Digital Excursion: Growing Knowledge at the British Library

By Claire S Ross, on 26 October 2010

Last night saw UCLDH’s first digital excursion of the new term.  We had an afterhours look at the “Growing Knowledge: The evolution of research” exhibition at the British Library.

The exhibition aims to demonstrate the vision for future digital research services at the British Library.  Digital research tools are changing the possibilities of research, extending the boundaries and providing new dynamic ways of interacting with information, yet this poses some challenging questions: How will increasing and complex amounts of data be managed and visualised in the future?  What does this mean for libraries– formerly the ‘gatekeepers’ of research information? Critically, are researchers taking full advantage of the technologies now available for research purposes?  These are important research questions which are the basis of our work at UCLDH.

We had a guided tour of some of the features, and then were able to play with research stations and try out innovative and cutting edge tools and technologies designed to enhance research.

Some highlights included:

  • The Sony RayModeler a 360 autostereoscopic display showing a selection of uses gesture controls, and the display is motion sensitive, so just by holding your hand near the device or by moving around the exhibit, you can control the movement of the image, spinning it left or right to get a better look.
  • A Microsoft Surface Table containing a digital version of the world’s longest painting, the 19th century Garibaldi Panorama.  4½ feet (1.4 metres) high, painted on both sides and 273 feet (83 metres) long, as you can imagine the painting poses huge challenges for viewing and research in its physical form. Using the virtual version, researchers are able to gather around the surface table, scroll the entire panorama and expand, extract and zoom in on detail.
  • The Tweet-O-Meter, designed by our colleagues over at CASA.  The Tweet-O-Meter displays real-time tweeting levels in 9 major cities of the world. It measures the amount of tweets from various locations across the world, updating them every second to give a real time view of Tweets per Minute for each location.
  • An animated video wall with interviews with leading experts in the field of digital research.

A major component of the Growing Knowledge exhibition will be evaluating the tools and services on display. Our colleague Pete, part of the Ciber Research Group, will be asking visitors to leave their feedback either at the exhibition or online to voice their views and indicate their interest in future discussions. The Library will also hold discussion groups to explore some of the issues in more depth, for example: How do physical spaces support digital research? Do any of the tools the Library is showcasing help with some of the research problems they encounter? If you would like to be involved in this let us know!