This post is made on behalf of James Hatherill. James is undertaking an MA in Modern History at King’s and as part of his course is taking the optional internship module. For this element of the course he is based in the Foyle Special Collections Library where the research project designed for him involved:
Transcribing a 19th century manuscript report by William Young (1749-1815), Governor of Tobago and MP. The report was a plea to the British government to bring stability and prosperity to the island of Tobago and consolidate British possession of the island. A link to the catalogue record for the item James has been working on is available here: An essay on the commercial and political importance of ye island of Tabago, 1810
Assisting in the digitisation of the item for display in an online exhibition; and assisting with the online curatorial process
Writing an introductory essay and a blog post on the work
The internship runs from January to April 2017 and involves 100 hours of primary research. James writes:
I have found my time in the Foyle Special Collections a rewarding and intellectually stimulating experience. The subject of my research has given me a new perspective on a part of the world I did not previously know much about, and also an insight into the workings of the British Empire and its presence on the world stage.
I was able to consult contemporary documents and maps of the area, and even follow up some research at the National Archives. I found the digitisation process interesting and rewarding in the knowledge that the document I was working on would be preserved in a digital format.
Academia, like much of the world, has been completely changed by new technology and the information age. The benefits are quite immediately apparent in the discipline of history: access to primary sources previously made difficult through geographical circumstances can be more easily obtained. Similarly for secondary sources, websites like JSTOR can allow you to search countless articles from any journal relating to any subject which you may be researching. As a result, my studying of history has involved quite a lot of digital interface.
This has perhaps led to my experience at the Foyle Special Collections Library being quite a novel one as I have never worked quite so intimately with 18th and 19th century documents before. There is a larger debate surrounding digital vs. analogue in the background here, but that is for another day.
I am by no means a Luddite and completely enjoy the benefits of this age, but coming here and working in the collections has reminded me of the reason why history can be so encapsulating. To be connected to a person from the past through the paper with which they put their pen to and made a mark. That, along with the pleasure of working with the staff at the collections, has been the most enjoyable aspect of the internship.
An extract of my research into the work is reproduced below.
The development of Tobago
The island of Tobago has a history of political instability unlike that of any other Caribbean island during the 17th and 18th centuries. Tobago was in a ‘State of Betweenity’ as stated by Eric Williams. This is in reference to the relentless claims of various European powers to their colonial rights to the island, namely France, Britain and the Netherlands. In addition to this, buccaneers and marauders made sailing through this part of the Caribbean at the time a dangerous affair.
By the beginning of the 19th century, we have an island which is wrestling with its history and legacy. Sir William Young, 2nd Baronet (1749-1815) became Governor of the island of Tobago in 1807. He began to comprehensively assess the island’s viability as a suitable focus for expansion, an assessment which eventually culminated in this manuscript.
In the transcription I undertook I have not edited the text in any way. I have included any misspellings, punctuation or grammar mistakes which Young may have made. In some cases, these may just have been conventions of the 19th century such as the frequency of Tobago being written ‘Tabago.’
Young’s report to the British colonial government was in essence a plea to try and bring stability and prosperity to the island. He quite rightly points out in his report that instability does not encourage investment. The reputation Tobago had found itself with ultimately meant few merchants were willing to station themselves on the island. Young heavily plays up the mercantile spirit of the British and in a fairly typical attitude of the time, champions these as virtues of the British Empire which would benefit all.
There is also the unavoidable, and repeatedly referenced war with Napoleon’s France in the background during the period – France being at this time, of course, a rival colonial power as well as a frequent belligerent. Young constantly reminds the reader of the importance of securing against French interests in the area as a matter of national interest. Young’s ultimate conclusion to his report was that the French were planning to increase their presence on the island before it was handed back to British hands, and that this intention was something that Britain should also take an interest in.
To Young, Tobago was an island of unrealised potential – there were various reasons why it should have been one of the British Empire’s most significant colonial possessions.
Many of his arguments are compelling. However, either the island’s unstable reputation, or pure misfortune, would never see it become a true mercantile capital. While the Colonial Office decided his report worth keeping for preservation, there is no record of a reply from the government concerning this report.
EI Carlyle, ‘Young, Sir William, second baronet (1749–1815)’, rev. Richard B. Sheridan, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30284, accessed 7 March 2017]
Bryan Edwards, The history, civil and commercial, of the British colonies in the West Indies, London, John Stockdale, 1807
Tabago, or, A geographical description, natural and civil history. London: printed for W Reeves, 1759
Eric Williams. History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain, PNM Publishing, 1962
Sir William Young. The West-India common-place book. London, Richard Phillips, 1807
I co-organised a workshop in early December at The National Archives (TNA) on ATOM and Archivematica software, along with TNA’s Higher Education Archive Programme and Artefactual Systems, the Canadian development company which supports both these applications.
The workshop was attended by around 40 archivists and records managers from around the UK, including existing or prospective users of the systems and those simply interested in learning more.
ATOM’s development was supported by the ICA and it is used across the world to manage and publish descriptions of archives. Archivematica manages digital preservation workflows for digitised and born digital content.
Key questions/points that inspired the day included:
Examples of the real application of Archivematica – how difficult is it to customise and how easy is it to use?
Do regional consortia offer the best opportunity for the application of digital preservation?
How can data on other systems such as CALM be imported into ATOM?
How is training best delivered?
How will these open source systems be best supported given the limitations of institutional IT?
The day began with an introduction and overview of both systems from Artefactual’s Justin Simpson and Dan Gillean. Their slides are available here.
There were then a series of five/ten minute presentations from invited speakers. Gary Tuson, County Archivist at Norfolk Record Office (NRO), spoke eloquently about the Eastern Region Archivematica trial that saw a number of archives in that Region, led by NRO, use Archivematica for digital preservation. He offered real encouragement that a regional model might help, although it was only a small-scale trial. Archivematica, unlike ATOM, is not available with multi-tenanted functionality. This places some limitations on the creation of a genuinely collaborative initiative and more work needs to be done to assess the viability of consortia – perhaps involving trials in other regions such as London.
Lindsay Ould, Borough Archivist at Croydon, described her experience of migrating elderly CALM data into a new instance of ATOM. Their existing CALM system was used by Archives, Museums and Local Studies, meaning that the style and structure of data was very diverse and often unclean and out of date. More than 1000 collection and accession records were migrated to a new hosted version of ATOM. Lindsay described working with an external developer to cleanse the data and she pointed out that this took up a disproportionate amount of time. Lastly, she spoke about developing a simple search interface and future plans to also make museum descriptions visible.
David Cordery, of Max Communications, was next up and spoke about the challenges of migrating data into ATOM, similar to those which Lindsay had experienced. He stressed the usability and intuitive controls provided by ATOM, but also the ability for users to customise the front end delivery of archive data and that the system is especially useful when managing images. Max provides a service to extract, clean and re-publish data in new ATOM instances and offers ongoing support.
Jenny Mitcham of York spoke next on the use of Archivematica to manage research data – a proof of concept joint venture between the Universities of Hull and York, The National Archives and JISC. Research data management is a big challenge for universities, as it is a requirement of the Research Councils that such data, for example generated by scientific research, be preserved and managed for a time. Jenny highlighted the concept of ‘parsimonious preservation’ coined by Tim Gollins of The National Archives – essentially doing ‘just enough’ to capture the right information in digital preservation, and avoiding unnecessary processes. Jenny listed a number of pros and cons of using Archivematica, including its versatility, flexibility and ability to integrate with other systems, versus its fiddly processes, unsophisticated user interface and the need to train staff to use it. This impressive project is now hoping to move to a production phase and bring on board the Borthwick Institute and integrate Archivematica more fully with ATOM. Much more information can be found on the project website and digital archiving blog.
Ed Pinsent of the Digital Preservation Training Programme at ULCC, is working with Artefactual to develop more mature training in the use of the two systems. He revealed the results of a survey of the digital preservation community in 2015, which highlighted the need for practical (and less theoretical) hands-on training, especially using real tools. ULCC will be working closely with Artefactual on UK Archivematica training in 2017. Learn more about the work of ULCC’s DP training here.
The second half of the workshop focused on hands-on sessions using the two systems and work-sheets provided by Artefactual. This gave the opportunity for attendees, working in groups, to import, manage and manipulate test data and gain a better understanding of what the systems have to offer. Test instances were set up, enabling attendees and those not present to explore the systems from their workplaces.
More information about Archivematica can be found here; and on ATOM, a series of YouTube tutorials here.
Overall, this was a very useful workshop, not least in bringing together a diverse collection of archivists and records managers from higher education, local authorities and other sectors, and others such as representatives of Arkivum, the DP specialists. It is hoped that an ATOM user group will be founded as a consequence of the workshop, to complement a thriving Archivematica group.
I would like to thank The National Archives for hosting and helping to organise the day, and Artefactual for their assistance throughout the day and since.
The medical books, pamphlets and periodicals held in the Foyle Special Collections Library reflect the rich tradition of medical teaching and research across King’s Health Partners. Many of these items have significant provenances relating to medical figures who have worked for, or been connected with King’s.
In this article, Brandon High, Special Collections Officer discusses some of these that he has noted in his recent cataloguing.
A 1716 treatise on the eye, written in Latin and entitled Tractatus de circulari humorum motum in oculis, is part of the St. Thomas’s Historical Collection and bears the inscription of the physician and popular versifier Nathaniel Cotton (1705-88). His principal claim to fame is that he looked after the poet William Cowper (1731-1800) for two years in his private asylum during one of Cowper’s bouts of mental illness. Cotton’s treatment was apparently successful, as the regime in his asylum was humane, unlike the practices of some of the more notorious privately-owned ‘madhouses’ of that era. There are four other books in the historical medical collections with Cotton’s bookplate or inscription.
Other provenances in the historical medical collections with literary connections include the collection of books with the inscription of the St. Thomas’s surgeon and King’s professor of surgery Joseph Henry Green (1791-1863). Green was a close friend of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and was his amanuensis for several of his prose works. Joseph Henry Green’s ideas on the role of medical practitioners in society paralleled those of Coleridge on intellectuals, and both agreed on the importance for social and political order of higher education institutions (like King’s) with strong connections to the Anglican Church.
A number of books which bear the bookplate of the psychiatrist George Henry Savage (1842-1921) are now in the Institute of Psychiatry Historical Collection at the Foyle Special Collections Library. Savage was one of Virginia Woolf’s doctors during her frequent periods of mental distress, and was very unfavourably portrayed as the psychiatrist Sir William Bradshaw in her landmark modernist novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925), who lamentably fails in his duty of care for Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of the First World War.
The St. Thomas’s Historical Collection also includes a limited edition copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), published to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its first publication. This novel is heavily based on Maugham’s experiences as a St. Thomas’s medical student, caring for pregnant women. He qualified as a medical practitioner, but never practised.
All these provenances can be searched on the King’s Library catalogue using the drop down menu and selecting the ‘Former owners, Provenance’ search option, and typing the name of the relevant person
You can also read detailed guides to the medical collections and other Special Collections on the ‘About our collections‘ webpage.
I would love to have wandered around Fleet Street and this area of London’s alleyways and lanes before the banking corporations supplanted the newspaper offices and severed the unbroken link to the area’s printing history that had stretched back so many years.
In the back streets of this historic centre of the British book trade, at addresses like Shoe Lane, Bow Church Yard and Red Lion Court, all a stone’s throw from the Maughan Library, small volumes of stories and fables and tales known as chapbooks were once printed – their geographical provenance enduringly visible through imprints like: Printed and sold at the London and Middlesex Printing Office, no. 81, Shoe Lane, Holborn.
In my current cataloguing project I have been adding these little, well-thumbed volumes to the Special Collections catalogue.
The chapbooks I have been working on were printed and produced in the later 18th century, though versions of chapbooks existed from the 17th to the 19th century. These were usually produced on hand operated printing presses in small industrial units, with family members sometimes employed at the stages of production. Chapbooks were normally printed on one single sheet of paper and then folded into 8, 12, 16 or 24 pages. They would usually have been sold unbound and held together by a simple sewing.
When you walk through the narrow, high-walled alleyways around Fleet Street, Holborn Circus and St Paul’s (as I do often on my lunch breaks) it is not difficult to imagine the printers, workshop assistants, agents and delivery boys scurrying through the streets in pursuit of their occupation and living.
As easy as it is to imagine these scenes of production, it is also no stretch of the imagination to imagine the itinerant ‘chapmen’, from whom the books take their name, bargaining with printers and agents, buying chapbooks wholesale, and then heading out of town with them tucked inside their bags, ready to sell to country folk at fairs and festivals. The soubriquet ‘chapmen’ derives from an Old English word meaning ‘dealer’ or ‘seller’.
As literacy levels grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, the desire for these affordable, pithy tales also grew, and the stories that I have been working on include recognisable derivatives of the literary canon:
The tales are usually adorned with charming (and sometimes suggestive) woodcut illustrations. This was a cheap and durable method of illustration: woodcuts can be used for long periods and passed from one printer to another and, as Ruth Richardson says in her excellent British Library article on chapbooks, in the more expensive editions, children were sometimes employed to colour these woodcut illustrations.
The chapbooks I have been working on were bound together in the 20th century by an independent firm on behalf of the Library. Each bound volume contains perhaps 10 or 15 of these wonderful tales on cheaply produced paper, that has evidently been thumbed through by readers of London or the country, and perhaps read aloud around a homestead fire as a bedtime treat for the family.
I like these books because I can sense the mechanics of their production in the streets where I work. In the Foyle Special Collections Library we hold examples of works from the infancy of printing (known as incunabula) to the present day, with grand editions, illustrations and provenance marking many out as significant, unique and of immense value to researchers and historians. These chapbooks have their special place in the collection, and there is something wonderful about the mass appeal that they offered, with their eclectic subject content covering heroic tales, ghost stories, battle and adventure and news and politics.
Their popularity is attested to by the well-thumbed pages, and also by the sparsity of detail on some of the imprints. This lack of detail in an imprint like ‘Printed and sold in London’ suggests that some printers may have been none-too-keen to display that they themselves had also ‘cashed in’ on the popularity of a certain tale, with their anonymity ensuring the pirated edition would not be traced back to them.
I have been reporting these editions to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) to ensure they are accessible to researchers worldwide; and of course if anyone would like to have a look at these wonderful little volumes, they are welcome to consult them in the Foyle Special Collections Library.
Victor E Neuburg. Chapbooks: a guide to reference material on English, Scottish and American chapbook literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. London: Woburn Press, . Foyle Special Collections [Special Collections Ref.] Z6514.P7 NEU
The Foyle Special Collections Library holds King’s College London’s and its affiliated institutions’ historical medical collections and we wanted to let Library customers, researchers and colleagues know about recent work we have been doing with them. Promotion and access to the collections is important, as they reflect King’s long and continuing history of medical teaching and research.
UK Medical Heritage Library project
Over the past year we have been participating in the UK Medical Heritage Library project. This Jisc funded project, administered by the Wellcome Trust, has seen 15 million pages from UK institutions’ 19th and early 20th century medical collections digitised for research purposes.
Our work has involved identifying, packing and sending 2,000 items to the Wellcome Trust to be digitised and made freely available online, as part of the project.
The logistics of the project have involved the employment of a Project Officer; ensuring the safe return and handling of rare items; and liaison with the Internet Archive who have undertaken the scanning of the books.
Now all the books have been safely checked back in, (we’ve checked very carefully!) we have just made the records accessible through the Library catalogue. If you see a catalogue record like this one to the Household medical adviser it should provide a link directly to the digitised record…if it doesn’t, please let me know!
With special thanks to Victoria Parkinson (Metadata Coordinator) and Liz Serebriakoff (Service Development Coordinator) for their help with the technical aspects of this project.
Recently acquired material from the Weston Education Centre Library store
As well as putting the finishing touches to the UKMHL project, we have also been identifying Special Collections material that is currently in other Library Services locations. Generally, we are especially interested in pre-1900 books, items with significant provenances, those that are fragile, or those connected with the history of King’s.
While the image of librarians rooting around in stores for rare books has long been a staple in the library world, we do use the library management system and spreadsheet lists to identify material which needs to go into Special Collections. We are also happy to hear from colleagues who spot books that they think should be in Special Collections, or who receive information from a library customer to such effect, as has recently happened.
Following consultation of aforementioned lists and liaison with Pablo Paganotto (Senior Library Assistant at the Weston Education Centre) – thanks, Pablo! – we visited and rooted around in the store with a refined purpose. My colleague Brandon High, Special Collections Officer, describes one of the transferred items, below:
Among the material which the Foyle Special Collections Library has recently acquired from the WEC Store are several items with very interesting provenances. One of the most distinguished owners of these books is the surgeon Joseph Lister (1827-1912). Lister established the scientific basis of antiseptic surgery, and for clinical medicine in general.
The book which stands out is a copy of the 1898 edition of Sir Patrick Manson’s Tropical diseases, which bears the author’s inscription as well as Lister’s bookplate. Sir Patrick Manson (1844-1922) was responsible for discovering the causation of malaria, and for founding the London School of Tropical Medicine.
Another book, Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton’s Pharmacology and therapeutics (1880) bears the author’s inscription. Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton (1844-1916) was a distinguished physiologist and pharmacologist who undertook pioneering research on the action of enzymes in the digestive system. He was also the first medical scientist to establish the connection between high blood pressure and heart disease.
Another item with an interesting provenance is Annales mèdico-psychologiques, which has the bookplate of the psychiatrist George Henry Savage (1842-1921), one of Virginia Woolf’s psychiatrists. The psychiatrist in her novel, Mrs Dalloway was modelled on him.
Purchase of a new acquisition
From our acquisitions budget we are also able to enrich the (medical and other) collections by purchase, and Brandon describes a recent acquisition below:
This is a very rare edition of a very popular work, which was first published in 1747, and which ran to many editions. This book was written at a time when many families self-medicated from choice or necessity. Its prescriptions avoid complicated pharmacology. Cold water bathing (a favourite of the 18th century), food (a diet of turnips for a month as a cure for scurvy, the application of toasted cheese to cuts) and exercises (rubbing the head for quarter of an hour as a cure for headache) feature heavily.
The book is informed throughout by a strong scepticism about orthodox medicine and medicines, but its underlying theoretical basis is humoural and Hippocratic.
Gifts gratefully received
We also recently received some items which were the gift of Rachel Paton, daughter of Dr Alex Paton, formerly of St Thomas’s Medical School, who died in 2015. With many thanks to Alan Fricker (Head of NHS Partnership and Liaison) for facilitating these acquisitions. Dr Paton evidently led an interesting life, being one of the first doctors to enter Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
The items formerly owned by Dr Paton are significant 19th century works on the liver, on which Dr Paton was an expert. These include:
I have recently been helping to co-ordinate academic input to a relatively new project supported by Jisc that is building innovative tools to help with searching and presenting data from the UK Medical Heritage Library (UKMHL) project. The UKMHL, which is supported by the Wellcome Library and Internet Archive, is an ambitious initiative to digitise and provide online access to thousands of books on the themes of medicine and healthcare published during the ‘long’ 19th century (until 1914). The books are being made available to the public in a rolling programme from the Wellcome and Internet Archive websites.
Prof. Williams’ Complete Hypnotism
The books are drawn from ten UK research libraries, including King’s College London, and cover a huge variety of subjects including public health and sanitation, infection and epidemiology, nutrition and cookery, the history of disease and its treatment and psychiatry and psychology. Up to 40% of the books were published abroad, notably in the US, Germany and France, and this international dimension provides a fascinating opportunity for comparative study.
Ultimately, the UKMHL will provide access to some 15 million pages of OCR text and millions of embedded terms including the names of people, organisations, geographical locations, diseases, treatments and associated data such as medical equipment, and references to contemporary culture and society which will mean the resource is useful not only to medical historians but a much broader range of interested scholars including biographers, geographers and literary experts.
The visualisation project, which is led by the Knowledge Integration company in association with Gooii, is developing a range of new data visualisation tools such as graphs, timelines and maps. These will enable established scholars, students and other users such as journalists find what they need quickly from a huge corpus of material, whilst also supporting serendipitous browsing and providing the space in which the user can discover completely unexpected facts and relationships, not least between people, places and ideas.
My work involves the design and review of data sets that will help with the selection of presentation of the data, and its contextualisation, and to co-ordinate the contributions of a number of King’s and other medical historians, who are ensuring that the resulting visualisations are both accurate and useful.
The new visualisations will be available to use in summer 2016.
I started my course in Promotion and Protection of Italian Cultural Heritage Abroad in March 2015. The degree is awarded by the University of Parma through ICoN (Italian Culture on the Net), a consortium of Italian Universities whose mission is the promotion and diffusion of Italian culture and the image of Italy worldwide using distance-learning tools. Classes are held by both academics and professionals from partner institutions, such as the National Cinema Museum of Turin or the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico.
Due to the vocational focus of the program, students are required to carry out an internship, during which they have to design a conservation or promotion project on material or immaterial Italian cultural heritage.
I decided to ‘play a home match’, interning at the Foyle Special Collections Library and to work on Italian early printed books. As Italian is not among the languages taught at King’s, I wanted to find a theme that might be of interest to a hefty share of our academic community, beyond linguistic knowledge. While browsing the Maughan bookshelves I stumbled upon Globalization in world history edited by A. G. Hopkins, and decided to develop the theme of archaic globalization.
The first step was then to become familiar with the daily work and mission of the Special Collections through induction sessions held by colleagues. After that, I had to identify Italian books on the catalogue and Liz Serebriakoff of Business and Systems Support (and an Aleph expert!) came to my rescue, providing some spreadsheets with records extracted through ARC.
Of the hundreds of items detected, roughly 300 were printed before 1700, among which I had to select a subset of books relevant to the theme; after this skimming process I identified almost a dozen of promising items, mainly from the Marsden and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collections.
Having mined for my raw material, I had to decide what to do with it. After consultation with my internship supervisor Adam Ray and the Head of Special Collections Katie Sambrook, we agreed on designing posters using images from selected books, with these to be placed on stands around the Maughan Library. Each poster would carry the bibliographic data of the Special Collections item featured in it, plus the details of an item in the Maughan Library collection on the same subject, therefore creating a link between the two. The posters aim to make the presence of the Foyle Special Collections more visible to students visiting the library and possibly stimulate their curiosity about its holdings.
Three posters where produced. The first one showcases the voyages of the Florentine merchant Carletti, who completed a journey around the world in the early seventeenth century. Due to the nature of its binding, digitizing the first printed edition of Carletti’s reports proved to be too risky. We opted to reproduce a map of South America from a beautifully illustrated 1548 Venetian copy of Ptolemy’s Geographia instead. The second poster features the title page of a 1514 surgery treatise by papal physician Giovanni da Vigo, in which he describes the first known outbreak of syphilis in Europe. The last poster focuses on the spread of printing. The chosen image is a detail from a polyglot Psalter printed in Genoa in 1516, showing columns of Arabic and Aramaic text.
As we had to find a balance between aesthetics and relevance of the content, many quite interesting items could not be featured in the posters, but might find their space in further projects.
A link to the Special Collections web page about the project and to the posters is available here
I was fortunate to attend the biennial Linked Open Data,
Libraries, Archives, Museums summit in early July in Sydney, Australia. I
played a very small role in setting it up, as a member of the organising
committee. The conference is an opportunity for archivists, librarians, museum
curators and information professionals and IT experts to meet and discuss the
latest developments in Linked Data among higher education, heritage and
‘memory’ institutions, worldwide. Delegates have the chance to hear about
successful (and unsuccessful) projects and take part in targeted discussions on
the future of the technology, and encourage new collaborations. The event
features the ‘Challenge’ – an open competition for the best application of
Linked Data in a cultural setting. The
summit adopts the ‘un-conference’ format without pre-prepared papers, at which
relevant issues can be aired and debated and sub-groups convened to address
Linked Data is a way of structuring online and other data to
improve its accuracy, visibility and connectedness. The technology has been
available for more than a decade and has mainly been used by commercial
entities such as publishing and media organisations including the BBC and
Reuters. For archives, libraries and
museums, Linked Data holds the prospect of providing a richer experience for
users, better connectivity between pools of data, new ways of cataloguing
collections, and improved access for researchers and the public.
It could, for example, provide the means to unlock research
data or mix it with other types of data such as maps, or to search digitised
content including books and image files and collection metadata. New, more
robust, services are currently being developed by international initiatives
such as Europeana which should make its adoption by libraries and archives much
easier. There remain many challenges, however, and this conference provided the
opportunity to explore these.
The conference comprised a mix of quick fire discussions,
parallel breakout sessions, 2-minute introductions to interesting projects, and
the Challenge entries.
[photo: Work in progress at the LODLAM summit]
Quick fire points
Need for improved visualisation of data (current
visualisations are not scalable or require too much IT input for archivists and
librarians to realistically use)
Need to build Linked Data creation and editing
into vendor systems (the Step change model which we pursued at King’s Archives
in a Jisc-funded project)
Exploring where text mining and Natural Language
Processing overlap with LOD
World War One Linked Data: what next? (less of a
theme this time around as the anniversary has already started)
LOD in archives: a particular challenge?
(archives are lagging libraries and galleries in their implementation of Linked
What is the next Getty vocabularies: a popular vocabulary
that can encourage use of LOD?
Fedora 8 and LOD in similar open source or
proprietary content management systems (how can Linked Data be used with these
Linked Data is an off-putting term implying a
data-centric set of skills (perhaps Linked Open Knowledge as an alternative?)
Building a directory of cultural heritage
organisation LOD: how do we find available data sets? (such as Linked Open
Implementing the European Data Model: next steps
(stressing the importance of Europeana in the Linked Data landscape)
Can we connect different entities across
different vocabularies to create new knowledge? (a lot of vocabularies have
been created, but how do they communicate?)
This talk showcased a new product called OASIS from
Synaptica, aimed at art galleries, which facilitates the identification,
annotation and linking of parts of images. These elements can be linked
semantically and described using externally-managed vocabularies such as the
Getty suite of vocabularies or classifications like Iconclass. This helps
curators do their job. End users enjoy an enriched appreciation of paintings
and other art. It is the latest example of annotation services that overlay useful
information and utilise agreed international standards like the Open Annotation
Data Model and the IIIF standard for image zoom.
We were shown two examples: Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus
and Holbein’s The Ambassadors for impressive zooming of well-known paintings
and detailed descriptions of features. Future development will allow for
crowdsourcing to identify key elements and utilising image recognition software
to find these elements on the Web (‘find all examples of images of dogs in 16th
century public works of art embedded in the art but not indexed in available
This product mirrors the implementation of IIIF by an
international consortium that includes leading US universities, the Bodleian,
BL, Wellcome and others. Two services have evolved which offer archives the
chance to provide deep zoom and interoperability for their images for their
users: Mirador, and the Wellcome’s Universal Viewer (http://showcase.iiif.io/viewer/mirador/).
These get around the problem of having to create differently sized derivatives
of images for different uses, and of having to publish very large images on the
internet when download speeds might be slow.
Digital New Zealand
Chris McDowall of Digital New Zealand explored how best to
make LOD work for non-LOD people. Linked Open Data uses a lot of acronyms and
assumes a fairly high level of technical knowledge of systems which should not
be assumed. This is a particular bugbear of mine, which is why this talk
resonated. Chris’ advocacy of cross developer/user meetups also chimed with my
own thinking: LOD will never be properly adopted if it is assumed to be the
province of ‘techies’. Developers often don’t know what they are developing
because they don’t understand the content or its purpose: they are not
He stressed the importance of vocabulary cross-walks and the
need for good communication in organisations to make services stable and
sustainable. Again, this chimed with my own thinking: much work needs to be
done to ‘sell’ the benefits of Linked Data to sceptical senior management.
These benefits might include context building around archive collections,
gamification of data to encourage re-use, and serendipity searches and prompts
which can aid researchers. Linked Data offers the kind of truly targeted
searching in contrast to the ‘faith based technology’ of existing search
engines (a really memorable expression).
He warned that the infrastructure demands of LOD should not
be underestimated, particularly from researchers making a lot of simultaneous
queries: he mooted a pared down type of LOD for wider adoption.
Richard Wallis of OCLC explored the potential of Schema.org,
a growing vocabulary of high level terms agreed by the main search engines to
make content more searchable. Schema.org helps power search result boxes one
sees at the top of Google search return pages. Richard suggested the creation
of an extension relevant to archives to add to the one for bibliographic
material. The advantage of schema.org is that it can easily be added to web
pages, resulting in appreciable improvement in ranking and the possibility of
generating user-centred suggestions in search results. For an archive, this
might mean a Google user searches for the papers of Winston Churchill and is
offered suggested other uses such as booking tickets to a talk about the
papers, or viewing Google maps information showing the opening times and
location of the archive.
The group discussion centred on the potential elements (would
the extension refer to thesis, research data, university systems that contain
archive data such as Finance and student information?), and on the need for use
cases and setting out potential benefits. I agreed to be part of an
international team through the W3C Consortium, to help set one up.
[photo: Shakespeare window at the State Library of New South Wales]
This Dutch service facilitates the linking of different
controlled vocabularies and thesauri and helps address the problem faced by
many cultural organisations ‘which thesauri do I use?’ and ‘how do I avoid
reinventing the thesauri wheel?’. The services allows users to upload a SKOS
vocabulary, link it with one of four supported vocabularies and visualise the
The service helps different types of organisation to connect
their vocabularies, for example an audio-visual archive with a museum’s
collections. The approach also allows content from one repository to be
enhanced or deepened through contextual information from another. The example
of Vermeer’s Milkmaid was cited: enhancing the discoverability of information
on the painting held in the Rijksmuseum
in Amsterdam through connecting the collection data held on the local museum
management system with DBPedia and with the Getty Art and Architecture
Thesaurus. This sort of approach builds on the prototypes developed in the last
few years to align vocabularies (and to ‘Skosify’ data – turn it into Linked
Data) around shared Europeana initiatives (see http://semanticweb.cs.vu.nl/amalgame/).
Services project: Introduction by Ingrid Mason
This is a pan-Australian research data management project
focusing on the repackaging of cultural heritage data for academic re-use.
Linked Data will be used to describe a ‘meta-collection’ of the country’s
cultural data, one that brings together academic users of data and curators. It
will utilise the Australia-wide research data nodes for high speed retrieval (https://www.rds.edu.au/project-overview
Jon explained how the popular historical mapping service,
historypin, is dealing with the problem of ‘roundtripping’ where heritage data
is enhanced or augmented through crowdsourcing and returned to its source. This
is of particular interest to Europeana, whose data might pass through many
hands. It highlights a potential difficulty of LOD: validating the authenticity
and quality of data that has been distributed and enriched.
Chris McDowall of
Digital New Zealand
Chris explained how to search across different types of data
source in New Zealand, for example to match and search for people using
phonetic algorithms to generate sound alike suggestions and fuzzy name
This 6 million Euro EU-funded project aims to make
audio-visual material more accessible and has been trialled with thousands of
hours of video footage, and expert users, from the BBC. Its purpose is to help users
mine vast quantities of audio-visual material in the public domain as
accurately and quickly as possible. The team have developed tools using open
source frameworks that allow users to detect people, places, events and other
entities in speech and images and to annotate and refine these results. This
sophisticated tool set utilises face, speech and place recognition to zero-in
on precise fragments without the need for accompanying (longhand) metadata. The
results are undeniably impressive – with a speedy, clear, interface locating
the parts of each video with filtering and similarity options. The main use for
the toolset to date is with film studies and journalism students but it
unquestionably has wider application.
The Axes website also highlights a number of interesting
projects in this field. Two stand out: http://www.axes-project.eu/?page_id=25,
notably Cubrik (http://www.cubrikproject.eu/),
another FP 7 multinational project which mixes crowd and machine analysis to
refine and improving searching of multimedia assets; and the PATHS prototype (http://www.paths-project.eu/) ‘an interactive personalised tour guide through
existing digital library collections. The system will offer suggestions about
items to look at and assist in their interpretation. Navigation will be based
around the metaphor of a path through the collection.’ The project created an
API, User Interface and launched a tested exemplar with Europeana to
demonstrate the potential of new discovery journeys to open access to
The NSW State Library sought to find new ways of visualising
their collections by date and geography through their DX Labs, an experimental
data laboratory similar to BL Labs, which I have worked with in the UK. One
visually arresting visualisation shows the proportions of collections relevant
to particular geographical locations in the city of Sydney. Accompanied by
approving gasps from the audience, this showed an iceberg graphic superimposed
onto a map showing the proportion of collections about a place that had been
digitised and yet to be digitised – a striking way of communicating the
fragility of some collections and the work still to be done to make them
accessible to the public.
Open Memory Project. This Italian entry
won the main prize. It uses Linked Data to re-connect victims of the Holocaust
in wartime Italy. The project was thought provoking and moving and has the
potential to capture the public imagination.
Polimedia is a service designed to
answer questions from the media and journalists by querying multi-media
libraries, identifying fragments of speech. It won second prize for its
innovative solution to the challenge of searching video archives.
LodView goes LAM is a new Italian
software designed to make it easier for novices to publish data as Linked Data.
A visually beautiful and engaging interface makes this a joy to look at.
EEXCESS is a European project to
augment books and other research and teaching materials with contextual
information, and to develop sophisticated tools to measure usage. This is an
exciting, ambitious, project to assemble different sources using Linked Data to
enable a new kind of publication made up of a portfolio of assets.
Preservation Planning Ontology is a
proposal for using Linked Data in the planning of digital preservation by
archives. It has been developed by Artefactual Systems, the Canadian company
behind ATOM and Archivematica software. This made the shortlist as it is a good
example of a ‘behind the scenes’ management use of Linked data to make
preservation workflows easier.
A selection of other
Public Domain City
extracts curious images from digitised content. This is similar to BL Labs’
Mechanical Curator, a way of mining digitised books for interesting images and
making them available to social media to improve the profile and use of a
Project Mosul uses
Linked Data to digitally recreate damaged archaeological heritage from Iraq. A
good example of using this technology to protect and recreate heritage damaged
in conflict and disaster.
The Muninn Project
combines 3D visualisations and printing using Linked Data taken from First
World War source material.
LOD Stories is a
way of creating story maps between different pots of data about art and
visualising the results. The project is a good example of the need to make
Linked Data more appealing and useful, in this case by building ‘family trees’
of information about subjects to create picture narratives.
Get your coins out of
your pocket is a Linked Data engine about Roman coinage and the stories it
has to tell – geographically and temporally. The project uses nodegoat as an
engine for volunteers to map useful information: http://nodegoat.net/.
Graphity is a
Danish project to improve access to historical Danish digitised newspapers and
enhancing with maps and other content using Linked Data.
Dutch Ships and
Sailors brings together multiple historical data sources and uses Linked
Data to make them searchable.
Corbicula is a way
of automating the extraction of data from collection management systems and
publishing it as Linked Data.
[photo: delegates at the summit]
Day two sessions
Day two sessions focused on the future. A key session led by
Richard Wallis explained how Google is moving from a page ranking approach to a
triple confidence assertion approach to generating search results. The way in
which Google generates its results will therefore move closer to the LOD method
of attributing significance to results.
Need for a vendor manifesto to encourage systems
vendors such as Ex Libris, to build LOD into their systems (Corey Harper of New
York University proposed this and is working closely with Ex Libris to bring
Depositing APIs/documentation for maximum re-use
(APIs are often a weak link – adoption of LOD won’t happen if services break or
Uses identified (mining digitised newspaper
archives was cited)
Potential piggy-backing from Big Pharma
investment in Big Data (massive investment by drugs companies to crunch huge
quantities of data – how far can the heritage sector utilise even a fraction of
Need to validate LOD: the quality issue – need
for an assertion testing service (LOD won’t be used if its quality is
questionable. Do curators (traditional guardians of quality) manage this?)
Training in Linked Data needs to be addressed
Need to encourage fundraising and make LO
sustainable: what are we going to do with LOD in the next ten years? (Will the
test of the success of Linked Open Data be if the term drops out of use when we
are all doing it without noticing? Will 5 Star Linked Data be realised? http://5stardata.info/)
There were several key learning points from this conference:
The divide between technical experts and policy
and decision makers remains significant: more work is needed to provide use
cases and examples of improved efficiencies or innovative public engagement
opportunities that the technology provides
The re-use and publication of Linked Data is
becoming important and this brings challenges in terms of IPR, reliability of
APIs and quality of data
Easy to use tools and widgets will help spread
its use; avoiding complicated and unsustainable technical solutions that depend
on project funding
Working with vendors to incorporate Linked Data
tools in library and archive systems will speed its adoption
The Linked Data community ought to work towards
the day Linked Data is business as usual and the terms goes out of use
I attended a two day conference at the University of Brescia
in northern Italy in late April: the 13th International Innovations
in Education Colloquium. This was an opportunity for delegates to learn about the opportunities afforded by
‘personalisation’ – the collection or delivery of information tailored to the
needs of individuals. The focus of the talks at this conference was
personalisation in the fields of healthcare and higher education, with the dual
objectives of improving patient care and making the student experience richer,
more creative and rewarding. Some fifty delegates were brought together from
these sectors drawn from a dozen countries as far afield as the UK, Australia
and Thailand. This was an eclectic community
that included leading dentists, maxillo-facial cancer surgeons, and an expert
on conflict resolution, a specialist in 3D printing and an expert on student
interactions with online resources.
The hosts – as always – were the Brescia Medical and Dental
School, and we were grateful throughout for the care and attention provided by
many of the delightful student volunteers, including collecting delegates from
airports up to 60 miles distant and even preparing a magnificent homemade pasta
The colloquium began with an icebreaker session at which
delegates had were asked to draw and reinterpret examples of Australian flora –
in my case a pine cone (very badly). The session had a deeper purpose: the art
facilitator, Jen Wright, is currently completing a PhD on the role of fine art
in improving virtual learning systems for cancer surgeons – and our experience
provided some valuable feedback on how art can help the practice of surgery.
The keynote was provided by Eeva Leinonen, formerly of
King’s College London, and now Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of
Wollongong, Sydney. The university focuses on technology enhanced learning and
has recently developed a number of popular MOOCS and Open Educational Resources.
One of their key objectives is the creation of personalised learning support
for students – and this requires the collection of more detailed and meaningful
analytics to improve strategy, university management and explore the
motivations of students in a holistic way. Recent work has included a
comprehensive student survey on the ethical limitations of data collection (how
far are students willing to share data), and the potential of data collection
to improve teaching (for example almost real time data on attendance at
lectures), identify reasons for drop-out and thus improve retention of
students. The objective is the creation for a student of a truly personalised plan
analogous to a personalised medical treatment plan in a clinical setting. This
will help demonstrate to a student that they are valued, that their unique
contribution to the university is being recognised, and that interventions to
improve their learning experience can be acted on promptly.
The second keynote, from Dieter Schonwetter of the University
of Manitoba, Canada, in honour of the late Bruce Elson, explored the role of
legacy and immortalisation post mortem as a type of personalisation, not least
in the digital sphere, but also in students’ research, writing and friendships.
A student’s connections, relationships and extra-curricular experiences are as
valuable as their formal learning in contributing to a lasting legacy.
Professor Schonwetter’s talk was supplemented by Professor Emeritus Margaret
Cox in a moving tribute to Bruce Elton and his work in the field of dental
haptics. Margaret drew attention to the hapTEL project at King’s – designed to
improve the teaching of dental students (http://www.haptel.kcl.ac.uk/).
A presentation by Dr Eva Dobozy of Curtin University,
Western Australia, explored the phenomenon of online ‘lurking’ by students. I
was unfamiliar with the term, which refers to a type of online student
behaviour in which students fail to engage in online or blended learning but instead
are passive ‘watchers’ who refuse to participate in the opportunities which new
learning technologies afford and to take part in online discussions – the
equivalent of those classroom students that never contribute to classes but sit
passively from the back. We were shown the Learning Activity Management System
(LAMS) developed by Macquarie University to allow educators to monitor such
behaviour in online learning environments.
The afternoon symposium comprised a packed series of talks
and presentations showcasing several new technologies. Professor Kenneth Eaton,
unveiled the SHIELD project – responding to an EU Horizon 2020 call aimed at
personalising health and care. The project, should it be funded, will seek to
support the development of digital devices to monitor the health of the elderly
at home, train healthcare workers and support carers, saving money – and the
dignity – of the old.
The North and South Culture Cafe Project, managed by the
universities of Hull and Southampton, was a series of talks aimed at
challenging stereotypes of the north and south of England, which often came
into being in the literature of the nineteenth century: https://twitter.com/northsouth2017
An important talk from Marika Guggisberg of Curtin
University, Western Australia, explored the impact to mental health of sexual
violence, concluding that it is under-reported and often goes unrecognised.
Marika proposed the development of new methods of intervention and prevention.
The next talk introduced GRAPHIC – a serious online game
used by dental students as part of their practical education. It drew attention
to the importance of such games in professional training. GRAPHIC-1 and its
follow-up, GRAPHIC-2, have been used by students at King’s College and in
Thailand on the suitability of oral health programmes in simulated situations.
The project has concluded that serious games have a role to play in
professional training to augment, but not replace, face to face teaching.
The next presentation concerned the delivery of
personalisation at scale – for large numbers of students – delivered by David
Gibson, Director of Learning Engagement at Curtin University in Western
Australia. He explained how algorithms have been developed which can recommend
learning materials or tasks based on data generated by other learners, or which
analyse large quantities of information relating to learner demographics and
personalise the learner experience based on these data. David proposed a mixed
approach using semi-automated personalised learning using machine learning
algorithms but which are adapted and shaped by the real experience of learners
The final workshop was delivered by John Burgess, a
consultant working in the construction industry and a professional adjudicator,
who provided invaluable advice on methods and means of personal development to
encourage innovation and risk-taking – encouragement of a sort of personalised
Overall, this was a
fascinating conference, which mixed together practitioners from many different
environments to think more deeply about providing more nuanced and intelligent
teaching and care for university students and patients alike.