X Close

UCL Centre for Digital Humanities

Home

Menu

Digital Classicist, London Summer seminar series 2018 programme

By Simon Mahony, on 4 May 2018

The Digital Classicist London 2018 seminar programme is now confirmed and published online. The seminar series this year addresses the tension between standardisation and customisation in digital and other innovative and collaborative classics research. The topic encompasses all areas of classics, including ancient history, archaeology and reception (including cultures beyond the Mediterranean). Seminars will be pitched at a level suitable for postgraduate students or interested colleagues in Archaeology, Classics, Digital Humanities and related fields.

Institute of Classical Studies

Fridays at 16:30 in room 234*, Senate House south block, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
(*except June 1 & 15, room G21A)

ALL WELCOME

Seminars will be screencast on the Digital Classicist London YouTube channel, for the benefit of those who are not able to make it in person.

Discuss the seminars on Twitter at #DigiClass.

Jun 1 Zena Kamash (Royal Holloway) Embracing customization in post-conflict reconstruction (abstract) (G21A)
Jun 8 Thibault Clérice (Sorbonne) et al. CapiTainS: challenges for the generalization and adoption of open source software (abstract)
*Jun 15 Rune Rattenborg (Durham) Further and Further Into the Woods: Lessons from the Crossroads of Cuneiform Studies, Landscape Archaeology, and Spatial Humanities Research (abstract) (G21A)
Jun 22 Joanna Ashe, Gabriel Bodard, Simona Stoyanova (ICS) Annotating the Wood Notebooks workshop (abstract)
Jun 29 Monica Berti, Franziska Naether (Leipzig) & Eleni Bozia (Florida) The Digital Rosetta Stone Project (abstract)
Jul 6 Emma Bridges (ICS) and Claire Millington (KCL) The Women in Classics Wikipedia Group (abstract)
Jul 13 Elizabeth Lewis (UCL), Katherine Shields (UCL) et al. Presentation and discussion of Sunoikisis Digital Classics student projects
Jul 20 Anshuman Pandey (Michigan) Tensions of Standardization and Variation in the Encoding of Ancient Scripts in Unicode (abstract)
Jul 27 Patrick J. Burns (NYU) Backoff Lemmatization for Ancient Greek with the Classical Language Toolkit (abstract)

UCLDH hosted BL Labs roadshow, April 2018

By Lucy J Stagg, on 1 May 2018

UCLDH were pleased to host the British Library Labs team on 24th April for their 2018 roadshow. This is the third time UCLDH have hosted the BL Labs, and the success and popularity of the now annual event continues to grow, with over 70 people registered this year.

This year’s event included a series of presentations exploring the British Library’s digital collections, how they have been used in various subject areas such as the Humanities, Computer Science and Social Sciences and the lessons learned by working with researchers, including UCLDH team member Tessa Hauswedell who spoke about her project the “Oceanic Exchanges” Project:Tracing Global Information Networks In Historical Newspaper Repositories, 1840-1914. 

The Roadshow showcased examples of the British Library’s digital content and data, addressed some of the challenges and issues of working with it, and how interesting and exciting projects have been developed via the annual British Library Labs Competition and Awards.

There was some good discussion around potential ideas of working with the Library’s data, and the UCLDH team look forward to hopefully seeing some of these projects come to fruition over the next few years!

‘Politeness at Work in the Clinton Email Corpus’, article published in Corpus Pragmatics

By Lucy J Stagg, on 30 April 2018

Congratulations to UCLDH team member Dr Rachele De Felice who has had an article published in the journal Corpus Pragmatics, regarding her recent research with the Clinton Email Corpus.

The article’s full title is ‘Politeness at Work in the Clinton Email Corpus: A First Look at the Effects of Status and Gender’ and the abstract reads as follows:

This article introduces the Clinton Email Corpus, comprising 33,000 recently released email messages sent to and from Hillary Clinton during her tenure as United States Secretary of State, and presents the results of a first investigation into the effect of status and gender on politeness-related linguistic choices within the corpus, based on a sample of 500 emails. We describe the composition of the corpus and mention the technical challenges inherent in its creation, and then present the 500-email subset, in which all messages are categorized according to sender and recipient gender, position in the workplace hierarchy, and personal closeness to Clinton. The analysis looks at the most frequent bigrams in each of these subsets as a starting point for the identification of linguistic differences. We find that the main differences relate to the content and function of the messages rather than their
tone. Individuals lower in the hierarchy but not in Clinton’s inner circle are more often engaged in practical tasks, while members of the inner circle primarily discuss issues and use email to arrange in-person conversations. Clinton herself is generally found to engage neither in extensive politeness nor in overt displays of power. These findings present further evidence of how corpus linguistics can be used to advance our understanding of workplace pragmatics.

You can download and read the full article on Springer

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

By Lucy J Stagg, on 16 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

Multimodal imaging of papyrus article in Heritage Science journal

By Lucy J Stagg, on 23 March 2018

The team behind the UCLDH Research Project Deep Imaging Egyptian Mummy Cases is pleased to have an article published in the Springer Heritage Science Journal 2018 6:7.

The article is ‘An assessment of multimodal imaging of subsurface text in mummy cartonnage using surrogate papyrus phantoms’ and the abstract reads as follows:

Ancient Egyptian mummies were often covered with an outer casing, panels and masks made from cartonnage: a lightweight material made from linen, plaster, and recycled papyrus held together with adhesive. Egyptologists, papyrologists, and historians aim to recover and read extant text on the papyrus contained within cartonnage layers, but some methods, such as dissolving mummy casings, are destructive. The use of an advanced range of different imaging modalities was investigated to test the feasibility of non-destructive approaches applied to multi-layered papyrus found in ancient Egyptian mummy cartonnage. Eight different techniques were compared by imaging four synthetic phantoms designed to provide robust, well-understood, yet relevant sample standards using modern papyrus and replica inks. The techniques include optical (multispectral imaging with reflection and transillumination, and optical coherence tomography), X-ray (X-ray fluorescence imaging, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray micro computed tomography and phase contrast X-ray) and terahertz-based approaches. Optical imaging techniques were able to detect inks on all four phantoms, but were unable to significantly penetrate papyrus. X-ray-based techniques were sensitive to iron-based inks with excellent penetration but were not able to detect carbon-based inks. However, using terahertz imaging, it was possible to detect carbon-based inks with good penetration but with less sensitivity to iron-based inks. The phantoms allowed reliable and repeatable tests to be made at multiple sites on three continents. The tests demonstrated that each imaging modality needs to be optimised for this particular application: it is, in general, not sufficient to repurpose an existing device without modification. Furthermore, it is likely that no single imaging technique will to be able to robustly detect and enable the reading of text within ancient Egyptian mummy cartonnage. However, by carefully selecting, optimising and combining techniques, text contained within these fragile and rare artefacts may eventually be open to non-destructive imaging, identification, and interpretation.

You can download and read the full article on Springer Open.

Networking event for the Enlightenment Architectures project

By Julianne Nyhan, on 20 February 2018

UCLDH was happy to sponsor a networking reception at the British Museum on Thursday 15 March 2018. The event was organised in conjunction with 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 Musuem and myself, 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!

The second day of the workshop comprised four keynote presentations. Speakers were again drawn from a number of disciplines including the History of Science, Digital Humanities, Data Analytics and Library and Information Science. Keynotes were given by: Sachiko Kusukawa (University of Cambridge / Royal Society); Michael Sperberg McQueen (Black Mesa Technologies);  Paul Caton and Samantha Callaghan (Georgian Papers online, Kings Digital Laboratory KCL); and Stefanie Ruehle (SUB Goettingen). The workshop closed with a strategy and funding foresight seminar led by Martha Fleming, Senior Research Assistant to the Enlightenment Architectures project.

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.