecture, local dialects and one with traditional Chinese designs being used on sneakers.

Student tutorials

Student tutorials – here featuring a new design for Opera masks.

On the final day of the workshop, the students presented their work. Without exception, it was all visually stunning (it is the foremost Institute of Design with high academic standards) and very impressive as they only had a short time to decide on and design their projects. Overall, what they managed with only a couple of days for preparation was really outstanding.

Giving feedback at the presentations

Giving feedback at the presentations

By the end of the week, the students were relaxed and comfortable, no longer shy. Those that spoke some English took pride in talking to me and forgave my extremely limited Mandarin.

I wrapped things up with a roundup and general remarks on their work as well as some thoughts on the value of education, cultural exchange and what we can learn from each other.

Wrapping up the presentations

Wrapping up the presentations with my translator close at hand.

 

We had to schedule another half-hour at the end of the workshop for the mandatory photo session which starts with several group ones and finishes with individual and group ‘selfies’! These get shared across the Chinese social media platforms, particularly WeChat which is ubiquitous there.

Group photo

Group photo as the finale of the workshop

I need to add a few words about what I gained from this experience. Once again I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Institute and particularly of the President, Professor Wu, who had invited me and who insisted on cooking (superbly and with great pride) almost every evening of my stay. But it goes further, I needed to research the history and legislation of the Internet in China, how it operates under the government’s control, legislation about Copyright and Intellectual Property and how these fit it in with the wider world. This was all new to me and will be fed into my own teaching about cultural and global differences. Above all, I learned more from the students about their culture, about their hopes and aspirations, about our similarities as well as our differences. The students were attentive and enthusiastic and I very much look forward to future visits.

New Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) training course

By Lucy J Stagg, on 29 November 2016

We are rolling out our new Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) training course!

Courses will take place at UCL in our Multi-Modal Digital Imaging Suite. Each course, led by Dr. Kathryn Piquette, includes a combination of lectures, demonstration, and practical hands-on sessions:

  • Learn how to apply highlight Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)
  • Gain experience in applying RTI to portable objects and larger fixed surfaces of various material types
  • Become proficient in capture, processing and manipulation of RTI datasets for diverse applications
  • Gain familiarity with related computational photography and processing techniques for augmenting and re-using RTI data
  • Apply what you learn in small teams of 2-3 people for hands-on work

There is more information available, including pricing and how to register.

UCLDH Advanced Imaging Consultants

By Melissa M Terras, on 21 July 2016

UCL Centre for Digital Humanities are pleased to announce that we now have capacity to offer Reflectance Transformation Imaging and Spectral Imaging services from our Multi-Modal Digitisation Suite research facility based in central London.

Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), also known as Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM), is a high-resolution, non-invasive and non-destructive imaging technique for documenting fine surface details. Unlike conventional photographs, images created using the RTI capture method can be virtually relit. The direction of the light source can be moved around in real time to give 3D appearance to surface shapes for systematic inspection of fine surface details.

Spectral Imaging is a high-resolution, non-invasive and non-destructive form of computational photography that can disclose features of the object that are invisible to the naked eye in natural light, and can enhance faded writings, reveal palimpsest and under-drawings, as well as aiding in pigments, binders and other materials identification. Spectral imaging helps clarify and support research, scholarly and other goals. The UCL state-of-the-technology spectral imaging system can be applied to documents and manuscripts, polychrome artworks, and a range of archaeological and heritage objects.

The kinds of material we can handle and are suitable for specialist imaging include:
• Documents, manuscripts, maps
• Artworks and other painted objects
• Coins, medals, jewellery
• Other objects bearing fine details such as seals and impressed sealings, cuneiform tablets, as well as inscriptions, carvings, bas-reliefs
• Forensic evidence or any object/surface requiring detailed examination.

For further information, please see our UCLDH Advanced Imaging Consultants page or contact advancedimaging@ucl.ac.uk.

Digital Classicist London seminar series

By Simon Mahony, on 17 May 2016

digiclas

The Digital Classicist London seminar series

Institute of Classical Studies

Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Fridays at 16:30 in room 234

 

  • Jun 3: Gregory Crane (Leipzig & Tufts), ‘Philological Education and Citizenship in the 21st Century’
  • Jun 10: Matteo Romanello (Lausanne & DAI), ‘Of People, Places and References: Extracting information from Classics publications’
  • Jun 17: Eleanor Robson (University College London), ‘From the ground to the cloud: digital edition of freshly excavated cuneiform tablets on Oracc’
  • Jun 24: Stuart Dunn (King’s College London), ‘Reading text with GIS: Different digital lenses for Ancient World Geography’
  • Jul 1: Valeria Vitale (King’s College London), ‘The use and abuse of 3D visualisation in the study of the Ancient World’
  • Jul 8: Chiara Palladino (Leipzig & Bari), ‘Annotating geospatial patterns in ancient texts: problems and strategies’
  • Jul 15: Daniel Pett (British Museum) & George Oates (Museum in a Box), ‘3D in Museums, Museums in 3D’
  • Jul 22: Stelios Chronopoulos (Freiburg), ‘New Life into Old Courses? Using Digital Tools in Reading and Prose Composition Classes’
  • Jul 29: Silke Vanbeselaere (KU Leuven), ‘Exploring ancient sources with data visualisation’

Each seminar will offer an overview of the subject suitable for postgraduate students or interested colleagues in Archaeology, Classics, Digital Humanities and related fields, along with suggested reading, practical exercise and discussion topics. No advance preparation is required, but you will get the most out of these seminars if you check out the short bibliographies suggested on the programme website.

ALL WELCOME

A visit to the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design

By Simon Mahony, on 21 April 2016

As part of my recent visit to Shanghai, I was honoured to be the guest of the President of the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design. The China Academy of Art (CAA) is the premier Art Academy in China and the Shanghai campus is the foremost Design Institute. Aparently the CAA is also the first art university and first graduate school in China.

Shanghai Institute of Design, China Academy of Art

Shanghai Institute of Design, China Academy of Art

During my stay I met with academics, discussed cultural differences in teaching and learning, assisted in an English language teaching session and met students showcasing their impressive work on UI design and App design in the Department of Digital Publishing and Exhibition Design.

Students at the Institute of Design

Students at the Institute of Design

I was also able to highlight some UCLDH research and students’ work in my guest lecture: ‘Designing a Digital Publishing Product’.

Guest lecture at the Institute of Design

Guest lecture at the Institute of Design

What was most impressive was the lecture poster; I was expecting A4 but, after all, this is indeed China’s premier design institute. The image was a quick draw caricture of me and the President by one of his students.

Poster: Shanghai Institute of Design

Poster: Shanghai Institute of Design

The Shanghai Zhangjiang Campus is a small one and the main parts of the university are situated at two locations in nearby Hangzhou, both with very distinctive and award winning architecture. The original campus at Nanshan overlooks the famous West Lake and the Xiangshan Central Campus (the largest site) on the outskirts of Hangzhou has become a tourist attraction in its own right and features the Crafts (Folk Art) Museum (which was unfortunately closed on the day I visited but that provides a good excuse for a follow up visit and next time to stay on that campus).

China Academy of Art, Hangzou

China Academy of Art, Hangzou

 

Technology meets Scholarship

By Chris J Dillon, on 28 January 2016

Hessian State Archives, Marburg

Hessian State Archives, Marburg

Between 19-21 January I attended Technology meets Scholarship, or how Handwritten Text Recognition will Revolutionize Access to Archival Collections in Marburg, Germany.

During the first day of the conference, the outside temperature was -10. It was, however, a really warm group of people.

Some of the sessions I found most interesting were on the Stasi archives. There were brief sessions in English, but fortunately my listening skills were just up to understanding the longer sessions in German. They were measuring Stasi files in units of the Berlin Television Tower, e.g., they had 3 television towers of documents on …

Recordings of most sessions will be available online: http://coop-project.eu/event/first-international-coop-convention/?instance_id=3167

I was surprised to find people who knew Bernhard Eversberg, the developer of the “allegro” database, who retired recently. The software was used in the UK from 1995 until recently for importing Chinese and Japanese catalogues and adding local holdings. Some of the software has been made open source: www.allegro-c.de/allegro-2016.pdf (German)