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Report on the Explore Archives event at the Marx Memorial Library

By Lucy Stagg, on 26 November 2020

Report written by Marco Humbel

The Marx Memorial Library (MML) and UCLDH/DIS regularly collaborate for facilitating research projects, student seminars and work placements. On the 16th October 2020 the MML held the online event ‘Explore Archives: Marking the centenary of the foundation of the Communist Party’. ‘Explore Archives’ was funded and co-organized by the Society for the Study of Labour History. The event’s objectives were to map archival resources on the Communist Party, spark interest for further areas of inquiry, and to develop archival research skills of attendees.

Professor Mary Davis (Royal Holloway, University of London/MML) introduced the field of historical research on the Communist Party in the first session. Davis reflected for this purpose on the research process on the new book ‘A centenary for Socialism: Britain’s Communist Party 1920-2020’, which she edited. The publication provides an extensive overview on the history of the party from political, economical and ideological perspectives. Yet, numerous areas have the potential to be investigated further, such as the history of women, trade unionism, or international solidarity.

The following panel discussion included contributions from Simon Sheppard (People’s History Museum), Lesley Ruthven (Goldsmiths, University of London), and Meirian Jump (MML). The session was chaired by Janette Martin (John Rylands Library). Each of the archives has its own focal point and unique resources. Particular strength of the People’s History Museum is for instance the minutes of the Communist Party’s central bodies like the Executive Committee, the national congresses, or the Women’s Department. The museum is also custodian of personal papers of prominent party members, like James Klugmann or the historian Dona Torr. The personal papers of another party’s historian – Noreen Branson – can be found in the MML. The Marx library also holds the papers of London branches of the Communist Party, including Bethnal Green and Hornsey, as well as collections that document international campaigns, such as the Aid Spain Movement. As a specialized collection for performing arts and social sciences, the Archives of Goldsmith’s University of London holds various song books from the labour movement, and among others the personal papers of drama scholar and party member Margot Heinemann.

The final session was titled ‘Access To Digital Resources Workshop’. Marco Humbel (UCL/MML) started the presentation with outlining the MML’s rational for its digitization activities, and the criteria for selecting collection items for digitization. The main part of the workshop aimed to map the digital resources available on the Communist Party online, including the photograph collection of the Daily Worker/Morning Star, the Aid Spain Banners and the poster collection. The session closed with an overview on the UK Archives Hub, and the Social History Portal. Both platforms facilitate to search across multiple archival repositories. Thus, they can be the starting point for exploring other archives specialized on the labour movement like the library of Trade Union Congress, or Working Class Movement Library.

Digital Humanities in Wuhan, Shanghai and Nanjing

By Simon Mahony, on 8 May 2018

Within the UK academic calendar, it is probably the Easter break that affords the longest uninterrupted time for travel and this year I took the opportunity to complete my series of talks and research meetings enabled by the UCL Global Engagement fund.

Wuhan University

Wuhan University: School of Information Management

This began with a visit to the University of Wuhan (WHU) which is home to the first DH Centre established in China (2011). Professor Wang at the Department of Publishing Science hosted me for the visit which included a tour of the university and a guest lecture to staff, students and Faculty (details and poster at this link) followed by a lecture for their sophomore Publishing Science students on Designing for Online Publishing.

Wuhan University guest lecture

Wuhan University guest lecture

WHU has a huge sprawling campus adjacent to the East Lake which is built on and around a hill with a castle, which was the old library and is now the student union and student accommodation – lucky students, at the top.

Wuhan University Castle

Wuhan University Castle

Stopping off at Shanghai enabled me to visit friends and deliver two guest lectures at the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design. I enjoyed their usual open hospitality and met with visiting professors and students from HFBK Hamburg who were setting up an exhibition of their work on design.

Design exhibition at CAA, SID

Design exhibition at CAA, SID

This trip also allowed me to accept an invitation, received at my January visit, from the Digital Humanities team at the Shanghai Library to deliver a guest lecture on UCLDH and our research here at UCL as part of their research seminar series.

Shanghai Library guest lecture

Shanghai Library guest lecture

The final stop on this tour was at the University of Nanjing (NJU) to give a guest lecture to faculty and graduate students. This was followed by discussions about teaching and research at their newly established (2017) DH Centre, which is located in their History Department with close links to NJU Computer Science. The visit was rounded off with an introduction to the dedicated DH GIS lab there and a demonstration of their keynote GIS (such as Six Dynasty Archeology) and 3D projects.

Nanjing University Library

Nanjing University Library

The support, gratefully received from UCL’s Global Engagement scheme, financed the flights which enabled these meetings, discussions and lectures to take place (as well as my earlier visit and workshop in January). The trip facilitated new connections and possibilities in the areas of teaching and research between UCLDH and DH Centres in China. In addition to this, the funding has enabled me to employ a current UCL DIS research student, as part of the UCL Connected Curriculum initiative, to translate and adapt the teaching materials used for the lectures and workshops; these will be released as bilingual (English and Chinese) OERs on the new UCL Open Educational Repository later this summer.

BASE KX Excursion …and a thought about Digital Humanities

By Nicole Ingra, on 19 November 2015


Last night, there was an excursion to the BASE King’s Cross, which is a brand new innovation hub (a.k.a. a place) for people with bright ideas to come and work. There is a similar venue in Shoreditch, called IDEALondon.  From what I understood, they are part of UCL Advances, which is the entrepreneurial arm of UCL, supporting students successfully launch their business. They offer funding, free training and some interesting events – check them out!



BASE King’s Cross communal area.   Photo: Sarah Davenport


We also heard some interesting people talking about their business…

Playbrush is a device that you can attach to any toothbrush and it will turn your brushing routine into a fun game, where you help a tooth fairy defeat some horrible bacteria. It’s to be used by children, but yeah, some grown people might enjoy it too (no self-pointing fingers). The device is a bit pricey, but because it’s detachable and reusable, you’ll only need one per household. In case you’re interested in buying, you can use the code base15, which will give you 15% discount until the end of November. The iOS version of the game launches next week and the Android version two weeks after, and they are shipping for Christmas.

Next, there was Interesting Content.  With clients like Disney, Tesco and 7thingsmedia, they are a digital video production agency, admittedly telling stories informed by data (our BFF in DH), creating online content.  They are located at BASE King’s Cross and are also hiring! Although I don’t remember the mention of an email address, there is a contact form in the website.

Before these two guys, there was a girl who spoke about how pitching her business idea to UCL Advances was the best decision she’s took. Maybe she said it was the best experience she’s had. Either way, she said it was really good, and spoke highly favourably about it. Like most of us, UCLDH students, she has a humanities background, but that didn’t stop her from pitching her tech business idea – and it should not stop anyone. If you are a UCL student and have an idea that you think it’s brilliant, get in touch with them. They might be able to advise you and point you into the right direction. You might even get some funding!


One extra thought!

I noticed that even though the speakers were into humanities and worked with digital, they had no clue what Digital Humanities is. Well, I guess most of us don’t really know, but we should at least aim to make it more fashionable (like using italics). We have a mixture of undergrad (and cultural) backgrounds and different academic and professional aims – and that’s a huge advantage! We know different things, look at problems from different points of views and will have different solutions. That probably means we will have different definitions of what DH is because DH will be applied differently by each one of us. But there’s one common thread, somewhere, beyond JavaScript and XML.

I’d love to know your thoughts about this, so if you’d like to get together to talk about this over a coffee, get in touch!

Digital Pedagogies: E-Learning and Digital Humanities Unconference – Call for Session Proposals

By Sarah Davenport, on 8 April 2013

Digital Pedagogies: E-Learning and Digital Humanities Unconference
13 June 2013

Call for Session Proposals

UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, in partnership with the Higher Education Academy, will be hosting a FREE ‘unconference’* focusing on bringing together the e-learning and digital humanities communities to discuss the development of ‘Digital Pedagogies’ in University teaching. We want to hear your ideas for sessions!

* An ‘unconference’ structure is delegate-driven with the agenda created by the attendees on the day. There is an open call for presentations on the topic of enhancing and developing digital pedagogies in your field of research.

About ‘Digital Pedagogies Unconference’
‘Digital Pedagogies’ are innovative methods of teaching – using ICT tools to facilitate and foster a high quality digital learning space. There are big questions around how teaching techniques can be modified and digital enhanced to meet the needs of 21st century virtual learning. The objective of this unconference will be firstly to bring together these e-learning and digital humanities communities with what are often similar research objectives, and secondly provide a space to speak about current digital teaching techniques, defining areas for improvement and enhancement.

What do I propose?
There are roughly four things people do in sessions: Talk, Make, Teach, and Play. Sometimes one session contains elements of all these, but it’s also a fair taxonomy for sessions. In a Talk session proposal, you offer to lead a group discussion on a topic or question of interest to you. In a Make session proposal, you offer to lead a small group in a hands-on collaborative working session with the aim of producing a draft document or piece of software. In a Teach session, you offer to teach a skill, either a “hard” skill or a “soft” skill. In a Play session, anything goes — you suggest literally playing a game, or you suggest some quality group playtime with one or more technologies, or what you will. Of course, these are just guides – we are open to new ideas, new ways of interaction and methods of making this unconference insightful and fun!

How do I propose a session?
There are two ways of proposing a session:
(1) through the THATCAMP Digital Pedagogies site at http://digitalpedagogies2013.thatcamp.org/registerproposal/ or
(2) by emailing Rachel at
with a brief proposal.

*Remember* that you will be expected to facilitate the sessions you propose, so that if you propose a hacking session, you should have the germ of a project to work on; if you propose a workshop, you should be prepared to teach it or find a teacher; if you propose a discussion of the Digital Public Library of America, you should be prepared to summarize what that is, begin the discussion, keep the discussion going, and end the discussion.

To register as a delegate: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/events/detail/2013/13_June_digital_pedagogies_UCL

More information: Please visit http://digitalpedagogies2013.thatcamp.org/

Questions, comments or concerns? Contact Rachel at

New AHRC Project at UCLDH: CHIPS – Computer Human Interactive Performance Symposium

By ucacngo, on 28 March 2012

As part of our expanding programme of research and teaching in computational musicology and computer music at UCL, we are pleased to announce a new AHRC-funded project (prospective PhD and MA/MSc Digital Humanities students may like to note this activity, particularly the COMPGC20 Computer Music module available as an option on the DH degree).

The Computer-Human Interactive Performance Symposium (CHIPS) project is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Digital Transformations programme.  The project runs from February to August 2012.

The aim is to explore the likely performance practices (and problems) that would result from having easily deployable, robust, creative, and reliable artificial music performers in mixed human-computer ensembles playing popular music.  There are many systems that go some way to solving the technical problems of computer participation in this kind of music (e.g. beat trackers, chord estimators, interactive improvisers) but as yet no complete systems that can be deployed by non-expert users into common practice performance contexts and be relied upon to underpin the performances of popular music ensembles.

Popular music (e.g. folk, rock, music theatre) plays a central role in the lives of millions of people.   Musicians of all standards from amateur to professional produce music that is heard on radios and televisions, and performed in concert halls and theatres.  Teenagers are motivated to learn instruments and play in bands to emulate their professional idols, serious amateurs play and sing together at open-mike nights, charity concerts, and in churches, and professionals perform in clubs, theatres, and spectacular multimedia shows like Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group.   To learn, rehearse, and perform popular music often requires a musician to be part of an ensemble yet forming such a group can be challenging, particularly for amateur musicians.  Even in established communities such as churches, the demands of everyday life mean that musicians cannot always attend rehearsals or play regularly together.  In professional ensembles, illness can cause the absence of key musicians in rehearsal or performance.  Computer music technology offers the potential to substitute for musicians in these situations, yet reliable, robust, and simple systems that can be quickly set up, and that play musically and creatively do not yet exist.

The project aims to develop the future research agenda for both technical and non technical music computing research in this area, by learning from the issues and experiences of technological adoption in other relevant performance contexts, understanding the technological state of the art in relation to popular music performance, imagining future performance practices incorporating computer “musicians”, and thinking about how to study musicians (human and computer) in this context.

We hope to develop a network of interest around this symposium, beginning with some online discussion ahead of the face to face event on 7th-8th June 2012 and followed by further online activity and follow-up events.  For information, the programme, and registration for the main symposium (presented as part of the CREST Open Workshop (COW) programme), please see the COW web-page here.

The Future of the Past

By Anne Welsh, on 22 March 2012

On Tuesday  Melissa Terras spoke at the Institute of Historical Research’s roundtable on Digital History (#dhist). In this post, Greta Franzini provides a short summary.

The IHR’s roundtable session, The Future of the Past discussed the future of history and how digital resources affect the way historians preserve history.

The panel included Dr Melissa Terras (Co-Director of UCLDH), Dr. Adam Farquhar (Head of Digital Scholarship at the British Library), Dr. Torsten Reimer (Project Manager at JISC) and Prof. Tim Hitchcock (University of Hertfordshire), the latter reading a paper by Prof. Andrew Prescott (Head of the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London) who could not attend in person due to an injury. The talk was wrapped up by Prof. Lorna Hughes’ (University of Wales) response summarising the main points and discussing her views on the topic.

Prof. Andrew Prescott’s paper  flagged the current propensity to over-rely on electronic publications of historical data, used as replacements rather than surrogate media. It also noted that the academic market for historical studies is not the most profitable one, so we should strive to create large historical, crowd-sourced projects and collaborations to counterbalance commercial resources and act against the commodification of knowledge. Prof. Prescott has posted his paper on his blog.

Dr. Melissa Terras discussed how computers and datasets are changing historical methods by examining three points:

  1. Scale of datasets. In the past, data-analysis projects were forced to meticulously select materials due to resource, time, technological and work-force restrictions. The unlimited power of today’s computers, however, allows us to perform quick, effective and seamless analyses on large datasets. Improved data querying and manipulation encourage new interrogations and change the way historians articulate their research. Dr Terras also described the difference between humanities and sciences datasets, whereby the former tend to be very noisy, error-laden and fragmented while the latter are organised and systematic.
  2. Detail of historical materials we look at. Today’s technology allows us to discover details that have so far escaped our attention. Exploiting new technologies, such as multispectral imaging of manuscripts, furthers our understanding of cultural heritage and history.
  3. Agency. Who is allowed to contribute to history? More and more projects nowadays rely on crowd-sourcing as a cost-effective means of producing large scale datasets and results. Transcribe Bentham exemplifies this trend in that it allows the general public to contribute to the project. The more people we involve, the more detail we get. But by the same token, the more information we get, the more chaos is produced. We need to ensure we trust and are clear about what we are doing.

Dr. Adam Farquhar’s work seeks to address the digital needs of historians and other departments within the British Library by producing digital tools to facilitate scholarship and research. In particular, Dr. Farquhar looks at the development of innovative models for digital scholarship by exploiting digital content and new technologies.Digital scholarship, Dr. Farquhar added, needs to rely on comprehensive digital collections and infrastructures, especially as radical changes in research have seen a growth of digital content, more interdisciplinary and collaborative work, more data analysis and repurposing of content. This trend comes with a set of requirements: mass and focused digitisation, visualisation tools, improved discovery, open licenses and APIs, conversion to data and analysis tools and interfaces for sharing (to mention a few).

Good examples of this new digital wave are the First World War digitisation project, set up to celebrate its 100th anniversary; the British Newspaper Archive which aims to become a free service and to facilitate historical research; the collaboration with Google to digitise books produced between the French revolution and the end of slavery; and the IMPACT project, whose aim is to improve state-of-the-art OCR technology which has yet to produce satisfactory results for old books, magazines and newspapers.

Dr. Torsten Reimer  began his digital history career in his undergraduate years in Munich where he worked on a digitisation project on history of early modern warfare and persecution of witchcraft. Echoing Prescott and Hitchcock’s previous remarks on the complementarity of digital and ‘real’, Dr. Reimer emphasised the need to effectively use digital methods so to avoid the frequent misconception of digital humanities as ‘digital photocopying’. We should be ‘big and bold’, ‘go public’ and not be scared by projects dealing with large-scale datasets as these can quickly gain interest and have the potential to be expanded. JISC’s new project, JISC Elevator, gives people the chance to advertise their project ideas through video-pitches and to receive JISC funding depending on their popularity. Historians can now make digital scholarship more exciting as they have access to a much more varied set of resources (images, film, sound, etc.), thus deeply changing historical research practice.

Lorna Hughes’ response, heavily tweeted under #dhist hashtag, essentially asserted how digital is not to be perceived as a plugin but as a founding pillar of good history.

The following Q&A session was also heavily tweeted, again under the #dhist hashtag.

Computational Musicology: Music, Minds, Machines and Meaning

By Anne Welsh, on 13 March 2012

Received by email this morning:

Speaker: Geraint A. Wiggins
from Queen Mary, University of London
Date: Thursday 15th March
Time: 13:30
Location: J Z Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building (ground floor)

Geraint A. Wiggins:
I present a whirlwind tour of my group’s research on computational support for musicologists and musicological knowledge. I begin with basic knowledge representation, founded on mathematical cognitive models of pitch perception and categorisation, and work upwards towards representations of the structural forms that make up what is generally agreed to be music. I briefly describe an implementation of these ideas, AMusE (Advanced Music Encoding), a music knowledge base that is being developed in my lab. I outline how the descriptive terminology of music theory can be declaratively defined over the structures it stores.

Because music has no denotational semantics, its meaning being experienced through structural and personal association, I propose that such a knowledge base can be a closed system, with respect to the non-affective aspects of musical semiotics. This yields an opportunity for cognitive modelling of a breadth and depth which is not afforded by other areas of the humanities. I outline systems for cognitively-based discovery of musical structure, that are incorporated into AMusE, with a view to placing the whole in context of a larger model of creative cognition.

The work reported here has been funded by EPSRC, AHRC and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Biography: Geraint A. Wiggins is Professor of Computational Creativity at Queen Mary, University of London. He studied mathematics and computer sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and holds PhDs from the University of Edinburgh in Artificial Intelligence and in Musical Composition. His research career has specialised in generality, covering computational linguistics, computational logic, computational modelling of music perception and cognition, and computational creativity. He was one of the founders of the computational creativity research area, and is the founding chair of the international Association for Computational Creativity. From 2000-2004, he chaired the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour, the UK learned society for AI and Cognitive Science. He is an associate editor of Musicae Scientiae, the journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, a consulting editor of Music Perception, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of New Music Research.

Live Chat: Open Access in Higher Education (Guardian Higher Education Network), 28/10/2011, 12-2 BST

By uczauti, on 28 October 2011

After a talk point and a poll, the Guardian Professional Higher Education Network wants to give the subject of open access the full consideration it deserves.

To coincide with Open Access Week, on Friday 21 October, from 12–2pm BST, the live chat will consider the various ways in which higher education can become – and is becoming – more open. We will consider what the challenges ahead might be and what policy shifts, as well as cultural shifts are needed.

Guardian Q&As or live chats are always informal and the aim is to share knowledge, experience and allow us to curate a ‘best bits’ full of interesting tips/links on the given subject from our network and for our network.

Academics and the Internet: Guardian Higher Education Network Panel

By Claire S Ross, on 2 June 2011

On Friday 3rd June 2011 I (Claire R) will be taking part in a live chat panel on the Guardian Higher Education Network about how academics could/should/and do use the Internet.

Join me and the rest of the panel, Friday 3 June, to share what the internet means to you, debate how Higher Education could better embrace the Web and describe what that transformation would look like.

Digital Think Drink at the British Library

By Claire S Ross, on 19 April 2011

UCLDH have teamed up with UCL CIBER team,  the Digital Learning Network, and the British Library to bring you another Digital Think Drink!

Following on from the success at the Petrie Museum, it’s now the turn of the British Library.

Monday 23rd May sees a Think Drink on Digital technology and the future of the research library, at the British Library, in the Growing Knowledge exhibition.

The exhibition explores the value of libraries and research in present and future digital times, the use of social networks and social media, and asks questions about the inter-relations and synergies between research and technology. You will be able to sample each of the tools and applications presented, including some of the latest creations by Microsoft and Hewlett Packard.

This is an informal evening of talking, testing, playing and giving feedback on the digital resources and Growing Knowledge exhibition.   If you are interested in the value of new technologies in libraries and exploring how research libraries can best meet the needs of their users  please do come along.

Spaces are limited so book a place quickly.