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Semantic Web for Cultural Heritage special issue now published

Lucy Stagg1 February 2021

UCLDH member, Antonis Bikakis, has co-edited (along with four other colleagues from France, Italy and Finland) the Semantic Web for Cultural Heritage special issue, which is now published and freely available to read in Semantic Web- Interoperability, Usability, Applicability, volume 12(2), 2021.

The papers cover a wide spectrum of modelled topics related to language, reading and writing, narratives, historical events and cultural artefacts, while describing reusable methodologies and tools for cultural data management.

 

 

Enlightenment architectures: The reconstruction of Sir Hans Sloane’s cabinets of ‘Miscellanies’

Lucy Stagg9 December 2020

UCLDH Director Dr Julianne Nyhan and Dr Kim Sloan, the Francis Finlay Curator of the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum, have recently had an article published by the OUP Journal of the History of Collections. The article is based on their work undertaken as part of the Leverhulme Trust-funded research project, Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues of his Collections (2016–19), a collaboration between the British Museum and University College London. Abstract:

Focusing on Sir Hans Sloane’s catalogue of ‘Miscellanies’, now in the British Museum, this paper asks firstly how Sloane described objects and secondly whether the original contents of the cabinets can be reconstructed from his catalogue. Drawing on a sustained, digitally augmented analysis – the first of its kind – of Sloane’s catalogues, we respond to these questions and offer an initial analysis of the contents of the cabinets that held the miscellaneous objects at Sloane’s manor house in Chelsea. Knowledge of how and why Sloane catalogued this part of his collection has hitherto remained underdeveloped. We argue that his focus on preservation and documentation in his cataloguing did not preclude a research role, but rather was founded on immersive participation.

The full article, Enlightenment architectures: The reconstruction of Sir Hans Sloane’s cabinets of ‘Miscellanies’, is available to read for free.

New report on ‘Sustaining Digital Humanities in the UK’

Lucy Stagg9 October 2020

This report, published by the Software Sustainability Institute (SSI), lists a set of recommendations for SSI to further its activity in and engagement with the Digital Humanities community in the UK.

SSI’s aim is to develop better research software, at a time where digital methods and infrastructure are becoming increasingly important within the arts and humanities research landscape.

The report was led by Giles Bergel and Pip Willcox, with contributions from a number of other academics including our new Director, Julianne Nyhan.

The full report is freely available to read and download: Sustaining the Digital Humanities in the UK.

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

Julianne Nyhan7 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/

 

 

New open access publication

Julianne Nyhan22 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

 

Corpus analysis reveals ‘Routine politeness in American and British English requests’

Lucy Stagg23 April 2019

UCLDH team member, Dr. Rachele De Felice, has had an article published in the Journal of Politeness Research.

Co-authored with M. Lynne Murphy, the article is entitled Routine politeness in American and British English requests: use and non-use of please (Journal of Politeness Research 15(1), 77-100). The article extract explains further:

This paper looks at the use and non-use of please in American and British English requests. The analysis is based on request data from two comparable workplace email corpora, which have been pragmatically annotated to enable retrieval of all request speech acts regardless of formulation. 675 requests are extracted from each of the two corpora; the behaviour of please is analyzed with regard to factors such as imposition level, sentence mood, and modal verb type.

Rachele’s research is in the field of corpus pragmatics. It focuses on speech act annotation and the creation of pragmatic profiles of Business English by applying corpus analysis and natural language processing (NLP) techniques to large collections of real-world data.

Reflections on ‘Big Data in Archaeology’

Lucy Stagg15 April 2019

UCLDH team member Andreas Vlachidis gave a talk at the Big Data in Archaeology: Practicalities and Possibilities conference (27-28th March 2019), organised by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

Andreas’ talk was entitled “Reflections on excavating archaeological grey literature: and on the challenges in information extraction”

The conference website explains the aim of the conference:

This conference will bring together leaders in the fields of archaeological data science to critically evaluate the concepts and methods associated with “big data” and data-intensive research approaches. The goal of this conference is to provide a forum for discussion about the growing complexity of archaeological data as well as to provide participants with the scaffolding to explore their own application of data science methods.

For more see https://erikgjesfjeld.wixsite.com/big-data-archaeology

Recent publications on imaging techniques from UCLDH team member Dr Kathryn Piquette

Lucy Stagg4 February 2019

UCLDH team member Dr Kathryn Piquette has had several works published recently, including:

Dr. Kathryn Piquette undertaking Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)

Dr. Kathryn Piquette undertaking Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)

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

Lucy Stagg30 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

Multimodal imaging of papyrus article in Heritage Science journal

Lucy Stagg23 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.