Digital Approaches to the History of Science: a successful workshop

‘Digital Approaches to the History of Science’, the first of two planned workshops on this topic, was held at the History Faculty in Oxford on 28 September 2018. A total of nearly sixty attendees assembled to hear presentations from a selection of the most exciting current projects in this field from around the UK.

Professor Rob Iliffe, representing the Newton Project, addressed the ongoing challenges and complexity of digitizing and presenting the manuscript writings of Isaac Newton, and Alison Pearn spoke of the related issues faced by the digital side of the ongoing Darwin Correspondence Project. Lauren Kassell, of the Casebooks Project, introduced a very different type of material and spoke of the need to find new ways of representing, encoding and searching the mass of information contained in early modern medical-astrological casebooks.

After lunch two speakers discussed from complementary perspectives the opportunities represented by the very rich archive of The Royal Society. Louisiane Ferlier discussed the digitization of Royal Society journals and the work needed to clean and link the metadata about the articles in them. Pierpaolo Dondio described his work modelling and visualising the network of authors, editors and referees who controlled the content of those paper, and provided examples of the kinds of research outcomes such work can produce. A final talk turned to the use of digital humanities resources in the university classroom: Kathryn Eccles and Howard Hotson described the Cabinet Project, which has made a rich ecology of digital images and objects available to students on a growing list of Oxford undergraduate papers.

Rich discussions took place both around the individual presentations and over lunch and coffee, and this sell-out event has certainly stimulated interest and ongoing discussion about the distinctive opportunities for history of science created by digital scholarship and resources.

Reflections on discussion topics during the workshop by Pip Willcox

The event was supported by the Centre for Digital Scholarship (Bodleian Libraries), ‘Reading Euclid‘, The Royal Society and the Newton Project, and was organized jointly by the Centre for Digital Scholarship and ‘Reading Euclid’. The date for the second workshop will be announced shortly.

—Benjamin Wardhaugh, ‘Reading Euclid’

Top image credit: René Descartes, Principia philosophiae (Amsterdam, 1644), ‘Cartesian network of vortices of celestial motion’, p. 110. Bodleian Library Savile T 22. Edited in Photoshop by Yelda Nasifoglu.

Working with Spreadsheets: a workshop

Image of hand-drawn spreadsheet

What: Working with Spreadsheets: a workshop

When: 10:00—16:30, Tuesday 21 November

Where: Centre for Digital Scholarship, Weston Library (map)

Access: open to all members of the University

Admission: free

Trainers: Iain Emsley and Pip Willcox

Registration is required: please see below

This workshop is designed for anyone who works with spreadsheets and wants to learn how to explore that data more efficiently and consistently. No prior experience is required. The hands-on workshop teaches basic concepts, skills, and tools for working more effectively and reproducibly with your data.

We will cover data organization in spreadsheets and OpenRefine for managing data.

By the end of the workshop participants will be able to manage and analyze data effectively and be able to apply the tools and approaches directly to their ongoing research.

The workshop draws on lessons prepared by Data Carpentry and adapted by the trainers for use with Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership data.

The methods that you will learn will be applicable to work in any field that uses spreadsheets. The EEBO-TCP subject matter we will use may be of particular interest to people working with library or early modern data.

Registration

To register, please email Pip Willcox (pip.willcox@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) with:

  • Your name
  • Your ox.ac.uk email address
  • Your departmental affiliation

This workshop is run in collaboration with the Centre for Digital Scholarship and the Reproducible Research Oxford project.

For announcements about future workshops and related activities run by Reproducible Research Oxford, please see the project website, subscribe to the mailing list, and follow the project on Twitter @RR_Oxford.

Equipment

Participants are requested to bring a laptop. To work with with spreadsheets, you will need an application such as Microsoft Excel, Mac Numbers, or OpenOffice.org. If you don’t have a suitable program installed, you might like to use LibreOffice, a free, open source spreadsheet program.

You will also need OpenRefine (formerly Google Refine) and a web browser, and to have Java installed.

If you cannot bring a laptop with you, please let us know before the day.

Trainers

Iain Emsley works for the University of Oxford e-Research Centre on digital library and museums projects. Having recently finished an MSc in Software Engineering, he has started a PhD in Digital Media at Sussex University.

Pip Willcox is the Head of the Centre for Digital Scholarship at the Bodleian Libraries and a Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford e-Research Centre.

Image credit: Stockbyte/Getty Images.

Research Uncovered—Beyond reading: understanding the book through computer vision

Book tickets!What: Research Uncovered—Beyond reading: understanding the book through computer vision

Who: Giles Bergel

When: 13:00—14:00, Thursday 2 November 2017

Where: Weston Library Lecture Theatre (map)

Access: open to all

Admission: free

Registration is required

This talk showcases Oxford’s cutting-edge research at the intersection of book history and computer vision. It aims to make images of books as easy to search, compare and annotate as their texts.

The University’s Visual Geometry Group has a long track record of working with University researchers and collections, building tools to help researchers analyse everything from classical art to fifteenth-century printed books and English broadside ballads, as well as numerous applications in the sciences. Several of these tools have now been openly released for all to use and adapt.

The talk reveals how computer vision, far from detracting from understanding books as material objects, offers a fresh pair of eyes on what remains one of humanity’s most sophisticated inventions and richest forms of heritage.

Dr Giles Bergel is Digital Humanities Research Officer in the University of Oxford’s Visual Geometry Group. He works on printed books, printing materials and the history of the book trade. Find out more information.

Book tickets: http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson/whats-on/upcoming-events/2017/nov/beyond-reading

Reconciling database identifiers with Wikidata

Charles Grey, former Prime Minister, has an entry in Electronic Enlightenment. How do we find his UK National Archives ID, British Museum person ID, History of Parliament ID, National Portrait Gallery ID, and 22 other identifiers? By first linking his Wikidata identifier.

In a previous blog post I stressed the advantage of mapping the identifiers in databases and catalogue to Wikidata. This post describes a few different tools that were used in reconciling more than three thousand identifiers from the Electronic Enlightenment (EE) biographical dictionary.

The advantages to the source database include:

  • Maintaining links between Wikipedia and the source database. EE and Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) are two biographical projects that maintain links to Wikipedia. As Wikipedia articles get renamed or occasionally deleted, links can break. It is also easy to miss the creation of new Wikipedia articles. As EE and EMLO links are added to Wikidata, a simple database query gets a list of Wikipedia article links and their corresponding identifiers. Thus we can save work by automatically maintaining the links.
  • Identifying the Wikipedia articles of individuals in the source database. These are targets for improvement by adding citations of the source database.
  • Identifying individuals in the source database who lack Wikipedia articles, or who have articles in other language versions of Wikipedia, but not English. New articles can raise the profile of those individuals and can link to the source database. We raised awareness among the Wikipedian community with a project page and blog post. We also arranged with Oxford University Press to give free access to EE for active Wikipedia editors who requested it, via OUP’s existing Wikipedia Library arrangement.

Continue reading

Report from Wikimania

Last month I had to privilege to attend the Wikimania conference in Montreal, Canada, where 900 people from around the world gathered for two days of hacking and building and then three days of conference sessions. The conference scope includes not just the Wikimedia projects but also the big themes of open education, open access, community building, and privacy and rights in the digital age. One blog post by one attendee is only going to capture a sliver of what went on, and here I am summarising some big projects of most relevance to university research projects and GLAMs.

This time round, Wikidata rather than Wikipedia was generating the most excitement. Wikidata, the free structured knowledge-base, is going through a period of explosive growth, helped in a small part by data shared from partner institutions including Oxford University, and the conference brought together many people using Wikidata to document cultural heritage and current knowledge.

The author and hundreds of other Wikimedians. Photo by Victor Grigas of the Wikimedia foundation, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Continue reading

Data Carpentry Workshop for Humanists

You are invited to join a free Data Carpentry workshop run by the Reproducible Research Oxford project. Registration is required.

 

Date: 26–27 September 2017 

Venue: Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, 64 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PN

 

The workshop will cover data organization in spreadsheets and OpenRefine, data analysis and visualization in python, and SQL for data management, with a focus on humanities data. This is a joint effort with Data Carpentry to develop a (pilot) curriculum for the digital humanities. It is at an introductory level.

See the workshop website for details: https://rroxford.github.io/2017-09-26-oxford/

The workshop is free and open to any member of the University — researchers, staff, and students. It will be particularly relevant to people working with humanities data, though the methods are widely applicable.

 

IIIFrankenstein

Last week Digital.Bodleian reached 700,000 images with the help of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein notebooks. These have been accessible online at the wonderful Shelley-Godwin Archive for some time now, complete with transcriptions, TEI markup and detailed explanatory notes, alongside other manuscripts from Mary Shelley, Percy-Bysshe Shelley, and William Godwin. Porting them to Digital.Bodleian is not intended to replace this brilliant resource, but it helps with the Bodleian’s mission to improve the discoverability of our online resources. It also lets users do a few extra neat things with the images.

Bodleian MS. Abinger c.57, fol. 23r.

Everything added to Digital.Bodleian receives a IIIF Manifest. This means the image sets and accompanying metadata are expressed in a rich, flexible format conforming to a shared API standard. IIIF tools exist for manipulating and comparing, as well as viewing, digital images. This comes in handy for the Frankenstein notebooks (properly called MS. Abinger c.56, MS. Abinger c.57 and MS. Abinger c.58). At present they are fragmented, and the ordering of the pages in the Draft notebooks (MS. Abinger c. 56 and c.57) is different to the linear order of the novel. Using IIIF tools, we can easily work with the notebooks side-by-side, and remix the ordering of pages to fit the novel’s sequence.

The Mirador viewer, created by Stanford University with the help of the Andrew. W. Mellon Foundation, lets us quickly and easily view multiple IIIF-compliant image sets alongside each other. We’ve created an instance with the Frankenstein notebooks ready-loaded side by side.

Bodleian MS. Abinger c.56, c.57 and c.58 viewed in Mirador.

The Bodleian’s Digital Manuscripts Toolkit, also funded with help from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, includes a Manifest Editor. This lets us remix and combine IIIF-compliant image sets into new sequences. Following the lead of the Shelley-Godwin Archive, we’ve created a manifest which reorders the Frankenstein Draft pages into the linear sequence of the novel. This can be viewed in a Mirador instance here – though note that the extant Draft is incomplete! The manifest itself lives here, and can be used with any other IIIF-compliant API.

IIIF Manifests are in a standardised JSON format.

If you’d like to use Mirador to view Digital.Bodleian images, you can use the link in the sidebar (the stylised ‘M’) when viewing any image or item. IIIF, Universal Viewer and Mirador Icons on Digital.Bodleian

To add further images alongside an item in Mirador, select ‘Change Layout’ from the top menu and choose how many items you’d like to view together, and the layout you’d like to view then in. You can then simply click-and-drag the IIIF icon from any other Digital.Bodleian image set into the Mirador browser tab. You can also open IIIF-compliant image sets from other institutions – you just need the URI of the IIIF Manifest.

For instructions on using the Digital Manuscript Toolkit’s Manifest Editor (and other tools), please see the DMT website.

Digital Approaches to the History of Science: two workshops

Book a place at the first workshop, 28 September! 

You are warmly invited to join us at day-long workshops on Digital Approaches to the History of Science. These workshops are supported and co-organized by the Reading Euclid project, the Newton Project, the Royal Society, and the Centre for Digital Scholarship.

Digital Approaches to the History of Science

—Life out of a coffin—

When: 10:00—17:00,  Thursday 28 September

Where: Faculty of History, University of Oxford, 41–47 George Street OX1 2BE (map)

Access: all are welcome—see below for information on travel bursaries

Admission: free, refreshments and lunch included

Registration is required for each workshop: register for workshop 1, 28 September

This pair of one-day workshops will showcase and explore some of the work currently being done at the intersection of digital scholarship and the history of science. Visualizing networks of correspondence, mapping intellectual geographies, mining textual corpora: many modes of digital scholarship have special relevance to the problems and methods of the history of science, and the last few years have seen the launch of a number of new platforms and projects in this area.

With contributions from projects around the UK, these two workshops will be an opportunity to share ideas, to reflect on what is being achieved and to consider what might be done next.

Workshop 1: Thursday 28 September

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Pierpaolo Dondio: Publishing the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
  • Kathryn Eccles: Cabinet Project
  • Louisiane Ferlier: The Royal Society Journal Collection: Science in the Making?
  • Rob Iliffe: Newton Project
  • Lauren Kassell: Casebooks Project
  • Alison Pearn: Darwin Correspondence
  • Anna Henry: Sloane’s Minute Books

Workshop 2

Details of Workshop 2 will be announced shortly, when registration will open.

We have taken inspiration from William Stukely’s isolation and seek to converse, as it were, out of a coffin:

in my situation at Stamford there was not one person, clergy or lay, that had any taste or love of learning or ingenuity, so that I was as much dead in converse as in a coffin

Travel bursaries

We are delighted to be able to offer travel bursaries to enable students and early career researchers (up to 3 years beyond the award of most recent degree) to attend. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please contact co-organizer Yelda Nasifoglu on yelda.nasifoglu@history.ox.ac.uk, providing:

  • Your name
  • Your institution
  • Your level of study/year of award of most recent degree
  • Travelling from
  • Estimate of travel cost

These workshops are organized by:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quotation:

Lukis, ed. ‘Family Memoirs’, vol. I (1882), p.109, cited in Michael Reed, ‘The cultural role of small towns in England, 1600–1800’, in Peter Clark, Small Towns in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: CUP, 1882), p.147, via Google Books.

Images:

Tycho Brahe, Tabulae Rudolphinae (Ulm, 1627), frontispiece. Bodleian Library Savile Q 14. Edited in Photoshop by Yelda Nasifoglu.

René Descartes, Principia philosophiae (Amsterdam, 1644), ‘Cartesian network of vortices of celestial motion’, p. 110. Bodleian Library Savile T 22. Edited in Photoshop by Yelda Nasifoglu.

Resource discovery and Wikidata

How can I find reference materials about Jane Austen? This query could potentially take me to dozens of different sites and databases, each with different types of material. Project Gutenberg has transcribed text of her works. Librivox has audiobooks. Find A Grave has images of her memorial stone in Winchester Cathedral. The Huygens database of Women Writers has citations for modern research about her. The Stanford project Kindred Britain has her family tree. Across the Wikimedia family of sites, there are articles about Austen in 103 language versions of Wikipedia, quotations in 27 language versions of Wikiquote, and various images in Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait of Jane Austen by her sister, Cassandra. From the National Portrait Gallery via Wikimedia Commons

Title page of a first edition of Pride and Prejudice. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Coat of arms of the Austen family. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

How do we capture the fact that all these different resources are about the same person? How do we make a path to these and similar sources, bypassing all the irrelevant links that would come up in a web search? Continue reading

Research Uncovered—Historiography at Scale: People, Places, and Professions in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

BOOK TICKETS!

We are delighted to co-host this Research Uncovered talk with Oxford University Press’s ODNB and TORCH.

What: Historiography at Scale: People, Places, and Professions in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Who: Chris Warren

When: 13:00—14:00, Friday 9 June 2017

Where: Weston Library Lecture Theatre (map)

Access: all are welcome

Admission: free

Booking: recommended

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published initially in 2004, is the work of roughly 10,000 scholars, runs to 60 volumes in print, and is made up of more than 62 million words. So immense is the ODNB that one early reviewer complained, ‘reviewing it is like exploring a continent by rowing boat’: ‘If you were to read one life in the new DNB every day you would take 137 years to finish it.’  Information overload is not a new problem in the humanities, but Christopher Howse’s analogy helpfully suggests why an engine of some sort might be desirable in studying historiography at scale. In this presentation, Chris will use digital humanities methods to map the people, places, and professions of the ODNB in a new way.

Christopher Warren is Associate Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, where he teaches early modern studies, law and literature, and digital humanities. He is the author of Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680 (OUP, 2015), which was awarded the 2016 Roland H. Bainton Prize for Literature by the Sixteenth Century Society. With Daniel Shore, he is co-founder of Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, a collaborative reconstruction of Britain’s early modern social network. His articles have appeared in journals including HumanityLaw, Culture, and the HumanitiesThe European Journal of International LawEnglish Literary Renaissance; and Digital Humanities Quarterly. His current projects include work on anachronism and presentism in the history of international law and a “distant reading” of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.