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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.

Digital Excursion: Growing Knowledge at the British Library

By Claire S Ross, on 26 October 2010

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

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

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

Some highlights included:

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

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

Digital Excursion: Growing Knowledge Exhibition

By Sarah Davenport, on 15 October 2010

We are pleased to invite you to the next UCL Digital Excursion, which will take place at the British Library on 25 October, 5.30 – 7.30 pm.

By joining this Excursion, you will be the first to experience the “Growing Knowledge: The evolution of research” exhibition – an initiative designed to demonstrate the vision for future digital research services at the British Library. The Excursion will introduce you to a number of features, including digital signage, video demonstrations, interactive welcome animations, an interface touch-table and a prototype “Researcher’s Desktop” application. You will be able to sample each of the tools and applications presented, including some of the latest creations by Microsoft and Hewlett Packard.

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.

The programme will be as follows:

  • 17.30: one of the curators from the British Library will give an introductory talk about the exhibition.
  • 18.00: hands-on time for you to explore the exhibition and try out the digital facilities.
  • 18.30: Event closure, with possibility to chat on if you wish.

Refreshments will be provided.

Please note that the CIBER group at UCL is evaluating the exhibition for the British Library, and a researcher, Peter Williams, will hope to informally interview as many people as possible, either at the event or at a later date, about your experiences.

If you wish to attend, please register and bring the printout of the invitation with you on the day. We will be meeting you outside the British Library.

Digitised History

By Anne Welsh, on 21 July 2010

Yesterday I attended the British Library / JISC Conference Digitised History: Newspapers and their Impact on Research into 18th and 19th Century Britain. Linked to the launch of the British Library Newspapers 1800-1900, which offers online access to “articles from 49 London, national and regional newspaper (1800 – 1900) titles”, the conference brought together expert speakers who use digital resources in researching and teaching History. Our Director, Claire Warwick, was a panellist in the final plenary discussion.

My own interest was as a researcher in 19th century publishing history, but my motivation for attending was as the tutor on the optional module on Historical Bibliography for the MA in Library and Information Studies here at UCL: it’s vital to keep up-to-date on new research tools that students may need to use, not only in the module itself but also in their final dissertation if they choose a historical topic.

I have to say that all the presentations were extremely useful, and I left with not only enough material for the 15 minute segment I’ll give this year’s class on the new database, but also for a seminar session on the use of digital versions versus the original object. Speakers gave good case studies as well as opinions on both sides of the digital divide – the Institute of Historical Research created an archive of the tweets, which I recommend reading, as this blog post has to be selective on the grounds of space, and there is so much more that could be included.

Professor Miles Taylor (IHR) gave a good opinion piece highlighting some concerns, especially:

  • users’ awareness of the range and depth of material available digitally (around 55,000 newspaper titles from the 19th century remain undigitised)
  • the privileging of ‘typical’ newspapers and newspapers with long runs (most 19th century newspapers were short run and ephemeral)
  • the focus on digitising newspapers is good, but we are not gaining a wider picture of newspapers as businesses and the impact this has on our understanding of news and its creation

Professor Laurel Brake (Birkbeck) also highlighted some issues that should give us pause for thought (in a presentation that otherwise gave a very positive view of the new possibilities opened up tor researchers by digital resources):

  • the remediation of print into digital requires awareness on the part of researchers (the digital literacy that Dr James Mussell (Birmingham) advocated brilliantly)
  • researchers still need some awareness of the physical object – for example, an article’s placement in a newspaper is an editorial decision that tells us important things about its importance, and this can be lost in the egalitarian delivery of a search facility, where an article is an article is an article
  • the physical nature of the screen can itself obfuscate the layout of the newspaper – browse facilities do exist and should be used by researchers to gain an idea of context.
  • different editions of newspapers were published, and it is important for researchers to be aware of this; and the fact that often only one edition is digitised (indeed the BL’s policy at Colindale for the physical newspaper collection, was generally to retain only one edition (usually the latest edition).

The general feeling of the day seemed to be that while we should be cautious, and aware of the limitations of digital resources, the benefits could be immense. Keynote speaker Dr Patrick Leary highlighted that historians of the Victorian era are moving from a scholarly economy of scarcity to one of abundance, and, bearing in mind some of the limitations, it is now possible to look up facts about the daily life of Victorian people in a way that was time-consuming and costly (in terms of travel expenses) to previous generations of scholars, like Richard Altick (author of the seminal English Common Reader). He highlighted Cohen and Gibb’s recently Google-funded project Reframing the Victorians, which will use new digital resources to re-examine Walter Houghton’s influential thesis in The Victorian Frame of Mind that Victorians were largely optimistic, judging by their use of certain language – thanks to the quantity of the corpus that exists online now, and the digital humanities tools that have been devised, it will be possible for them to look at a far wider range of vocabulary than Houghton could manage manually.

As a lecturer, I was really inspired by some of the research exemplified and by some of the teaching that is being undertaken; and by the number of attendees at the conference keen to learn more about using these resources and introducing them to their classroom teacher.As a traditionally qualified librarian and historical bibliographer, I was equally pleased to hear Dr Moira Goff ask us to think about the future role of the original items, and, indeed, the future of the original items themselves. It seemed appropriate that the final remark of the day, from a member of the audience, should be that wonderful and empowering as digitised versions are, there are some things that we can only see and investigate on the book (or newspaper) as object itelf.

Digitised History: newspapers and their impact on research into 18th and 19th century Britain

By Claire S Ross, on 12 July 2010

Coming up next week is the jointly organised Digitised History Conference by the British Library and JISC, focusing on 18th and 19th century Newspapers and their impact.  Claire Warwick will be taking part in the event and will be part of the final discussion panel.

Event Details:

Date: 20 July 2010
Time: 10:30 -18:30
Venue:The British Library,96 Euston Road,London, NW1 2DB

For decades, even hundreds of years after publication, researchers of all kinds have turned to newspapers for information relating to a wide variety of research needs including historical, cultural, social and political trends. The British Library Newspapers Online website, part of the JISC Digitisation Programme, aims to make this information available to researchers, who can now explore over three million pages of 18th and 19th century newspapers online.

The conference aims to explore the impact of the large scale digitisation of newspapers, considering the effect that this has had on research and researchers and the implied changes to research methodologies. Not only has the digitisation of historical newspapers made it easier to discover information about events from the past, but the way in which they have been digitised makes it possible to discover how those events were represented, debated and sold as news. It will debate current limitations as well as opportunities for future development.

Confirmed speakers include: Laurel Brake, Aly Conteh, Jim Draper, Alistair Dunning, Tim Hitchcock, Jim Mussell, Simon Potter, Miles Taylor and Bob Shoemaker. They will be talking about a wide range of topics including: Deciding what to digitise: a funder’s perspective, Using Digital Resources to Teach the Nineteenth-Century Press, Victorian newspapers, then and now and Researching transnational history using digital newspapers: the case of the British Empire.

For more details on the programme and registration please visit http://www.history.ac.uk/events/conferences/1157