2018: an overview

Projects

2018 finished with a bang, as the press release for the British Library/Alan Turing Institute’s Living with Machines project went live. In this project, we’re experimenting with ‘radical collaborations’ around applying data science methods to historical newspaper collections to advance the potential of digital history.

Talks and teaching

January: a lecture on ‘Scholarly crowdsourcing: from public engagement to creating knowledge socially’ for the Introduction to Digital Humanities Masters course at King’s College London, and an ‘Overview of Information Visualisation’ for the CHASE Winter School: Introduction to Digital Humanities.

February: a full-day workshop on Information Visualisation for PhD students in the Digital Humanities for CHASE.

March: a talk on ‘Crowdsourcing: the British Library experience’ for CILIP’s Multimedia Information & Technology (MmIT) Group’s event on ‘The wisdom of the crowd? Crowdsourcing for information professionals’.

April: a talk on ‘Challenges and opportunities in digital scholarship’ for a British Library Research Collaboration Open House, and took part in a panel for the Association of Art Historians (AAH) conference on ‘Sharing knowledge through online engagement’ around Art UK’s Art Detective project at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

May: I was in Rotterdam for a EuropeanaTech panel on User Generated & Institutional Data Transcription projects and gave a talk on ‘Open cultural data in the GLAM sector’ for a CPD25 workshop on The GLAM sector: what can we learn from Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums

June: with Thomas Padilla I co-taught ‘Collections as data‘ for the HILT Digital Humanities Summer School, June 4–8, 2018, University of Pennsylvania. I then went onto Oberlin College to give a keynote on ‘Digital collections as departure points’ at the Academic Art Museums and Libraries Summit.

September: a talk on ‘Crowdsourcing at the British Library: lessons learnt and future directions’ for the Digital Humanities Congress, Sheffield. And a ‘provocation’ for the Building Library Labs event, ‘A modest proposal: crowdsourcing is good for all of us’.

November: I travelled to Bonn to do a keynote on ‘Libraries and their Communities: Participation from Town Halls to Mobile Phones’ for the Semantic Web in Libraries (SWIB) conference, and gave a preview talk on Living with Machines for the British Library Labs Symposium.

Publications

An article on Breathing life into digital collections at the British Library for ACCESS / Journal of the Australian School Library Association, 2018.

A chapter for a Routledge publication on research methods in the Digital Humanities, called ‘Crowdsourcing in cultural heritage: a practical guide to designing and running successful projects’ (currently doing final edits)

Other

I was a peer reviewer for conference proposals and articles for museum studies and digital humanities events and journals.

I also gave internal talks on IIIF and the Universal Viewer and taught Data Visualisation and Crowdsourcing workshops on the British Library’s Digital Scholarship Training Programme.

I’ve collected some blog posts and newsletter updates for the British Library at Updates from Digital Scholarship at the British Library.

Keynote: Crowdsourcing our cultural heritage, Nordiske Arkivdage 2015

Photo of the audience arriving at Nordiske Arkivdage 2015
The audience arriving at Nordiske Arkivdage 2015

I was invited to give a keynote on ‘Crowdsourcing our cultural heritage’ at Nordiske Arkivdage 2015 (#NordiskArkiv), a triennial gathering of archivists from Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland in Copenhagen on May 8, 2015. I greatly enjoyed hearing about various crowdsourcing projects that state and city archives in those countries have worked on over the years (and would still love to hear more). My slides are below.

From my introduction:

Today I want to talk about why crowdsourcing creates opportunities for productive, meaningful public engagement with cultural heritage. This isn’t a sales pitch – crowdsourcing is not a ‘magic bullet’ – but I think an investment in crowdsourcing can be repaid with impressive results in the amount of material processed, and in new relationships with our shared cultural heritage in museums, libraries, universities, community groups and archives.

So in the next twenty minutes I will briefly explain what crowdsourcing in cultural heritage is, give you a glimpse of some projects where crowdsourcing has been incredibly productive, and discuss how it can help make collections more accessible while engaging people more deeply in thinking about those collections…

Crowdsourcing in cultural heritage asks the public to help with tasks that contribute to a shared, significant goal or research interest related to cultural heritage collections or knowledge. As a voluntary activity, the tasks and/or goals should be inherently rewarding.

If you’re interested in engagement through crowdsourcing, you might also like From tagging to theorizing: deepening engagement with cultural heritage through crowdsourcing. Curator: The Museum Journal, 56(4) pp. 435–450. If you’re interested in crowdsourcing in cultural heritage generally, try the book! My Introduction to Crowdsourcing Our Cultural Heritage is online.

Lecture: ‘A pilot with public participation in historical research: linking lived experiences of the First World War’, Trinity College Dublin

Trinity lecture poster
Trinity lecture poster

As part of my Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Hub I gave a lecture on ‘A pilot with public participation in historical research: linking lived experiences of the First World War‘.

The abstract and podcast are below, and there’s further information about my CENDARI Fellowship here.

Abstract: The centenary of World War One and the digitisation of records from a range of museums, libraries and archives has inspired many members of the public to research the lives of WWI soldiers. But it is not always easy to find or interpret military records. What was it like to be in a particular battalion or regiment at a particular time. Can a ‘collaborative collection’ help provide context for individual soldiers’ experience of the war by linking personal diaries, letters and memoirs to places, people and events? What kinds of digital infrastructure are needed to support research on soldiers in the Great War? This lecture explores the potential for collaborating with members of the general public and academic or amateur historians to transcribe and link disparate online collections of World War One material. What are the challenges and opportunities for participatory digital history?

Thursday, 04 December 2014 | 13:00 | Trinity Long Room Hub

A lecture by Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub, Mia Ridge (The Open University). Mia is a Transnational Access fellow, funded by the CENDARI project (Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure).

Panel: ASPIRE Digital Roundtable: “Horizon Scanning: Living in the Digital World”

I was invited to be a panellist for Oxford ASPIRE’s first knowledge sharing event on 13th November 2012, Living in the Digital World: Horizon Scanning for Museums (PDF).  Oxford ASPIRE is a consortium of Oxford University Museums (the Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers, History of Science, Natural History Museums) and the Oxfordshire County Museums Service.

As they say in their post, ASPIRE Digital Roundtable: “Horizon Scanning: Living in the Digital World”, ‘This roundtable event brought together a small number of museum professionals to discuss how museums could thrive in the increasingly digital landscape by exploring innovations, opportunities for collaboration and funding sources.

Our 16 delegates gathered at the Pitt Rivers Museum and questions and ideas began bubbling immediately over coffee.  The event officially began with thoughts and provocations from our four expert panelists who gave their over-view of the key digital issues facing museums. Delegates and panelists then entered into a lively and illuminating conversation.’ They’ve linked to podcasts and transcripts of the introductions in their post.

Card-sorting activity at the Commodity Histories workshop

The AHRC-funded Commodity Histories project aims to produce a ‘website that will function as a collaborative space for scholars engaged in commodities-related research’.  The project organised a workshop, ‘Designing a collaborative research web space: aims, plans and challenges of the Commodity Histories project‘ in London on 6-7 September 2012.

As part of opening session on the ‘aims, plans and challenges of the Commodity Histories project and website’ I led a card-sorting exercise aimed at finding out how potential scholars in the community of commodity historians would expect to find and interact with content and other scholars in the network.  We prepared print-outs of sample content in advance and asked participants to sort them into groups and then label them.  At the end of the workshop I presented the different headings the groups had come up with and discussed the different ways they’d organised the material.

While some work had been done on the site structure previously, the process was useful for understanding some of the expectations people had about the functionality and sociability of the site as well as checking how they’d expect the site to be organised.  Various other presentations and discussion during the workshop reinforced the idea that the key task of the site is to enable contributors to add content easily and often, and tempered our expectations about how much scholarly networking would be visible as conversations on the site.

has written up some of the workshop at The Boundaries of Commodities.