X Close




Welcome Adam Crymble

By Simon Mahony, on 29 May 2020

We are delighted to announce that Dr Adam Crymble will be joining us in July 2020. Adam will be the new Lecturer in Digital Humanities, and part of our programme team, here in the Department of Information Studies.

Dr Adam Crymble

Dr Adam Crymble

Adam has a background as a digital historian and digital humanist and will make a great addition to our team.

Welcome to UCL, to DIS, and to UCLDH.

Report on Symposium on Data Science and Digital Cultural Heritage

By Julianne Nyhan, on 6 March 2020

UCLDH deputy director Julianne Nyhan and UCLDH team member Tessa Hauswedell organised a workshop on the 26th/27th June 2019 on the topic of Data Science and Digital Cultural Heritage with generous funding from the UCL Grand Challenges Dynamics of Globalisation Initiative, the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies (CCHS) and UCLDH.  The workshop was entitled: “Data Science and Digital Cultural Heritage Workshop:  facilitating new connections between the disciplines and professions that can transform the Global Data Context”. It sought to facilitate new connections between academic disciplines and professions in order to develop a critical dialogue about the social and political implications of using the massive digital cultural heritage datasets that we increasingly rely on.

Nanna Bonde Thylstrup from the Copenhagen Business School opened the workshop with her public keynote address, entitled “Feminist Digital Humanities and the Infrapolitics of Mass Digitization”. Dr Thylstrup discussed how digital infrastructures are not neutral, inanimate objects in themselves: rather they operate as sites of power, privilege, and erasure but potentially also of contestation and critical intervention.

Dr Nanna Bonde Thylstrup is pictured delivering her lecture

Dr Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, author of The Politics of Mass Digitization (MIT 2019) delivers her keynote lecture.

The ensuing workshop assembled a group of curators, archivists, information professionals from the public and private sector, together with humanities and computer science researchers, to push forward the state of the art of ‘critical data science’ in a way that foregrounds questions of culture, power and knowledge. It also sought to lay the foundations for an ongoing dialogue about this across the respective disciplines and professions.  In the first of three panels, the workshop discussed recent or ongoing projects which are working with digital cultural heritage datasets such as the Scottish National Heritage Partnership, Living with Machines  and the Ancient Identities project, to establish how they approach issues of bias and prejudice in the datasets they are working with and how they actively seek to mitigate these biases.

The second panel was dedicated to the question of data science and cultural heritage training: to what extent do critical perspectives feature in training and which skillsets does the next generation of archivists, humanists and curators and information professionals need to have in order to build, curate and maintain the future datasets?   How do archivists and digital content providers need to rethink their archival practices in the digital age and what kind of formal training should be available to humanities researchers who want to work with big data repositories?

Dr Eirini Goudarouli, Head of Digital Research Programmes, The National Archives, delivers her intervention.

The final panel addressed the most pressing challenges in the field of data science and cultural heritage and debated what type of research development is needed in the medium to long term. Panellists addressed the lack of critical perspectives in developing fields such as AI, the lack of control over data and the lack of an ethical framework of how we store and keep data as persistent and ongoing challenges. Moreover, the privileging of infrastructure innovation and disruption creates a field in which questions of infrastructure maintenance, which are absolutely essential to the accessibility and retrievability of data, remains undervalued. The constant threat of technological obsolescence, therefore, will continue to create problems, which the field of critical data science is only slowly beginning to grapple with.

This workshop has aimed to mark the beginning of a multidisciplinary and trans-professional dialogue on the future of data science and digital cultural heritage. The aim was to identify the unique expertise that each profession can bring to the building of a ‘critical data science’ and UCLDH will continue to contribute to the development of this field through its research activities and future networking events.

Further to this, both Julianne Nyhan and Andreas Vlachidis, among other UCLDH colleagues, participate in the Turing Institute’s Humanities and Data Science group. Nyhan and Vlachidis and are contributing to a multi-autored report on the future of the Humanities and Data Science that will be out soon. An update about this will follow in due course.

Logo Institute of Archaeology; Institute of Advanced StudiesLogo UCL Grand Challenges


CFP: Open Digital Scholarship in the Humanities #OpenHUMS

By Lucy Stagg, on 6 March 2020

4 May 2020, UCL Institute for Advanced Studies.

Proposals due: March 27th 2020

Humanists are increasingly looking to open, digital methods as an integral part of their scholarship’s dissemination and engagement. Rooted in digital humanities, open source software, the OA movement, new media, book history, and many other areas, open digital scholarship is celebrated for its potential to strengthen academic and academic-aligned collaboration among many communities, both within and beyond those that are a part of the conventional university system and traditional publication methods. As Martin Paul Eve writes: “Indeed, if [humanities] disciplines are historically situated within the tradition of liberal humanism, in which the humanities help to create an informed and critical populace, then should not the amplification of scholarship go beyond those circles? Could such a broader base […] help to cement the public reputation of the academic humanities?” (Open Access and the Humanities [2014]). Kathleen Fitzpatrick echoes: “If we hope to engage the public with our work, we need to ensure that it is open in the broadest possible sense” (Generous Thinking [2019]). These sentiments are given life via practices such as crowdsourcing, which, as Mia Ridge notes, act “as a form of engagement with the collections and research of memory institutions” and “[benefit]  both audiences and institutions” (Crowdsourcing Our Cultural Heritage [2014]).

Open Digital Scholarship in the Humanities draws together those who are involved in the creation, dissemination, management, and archiving of open digital scholarship. We are pleased to announce that Martin Paul Eve (Birkbeck College, University of London) and Mia Ridge (British Library) are featured speakers for the event, and that Claire Warwick (Durham University) will act as respondent. This action-oriented event is geared toward leaders and learners from all fields and arenas, including academic and non-academic researchers, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, librarians and archivists, publishers, members of scholarly and professional associations and consortia, open source practitioners and developers, industry liaisons, community groups, and other stakeholders.

We invite proposals for short presentations, talks, and relevant project demonstrations to the end of raising awareness, provoking conversation, and mobilising collaboration in and around open digital scholarship. Proposals should contain a title, an abstract (of approximately 250 words, plus list of works cited), and the names and affiliations, of presenters. Please send proposals on or before March 27th 2020 via http://bit.ly/OpenHUMS

Broader areas to consider may include the following: How can open digital scholarship in the humanities be transformative and world-leading? Should it be? Building out from this question, specific areas of focus for Open Digital Scholarship in the Humanities include community building, collaboration, and mobilization, as well as shared initiatives, activities, and partnership in regard to digital scholarly production, social knowledge creation, (open) access, and knowledge dissemination. This event asks,“What are the best examples of current open digital scholarship projects and practices in the United Kingdom, and beyond? How do we connect with various publics over open, digital scholarship? How do we build productive feedback loops?” There will be a thematic emphasis on modes and methods, including in academic publ ishing practices, infrastructure, and research data management. Moreover, we encourage discussion on how open digital scholarship differs field-to-field and across community and geographic boundaries, as well as how it can be leveraged internationally and where the stumbling blocks are for doing so.

Open Digital Scholarship in the Humanities is supported by Loughborough University and the Leverhulme Trust, the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, the University of London School of Advanced Study, and the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Partnership. This gathering is related to previous partnered events with the INKE Partnership in Canada and the Canadian-Australian Partnership for Open Scholarship (CAPOS) in Australia. Open Digital Scholarship in the Humanities is organized by Ray Siemens (University of Victoria), Alyssa Arbuckle (University of Victoria), Lise Jaillant (Loughborough University), Simon Mahony (University College London), and Jane Winters (School of Advanced Study).

Please consider joining us in London for what is sure to be a dynamic discussion!

Centre for Editing Lives and Letters wins RSA’s Digital Innovation Award

By Lucy Stagg, on 14 February 2020

The Renaissance Society of America’s Digital Innovation Award recognises excellence in digital projects that support the study of the Renaissance. This year the award is split between The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe (AOR) and A Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama (EMED).

The early modern bookwheel, from Le diverse et artificiose machine del capitano Agostino Ramelli (1588)

The early modern bookwheel, from Le diverse et artificiose machine del capitano Agostino Ramelli (1588)

The Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries and the Princeton University Library, were awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe.

The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe (AOR) uses digital technologies to enable the systematic exploration of the historical reading practices of Renaissance scholars nearly 450 years ago. This is possible through AOR’s corpus of thirty-six fully digitized and searchable versions of early printed books filled with tens of thousands of handwritten notes, left by two of the most dedicated readers of the early modern period: John Dee and Gabriel Harvey.

Congratulations to the whole project team for this well-earned award!

The Atlas of Digitised Newspapers and Metadata: Reports from Oceanic Exchanges.

By Julianne Nyhan, on 7 February 2020

Beals, M. H. and Emily Bell, with contributions by Ryan Cordell, Paul Fyfe, Isabel Galina Russell, Tessa Hauswedell, Clemens Neudecker, Julianne Nyhan, Mila Oiva, Sebastian Padó, Miriam Peña Pimentel, Lara Rose, Hannu Salmi, Melissa Terras, and Lorella Viola. The Atlas of Digitised Newspapers and Metadata: Reports from Oceanic Exchanges. Loughborough: 2020. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.11560059

The Oceanic Exchanges team has just published a substantial open access resource that will advance the state of the art of the cross-collection text analysis of selected North-Atlantic and Anglophone-Pacific retrodigitised nineteenth-century newspapers. We also hope that the approach set out in the report will be taken up by other researchers who wish to engage in foundational research on approaches to cross-collection computational analysis. As the project notes:

the rise of digitisation promises great opportunities for those who wish to engage with newspaper archives, but as with all historical archives, digital collections require researchers to be mindful of their shape, provenance and structure before any conclusion can be drawn. It is the responsibility of both digitiser and researcher to understand both the map and the terrain (see here).

The numerous newspaper digitisation projects that have been undertaken in recent years have resulted in the remediation of many millions of pages of nineteenth-century newspapers. Yet, those researchers who wish to pursue questions about global history, for example, have often found it difficult to carry out data-driven research across those digitised collections. As our report discusses, there are many reasons for this, including how digitisation projects are often undertaken in national settings but newspapers often participate in global conversations;  standards that can overarch and integrate numerous, disparate digital newspaper collections have not been implemented; the shape and scope of digitised newspaper collections is informed by a multiplicity of situated contexts which can be difficult for those who are external to digitisation projects to establish; also, though digital newspapers are often encoded in line with METS/ALTO, for example, notable variations exist in how those metadata specifications are applied to digital newspaper collections exist.

To respond to this, and to further research that takes place across digital newspaper collections, this 200 page report brings together qualitative data, metadata and paradata about selected digitised newspaper databases. It provides crucial historical and contextual information about the circumstances under which those collections came into being. It provides a textual ontology that describes the relationships between the informational units of which the respective databases are comprised, between the data and metadata of the different collections and on the interrelationships between analogue newspapers and their retrodigitised representations. Also included are maps which support the visual inspection and comparison of data across disparate newspaper collections alone with JSON or xpath paths to the data.

This report has come about in the context of the Oceanic Exchanges (2017-19) project  (of which UCLDHers Julianne Nyhan was UK PI and Tessa Hauswedell was UCL Research Associate). The project was funded through the Transatlantic Partnership for Social Sciences and Humanities 2016 Digging into Data Challenge, and brought together leading efforts in computational periodicals research from six countries—Finland, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States—to examine patterns of information flow across national and linguistic boundaries.

The project is also immensely grateful to the many groups and organisations involved in the digitisation of historical newspapers who agreed to be interviewed and consulted during the process of researching the report. You can find the report, metadata maps and other resources here: https://www.digitisednewspapers.net/



Digital Humanities and Education at Guangdong

By Simon Mahony, on 4 January 2020

It was my very great pleasure to be invited to speak at a conference at the School of Information Management at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

Mandatory conference group photo at the School of Information Management, Sun Yat-sen

Mandatory conference group photo at the School of Information Management, Sun Yat-sen

Being in Guangdong it was an opportunity to escape from the cold of London to the warm sunshine and visit a part of China that is new to me, other than for a very brief visit to Shenzhen. The event, Digital Humanities Research and Teaching in the Information Discipline, brought together scholars and practitioners from across China as well as South Korea to enjoy rich discussion, exchange of ideas, conversation and the generous hospitality of this institution, which is also, like DIS, an iSchool. My talk was on pushing the boundaries of digital humanities research beyond the traditional limits of textual scholarship.

Conference discussion at Sun Yat-sen

Conference discussion at Sun Yat-sen

It was also the occasion of the inauguration of their new and very impressive VR + Culture Lab with demonstrations for the guests.

Inauguration of the VR + Culture Lab at Sun Yat-sen

Inauguration of the VR + Culture Lab at Sun Yat-sen

A visit to Guangzhou would not be complete without a trip to the top of the Canton Tower (604 meters high and know by the locals as ‘Slim Waist’ because of its shape) and a ride in the Bubble Tram.

The close proximity also allowed a visit to the Beijing Normal Zhuhai campus to hold a series of meetings there to discuss their plans for a Digital Publishing and Digital Humanities Centre. Digital Humanities is thriving in this leading region of economic growth, the Greater Bay Area of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao.

Meeting with the Dean of the Department of Publishing and the President of Beijing Normal Zhuhai campus

Meeting with the Dean of the Department of Publishing and the President of Beijing Normal Zhuhai campus

As always, the hospitality at both universities was great and if you get the opportunity to visit, (subject to other commitments) always say yes.

Digital Publishing Conference at Wuhan

By Simon Mahony, on 24 November 2019

In November, I was back at the University of Wuhan as an invited guest speaker for the 6th International Conference on Publishing Industry and Publishing Education in the Digital Age (spot me in the group photo). I was presenting in the strand for Open Access Publishing which gave me the opportunity to speak to Open Publishing and the Open Science Agenda, showcasing the EU Digital Agenda, UCL Press and particularly the new UCL Megajournal. ORCID is an important part of the latter initiative to allow disambiguation and ensure correct attribution; this is starting to see some uptake in China although still limited. One of the other presenters particularly focused on the specific need for ORCID to identify individual Chinese scholars who may share very similar, if not identical names.

Image of Simon T Wuhan Conference on Publishing in the Digital Age

Wuhan Conference on Publishing in the Digital Age

The School of Information Management at Wuhan is the top-ranking iSchool in China and, just as our iSchool – the Department of Information Studies, it is celebrating its centenary in 2020.

Wuhan University centenary in 2020

iSchool centenary in 2020

The University of Wuhan is generally acknowledged as being the most beautiful campus in China. It is a tourist attraction in the Summer with its extensive displays of blossoms. Autumn is another good time to visit with the changing colours of the leaves on the trees. The campus is on a sprawling hill, full of a wide variety of trees (each part of the campus is named after the trees there) and with a castle (now library and accommodation) at the very top.


University Wuhan Castle

University Wuhan Castle

New open access publication

By Julianne Nyhan, on 22 November 2019

MS 3972C vol. VI, f.7. British Library (Public domain in most countries except the UK). An annotated extract from Sloane’s catalogue of printed material showing composite parts of individual catalogue entries. For readability we have dropped the enlightenment namespace prefix.

MS 3972C vol. VI, f.7. British Library (Public domain in most countries except the UK). An annotated extract from Sloane’s catalogue of printed material showing composite parts of individual catalogue entries. For readability we have dropped the enlightenment architectures namespace prefix.

Julianne Nyhan, UCLDH Deputy-Director, and colleagues in the Leverhulme-funded ‘Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s catalogues of his collections’ (2016–19), recently published a substantial open access article in the Open Library of Humanities.

This article presents a significant aspect of the work of the ‘Enlightenment Architectures’ project, a collaboration between the British Museum and University College London including contributions from the British Library and the Natural History Museum. The project investigates Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) original handwritten catalogues of his collections in order to understand their highly complex information architecture and intellectual legacies. To do so, the project has employed computational analysis to examine how Sloane’s catalogues are composed and the way their structure and content relate to the world from which his collections were assembled – the first substantial example of such an approach.

Digital Humanities in the Memory Institution addresses some of the challenges of seeking to integrate the methods of digital humanities with those of cataloguing, inventory, curatorial and historical studies, especially in the context of early modern documentary sources. Focusing on two case studies which exemplify the complexities of encoding Hans Sloane’s catalogues in accordance with the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), the article sheds light on both the technical and epistemological challenges of encoding early modern catalogues, while emphasising the new questions and perspectives that arise from such complications. Most strikingly, the article draws attention to the parallels between early modern and current classification systems, and the on-going dilemma of how best to use language to describe objects.

Digital Humanities in the Memory Institution has resonance for the institutions, individuals and communities alike who research, curate, archive and simply even browse digital heritage collections.

See: Digital Humanities in the Memory Institution: The Challenges of Encoding Sir Hans Sloane’s Early Modern Catalogues of His Collections. Ortolja-Baird, A., Pickering, V., Nyhan, J., Sloan, K. and Fleming, M., Open Library of Humanities, 5(1), 2019, p. 44. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/olh.409


Sino-French Forum, Cultural Heritage and Digital Humanities

By Simon Mahony, on 17 November 2019

Just for a change, in October I was invited to speak at an event in Paris. This was organised by the University of Wuhan (as part of their International Sino-French Week) and I’École Nationale des Chartes and hosted at I’Université Paris Diderot: 4e Session de la Semaine Académique à l’étranger de l’Université de Wuhan .

I’École Nationale des Chartes

I’École Nationale des Chartes

There were several events on different days and in different locations. Ours was ‘Cultural Heritage and Digital Humanities: A comparative approach through research projects’. This was a truly international event with speakers there from Wuhan University,  I’École Nationale des Chartes, other Chinese and Paris institutions, the British Library and UCL. The theme allowed me to showcase some of the high-profile and innovative cultural heritage imaging conducted by UCLDH both in our digitisation suite and beyond: ‘Non-invasive and Non-destructive Computational Imaging of Cultural Heritage’.

Conference group photo

Mandatory conference group photo

The session was spread over two days, featuring imaging applied to bamboo slips, Dunhuang Mural Images, Watermarks in Medieval and Modern Western paper, digital recordkeeping, astronomic documents and much more. It was particularly pleasing to see the work of some of the French PhD students showcased; mapping, geolocation, cinema and historic Paris featured highly.

Greeted by the Dean of School of Information Management, Wuhan University

Greeted by the Dean of the School of Information Management, Wuhan University

Computation and the Humanities download highs

By Julianne Nyhan, on 8 November 2019

UCLDH Deputy Director Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flinn’s open access book Computation and the Humanities: towards an oral history of Digital Humanities has been achieving high download rates.

As of November 2019, Computation and the Humanities has been downloaded some 116,205 times and counting! According to the most up-to-date information from the book’s publisher, Springer, the book was in the top 25% most downloaded of their texts of 2018. Also, its download rates were almost triple the discipline download average rates for 2018. It looks like the book is becoming a vital reference for scholars of cultural and computing history, digital humanities and cultural heritage alike. It also features in a number of university syllabi (Open Syllabus).

Computation and the Humanities: Towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities presents the first rigorous oral history account of the history and development of digital humanities. No longer a fledgling discipline, recently a marked interest in the historiography of digital humanities can be noticed. More nuanced understandings of the history of its intellectual agenda, influences, the development of its methods over the past 70 years and its place within the humanities more generally, are starting to emerge. Nyhan and Flinn’s book is an important contribution to this scholarship.

Computation and the Humanities features a series of fourteen oral history interviews that Nyhan conducted with sixteen well- and also lesser-know pioneers of the Digital Humanities. Those interviewed include Susan Hockey, John Burrows and Michael Sperberg-McQueen, whose memories are “essential to charting the often disputed and disputatious histories of the establishment of new disciplines” (Computation and the Humanities, 22). In the oral history interviews included in this book, and the four more analytical chapters that are also included in it, Nyhan and Flinn insightfully unpick the complex foundations, motivations and intellectual roots of Digital Humanities.

This book is open access under a CC BY-NC 2.5 license. Please grab yourself a copy of it if you have not done so already!

Do also note that the interviews included in Computation and the Humanities can be read alongside a further selection of open access oral history interviews that were published in Digital Humanities Quarterly in 2012

Cover image of Nyhan and Flinn's Computation and the Humanities

Cover image of Nyhan and Flinn’s Computation and the Humanities