Tag Archives: Digital Humanities

Exploring digital collections at the first Digital Humanities Library Lab

A new pilot workshop, the first Digital Humanities Library Lab, ran on 3 March 2017. This engaging and informative cross-discipline event offered a dozen researchers the chance to explore and discuss new tools and digital text collections from The University of Manchester Library, inspiring the development of future Digital Humanities computational research methods.

Exploring digital collectionsThe afternoon comprised of three activities.

  1. Spelling and printing variations when searching Jisc Historical Texts
  2. Visualising themes in longform scholarly outputs using the JSTOR Topicgraph tool
  3. A UK-first, beginning to use an API to access previously unavailable content from Adam Matthew Digital’s Mass Observation

The workshop instructions are available online for all to view, and the Library is looking to run a similar event again in May. What would you like to see covered next? Please get in touch with DH@Manchester or the Library’s DH Project Officer Phil Reed directly, or leave a comment below.

Support and seedcorn funding for Faculty of Humanities researchers

The Digital Humanities Project Call 2016-2017 has just been announced. This year DH@Manchester are focusing on developing new projects in two specific areas:

  • innovative projects driving out of the Library’s extensive electronic collections
  • cutting-edge research which can be developed in partnership with colleagues in the School of Computer Science (including text mining, linked data, image processing, and data visualization).

The closing date is Wednesday, 22 March 2017. View the Project Call page for more information.

Rivers merging, metaphor of data

Library data-merging pilot grows to exciting partnership opportunity

A technical prototype I developed for the Business Data Service has been used as the driving force behind a new and exciting research project post, bringing together partners from outside The University of Manchester Library.

What is the basic premise?

To develop a collection of tools to bring together commercially available databases from separate suppliers for use in leading, innovative research, using specialist knowledge of the field for accurate and efficient execution.

Who are the partners?

Why is this new post useful?

After spending money on expensive data sets, we need to make the most out of them. It is critical to use them together in order to unlock their full research value. In the case of some specialist resources, this activity is non-trivial.

Why is joining these datasets difficult?

databases with no join
There is no easy way to use the data from these different sources together, no common index.

Identifying companies across different databases is difficult as the codes used within each platform usually do not correspond to those used in another. There are good reasons why a platform will do this (their intellectual property is one), but this makes work harder for researchers, sometimes resorting to checking company name matches by eye, one at a time!

Writing code to map these where cross-checking is available requires the software developer to be aware of the various identification codes used such as CUSIP, ISIN, SEDOL and various ticker symbols, some of which can change with time or be further complicated in other ways. A close relationship to the curators of these databases at the University is required; this is found in the Library’s Business Data Service team whose expertise is well respected and appreciated by its users.

How will it happen?

As part of the project funding application, a new post was created. It sits outside the Library but is dependent on the library staff’s curating skills and knowledge of the library’s specialist financial databases. Under this post I will use my skills as a software developer and experience working in the Library to write new tools to combine access to various datasets within the project, as the products become available and as the researchers need them.

I’ll still be working my usual job in the Library as well, so nothing is lost from the Business Data Service.

Where might it lead?

The primary objective is to publishing new research on topics covering institutional investors, financial innovation and the “real economy”.

Once the research is published, we can develop new teaching topics and further broaden access to the University’s data sets with these tools, introducing them to new audiences in other subject areas.

Siege of Troy: Hector and Achilles

Improving research outcomes with Early European (and English) Books

Early European Books website
Screen capture of the Early European Books website

It’s not often that a single event appeals to three of my interests, but the recent Jisc-ProQuest symposium on Early European Books Online did just that. I work to develop research collections, and support digital humanities scholarship, while my own research is looking at 17th century texts using corpus linguistics tools: Early European Books brings all three neatly together.
I was slightly suspicious that I might be attending a sales demonstration, but Lorraine Estelle, from Jisc Collections, opened by announcing that Jisc has licensed this resource in perpetuity, making it is freely available to the UK HE community via the Historical Texts platform.

‘E-books are the research data of Humanities’

The presentation by Paul Ayris (delivered on the day by Ben Meunier) put EEB firmly in context of research data management, referencing the LERU 2013 roadmap, and ‘science 2.0’ for Arts and Humanities scholars – noting that e-books are our research data. New forms of text analysis are possible using text and data mining techniques. He described EEB as ‘a defining project, delivering on the science 2.0 agenda for Arts and Humanities’.

The Text Creation Partnership, and others

Artist's impression of XML files of early European books
Artist’s impression of XML files of early European books

What has really enabled text mining is not just the existence of EEB or EEBO, however, but the extraordinary partnership that has produced EEBO-TCP. The Text Creation Partnership has involved re-keying the text images to create standardized, accurate XML/SGML encoded electronic text editions of early printed books. This work, and the resulting text files, are jointly funded and owned by more than 150 libraries worldwide.

Matthew Brack gave us a very practical assessment of the project management experience in the Wellcome library’s digitisation projects. Andrew Pettegree talked about the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) and the challenges of comprehensive coverage.

At the lively round table discussion we considered the difficulty of citing/measuring the impact of electronic sources and the [un]reliability (46%) of OCR software.
It’s clear to me that we need a partnership approach with librarians, providers, and scholars working to counteract misperceptions of ‘easy’ e-scholarship and/or lazy searching, and issues with citation of e-resources. After all, Digital Humanities research is typically a highly collaborative activity.

University of Manchester users can access the first four collections in Early European Books via the Library’s A-Z of databases pages.