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

By Lucy Stagg, on 9 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 Programming Historian Partnership

By uczcrym, on 8 December 2020

Programming Historian Logos

UCLDH is proud to announce its support for Programming Historian, by joining their Institutional Partnership Programme. For the past decade, Programming Historian has been an integral part of the digital humanities teaching and learning infrastructure, with more than 140 open access peer-reviewed tutorials published in 4 languages. With many universities around the world still not offering adequate digital skills training to their staff or students, projects such as this one remain crucial.

Our own lecturer of Digital Humanities, Adam Crymble, is one of the founding editors of the project, and has been an integral part of their push towards sustainable open access publishing models in digital humanities. He looks forward to deepening the links between UCL and Programming Historian, and welcomes queries from UCL colleagues looking for support to integrate Programming Historian tutorials in their remote teaching offerings or postgraduate training programmes.

Centre Director, Julianne Nyhan says. ‘This open access, peer reviewed resource supports the teaching and learning of Digital Humanities across the world. It scaffolds new, emerging and established Digital Humanists to tinker, play, critique, imagine and make digital resources, in other words, to make the Digital Humanities their own. We are delighted to have the opportunity to support the excellent work of Programming Historian’.

With thanks to the Department of Information Studies for financial support.

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.

How open is OpenGLAM?

By Lucy Stagg, on 4 November 2020

An article co-authored by UKRI AHRC Innovation Fellow Dr. Foteini Valeonti and published on the Journal of Documentation (How open is OpenGLAM? Identifying barriers to commercial and non-commercial reuse of digitised art images) explores OpenGLAM from the perspective of the end-users.

With OpenGLAM and the broader open license movement gaining momentum in the cultural heritage sector, this paper examines OpenGLAM from the perspective of end users, identifying barriers for commercial and non-commercial reuse of openly licensed art images.

Through a series of case studies that import open images to the platform USEUM.org, the article reveals that end users have to overcome a series of barriers to find, obtain and reuse open images. The three main barriers relate to image quality, image tracking and the difficulty of distinguishing open images from those that are bound by copyright.

With academic literature so far focusing on examining the risks and benefits of participation from an institutional perspective, this article is one of the first attempts to shed a light on OpenGLAM from the end users’ standpoint.

You can read the article in full on ResearchGate: (PDF) How open is OpenGLAM? Identifying barriers to commercial and non-commercial reuse of digitised art images

Follow Dr. Foteini Valeonti at: @nosuic

New Digital Humanities Undergraduate Module

By uczcrym, on 9 October 2020

For UCL undergraduate students interested in Digital Humanities or the ways digital technology is changing the field, we are delighted to announce that the third year undergraduate “Introduction to Digital Methods in the Humanities” (INST0006) is being offered for the first time in Term 2 (2020) and is available as an optional choice for students selecting their course of study.

Edison multipolar dynamo

The module will introduce students to the many ways in which digital methods can be applied to research in the humanities. This will include case studies using different disciplinary approaches, as well as a chance to build practical skills. The module is aimed at students from across the arts, humanities, and historical disciplines who want to learn about new modes of answering research questions in their core disciplines. Students should have some experience in arts, humanities, or social sciences, but no prior technical experience is required.

Informal queries can be directed to Dr. Adam Crymble (a.crymble@ucl.ac.uk)

New report on ‘Sustaining Digital Humanities in the UK’

By Lucy Stagg, on 9 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.

Interview with new UCLDH Director Dr Julianne Nyhan

By Lucy Stagg, on 25 September 2020

UCLDH welcomes Dr Julianne Nyhan as new Director, and asks her a few questions about herself and her hopes and aims for the Centre.

Congratulations on your appointment! Please tell us about yourself?

I am Associate Professor of Digital Information Studies in the Department of Information Studies, where I am also the Programme Director of our highly successful MA/MSc in Digital Humanities.

photo of Dr Julianne Nyhan

Dr Julianne Nyhan

I joined UCL 10 years ago, having previously worked as a Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin in Digital Humanities, in Universität Trier, Germany; before that I worked in the European Science Foundation, Strasbourg, France, where I moved after completing my PhD in University College Cork, Ireland. My PhD is in history and digital humanities and focused on the application of XML to the historical lexicography of Old, Middle and early-Modern Irish.

I am fascinated by everything to do with Digital Humanities, the History of Computing and Digital Cultural Heritage. In recent years, much of my research has focused on the history of Digital Humanities, and the social, cultural, intellectual and technical processes that have shaped the field that is at the forefront of conceptualising and analysing Humanities sources as data. I’m especially interested in how oral history can allow us to uncover previously overlooked contributions to the history of Digital Humanities. The book I’ve recently completed will be published by Routledge in 2021 and it looks at the devalued, feminized labour that was contributed to the Index Thomisticus project, a seminal project in the history of Digital Humanities and Humanities Computing. The book investigates how gender, and its collocations with technology, and the analogue labour history of concordance making in the humanities, were implicated, in ways that have previously been overlooked, in the hierarchies of labour and esteem that have shaped knowledge production in the field now known as Digital Humanities.

What is the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and why did you wish to become its Director?

Founded in 2010, UCLDH is an incubator that supports and facilitates wide-ranging technological engagement across the Arts, Humanities and Cultural Heritage. As a trans-faculty research centre, it reports both to the Humanities and Computer Science. UCLDH is also a vibrant showcase for the wealth of research activities that are undertaken in the field of Digital Humanities. Our recent collaborations include UCLDH’s Leverhulme-funded collaboration with the British Museum ‘Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s catalogue of his collections’; the transnational, multipartner Digging into Data challenge Oceanic Exchanges: Tracing Global Information Networks in Historical Newspaper Repositories, 1840-1914 and our contributions to the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded ‘Reconstructing the first Humanities Computing Centre’, which has created in an immersive “walkthrough“, 3D model of the first Humanities Computing Centre built in the Unity Game Engine, produced by Steve Jones, Howard Kaplan, Spenser Mason, and others at University of South Florida’s Advanced Visualization Center. In pursuing our activities, UCLDH brings together a vibrant network of people who teach and research in a wide range of disciplines. UCLDH is also proud to cultivate close working relationships across the university and beyond, with international institutions, culture and heritage sectors and industry partners. For all these reasons, the prospect of becoming UCLDH’s Director was an enticing one.

What are your specific priorities as Director?

My priorities are for UCLDH to be a place to critically and creatively explore what Digital Humanities was, is and can become.

We will continue to engage in cutting-edge research on the application of computing technologies to the Humanities and Cultural Heritage. We will also expand this frame of reference, by exploring how UCLDH can act as a conduit for connecting Digital Humanities expertise with emerging, data-intensive fields like Data Science, whose work raises fundamental epistemological, hermeneutic and ethical questions that require the input of the Humanities. Questions raised by the work of fields like Data Science include, for example, how can we develop digital algorithms that acknowledge the subjectivities of data collection? How can we develop digital algorithms that do not replicate existing mechanisms of exclusion or create new forms of bias? Recently, we collaborated with a number of colleagues on a report that speaks to this, led by the Turing Institute: ‘The challenges and prospects of the intersection of humanities and data science: A white paper from The Alan Turing Institute‘. Not so long ago, we also organized a successful Symposium on Data Science and Digital Cultural Heritage. We hope to continue to develop our expertise in this area.

We will also foreground questions of inclusion, diversity, the politics of knowledge production and critique the systems of power that shape the digital tools and collections that the digital humanities make and uses. At the moment, some of the most important and exciting ongoing work in the Digital Humanities is exploring these issues, in specializations like Feminist Digital Humanities; Postcolonial Digital Humanities; Black Digital Humanities and Global Digital Humanities. We hope to foreground and contribute to this crucial work through our Centre and its activities. For example, our new lecturer, Dr Adam Crymble, has been working with a number of partners in Latin America to build cross-cultural understanding of how digital humanities needs differ around the world and what the implications of that are for the promise of digital technology in the Global South. That research is already showing the importance of both the technical and the humanities side of the equation, to come up with relevant human solutions to technological problems.

Also, given my particular area of research expertise, I also hope to build a wider network of international collaborators interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the history of the (digital) humanities, oral history and digital history more widely. We have started planning a research symposium that will further this; we would welcome hearing from potential collaborators working in any of these areas

Becoming the Director of UCLDH will no doubt make your next few months tremendously exciting – and busy! How do you relax when you’re not working?

I spend as much time as I possibly can out on the Atlantic in my kayak. I usually go back home to Ireland in August to go kayaking, and spend most of the year looking forward to this time. I’ve recently taken up running to improve my fitness for some of the more ambitious sea kayaking adventures I’m planning for next year. The only thing I enjoy more than kayaking is spending time with my children, partner, family and friends.

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!