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AHDS Newsletter Spring 2006

Contents

 
Grid-enabled: e-Science in the arts & humanities
E-Science offers multiple possibilities for research. In this article, Stuart Dunn introduces the Arts and Humanities e-Science Centre and how it plans to help the a+h community.

The Arts and Humanities e-Science Initiative is jointly funded by the AHRC and JISC. The initiative aims to have a transforming impact in enabling research practitioners and lecturers to embed the advanced use of ICT in their research and teaching practice, in their creation and use of digital information, and in facilitating collaboration across traditional subject and discipline boundaries.

The initiative recently issued a call for workshops in the area of e-Science. These are designed to encourage the development and exchange of ideas across the disciplines, either by forming new research networks or by running a series of workshops, seminars or similar events.

The AHRC has also announced, in partnership with the EPSRC, a call for small-scale demonstrator projects that will address substantially focused research questions, involving the use of digital resources, methods or tools that are novel in the arts and humanities disciplines. Winning bids for both rounds of funding were announced in April 2006. The AHRC also plans to issue a call for research funding for e-science projects and four e-science doctoral studentships, with a total value of at least £1.2m, in Autumn 2006.

As a part of the initiative, an Arts and Humanities e-Science Support Centre (AHeSSC http://www.ahessc.ac.uk) has been established. The Centre is co-located at the AHDS and the AHRC ICT Methods Network. AHeSSC exists to support, co-ordinate and promote e-Science in all arts and humanities disciplines, and to liaise across communities within e-Science, e-Social Science, computing and the information sciences. AHeSSC’s activities fall under a number of headings:

Practical assistance and liaison to bring together arts and humanities researchers who wish to use grid infrastructure, tools, and technologies within the e-Science infrastructure. AHeSSC is working closely with the AHDS’s e-Science Scoping Survey , to build up a knowledge base of e-Science projects within and beyond the arts and humanities; and will be assisting the project in hosting a mini-symposium at the e-Science All Hands Meeting (AHM) 2006.

Advisory and training activities in support of e-science in the arts and humanities.This includes outreach activities to promote e-Science within the arts and humanities academic community. In 2006 AHeSSC staff will be presenting papers at international conferences, such as Ontology based Modelling in the Humanities and will seek active involvement with major UK conferences such as CHaRT and DRHA. It will also coordinate a joint Methods Network-AHDS-AHRC exhibition stand at this year’s AHM conference, and organise a workshop entitled ‘e-Science and Digitisation: Methodological Infrastructure in the Arts and Humanities’ at the National Centre for e-Social Science's conference 2006 (see http://www.ncess.ac.uk).

Facilitation of interdisciplinary work and the exchange of expertise. AHeSSC provides a ‘matchmaking’ service to promote engagement between arts and humanities scholars who wish to use e-science, and the computer scientists with the skills and interests needed to collaborate with them.

Supporting projects funded under the AHRC/JISC Arts and Humanities e-Science Initiative. The AHRC-JISC activities will be asked to coordinate with AHeSSC, which will have a formal role in disseminating their outcomes via its website, as well as providing them with expert advice and support.

Further details are available from AHeSSC’s staff: Stuart Dunn, 0207 848 2709; stuart.dunn at kcl.ac.uk, or Tobias Blanke, 0207 848 1975; tobias.blanke at kcl.ac.uk.

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JISC Digitisation Programmes
Stuart Dempster reports on over £10m of digitisation
Through its Digitisation Programme, JISC is digitising content from some of the UK's most significant collections. Six pioneering digitisation projects spanning centuries, disciplines and media from previously difficult or impossible to access collections were endorsed by the academic community following an online consultation in 2003. This endorsement enabled JISC to fund the development of new e-resources that the community actually wants, something of a departure from the traditional “supply driven” model used in previous mass digitisation initiatives.

Equally important as the actual content is the need to meet users’ expectations for enhanced resource discovery, either through contextualisation, presentation layers, accessibility, enhanced metadata, interoperability across e-resources, rights to use and repurpose materials within Virtual Learning Environments and guaranteed sustainability.

The current JISC Digitisation Programme has invested in the creation of the following e-resources. All will be freely avaible to HE and FE.

18th-Century Parliamentary Papers will deliver up to 945,000 pages from all surviving printed House of Commons and House of Lords Papers, Bills, Journals and Reports for the period. Available from July 2006.

Archival Sound Recordings at the British Library will deliver up to 12,000 segmented encodings totalling 3,900 hours of sound recordings from distinct and unique collections. Available from September 2006.

19th-Century British Newspapers at the British Library will deliver up to 2 million pages, totalling approximately 10 billion words of British newspapers from 1800–1900. Available from September 2006.

Medical Journals Backfiles will deliver up to 1.7 million pages of complete backfiles from 17 important and historically significant British and American medical journals through PubMed Central. It will be freely available in stages from April 2005 and in the public domain.

Newsfilm Online will deliver up to 60,000 segmented encodings, totalling 3,000 hours, and associated materials from the archives of ITN and Reuters Television. The resource development is led by the British Universities Film and Video Council. It will be available from February 2007.

Online Historical Population Reports at AHDS History - see the article in this newsletter for more information.

The JISC investment in digitisation should be seen within the context of wider efforts to digitise the world’s collections, whether through public, private or public-private partnership initiatives. Since the mid-1990s it is estimated that some £130 million has been invested on digitisation within the UK. The NOF-Digitise initiative alone spent £50 million within the cultural heritage sector.

In 2001 it was estimated that there were 2,533,893,879 books and bound periodicals in European libraries. A survey of ten major broadcasting archives found 1m hours of film, 1.6m hours of video recordings and 2m hours of audio recordings. Total European holdings of broadcast material are probably 50 times larger. Most material is original and analogue. 70% of the material is at risk, because it is decaying, fragile or on obsolete media.

The situtation has contributed to part of the European Digital Libraries initiative under the “i2010 – A European Information Society for growth and jobs” programme. This includes €60 million for digitisation and access to content within the eContent Plus programme for 2005-08. A consultation on digitisation and digital preservation was published in March 2006 and will feed into a Commission Proposal for a Recommendation (2006).

In conclusion, the JISC investment is part of a trend towards increased amounts of digitisation between 2006-09. Newspaper, audio and video collections are likely to feature particularly strongly as the economics and methodologies for the mass digitisation of these rich media types become more established and at a time when these resources become increasingly jeopardized by fragility, decay and technical obsolescence. The intense media interest in Google’s mass digitisation, which is part of its wider ambitions to drive its advertising, should not obscure the activities of JISC and others to build rich, exciting and sustainable new e-resources for the benefit of education and research.

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Why the Humanities need the Arts: DRHA2006

This year the renamed DRHA Conference - Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts - is choosing to bring a new dimension into its standard range of digital projects and interests, which span across the major disciplines of the humanities, by offering an exceptional invitation to practitioners and scholars working with digital media across the creative, visual, performing and media arts (music, performance, dance, visual arts, gaming, media...).

This development is intended to draw upon and give greater opportunity to consider changes that have occurred through the various applications of digital resources across multi-media platforms and practice-based and practice-led arts research.

It offers an opportunity to all participants involved in either the arts or the humanities to present, witness, experience and exchange knowledge and applications of accessible digital resources, and to appreciate how the collaborative practices of everyone involved with digital resources has a considerable potential to inform and influence other disciplines. The event is taking place in the spectacular surroundings of the Dartington College of Art, Totnes, Devon, from 3rd to 6th September. The college forms part of the Dartington Hall Estate, which was founded in the late 14th century and now forms a private estate of approximately 850 acres. The campus features a 14th-century hall, a tiltyard, extensive gardens as well as state of the art lecturing and performance venues. DRHA delegates will be able to explore all these during the span of the conference.

Registration is open from 1st May 2006. Full prices (including accommodation, food and conference fees) vary from £300 to £450 depending on the choice of accommodation. For further details on the location, including details on travelling to Dartington, see http://www.dartington.ac.uk/drha06/

Methods Network Bursaries

The Methods Network provides funding for postgraduate students to attend DRHA. Bursaries are available for those registered at a UK institution, who have had a proposal for a paper or poster accepted. See http://www.methodsnetwork.ac.uk/community/postgraduates.html

Call for Posters

As with previous conferences, DRHA invites poster submissions. This will give delegates the opportunity to demonstrate work in progress, current research, new projects or explore other issues. Prizes will be awarded for the best poster, as voted by the conference delegates.

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"histpop" online - a taster
By February 2007 “histpop” will be delivering an online resource of up to 200,000 pages comprising all the published population reports created by the Registrar-General’s Office(s) of the British Isles and its predecessors for the period 1801–1920, including all Census Reports for the period 1801–1937, along with ancillary archival material from The National Archives, writes Tony Franklin.

The whole resource will illustrate the changing demography of Britain over this period, and for the first time researchers will be able to search across the entire collection of published pre-World War Two census materials.

Where is "histpop" coming from?

"histpop" will be the tangible output of the Online Historical Population Reports (OHPR) project which is run as part of AHDS History within the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex. Funding for this project comes from the JISC Digitisation Programme (see page 2 for details). Including OHPR, there are six projects within this programme, the others being eighteenth-century Parliamentary Papers, Archival Sound Recordings, British Newspapers 1800-1900, Medical Journals Backfiles and Newsfilm Online. Further details of these projects can be found at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/index.cfm?name=digitisation projects

What do you get?

"histpop" has five resource types: Census volumes, Registrar-General's reports, a collection of essays relating to the collections, copies of all relevant legislation, and finally a selection of documents, forms and maps obtained from TNA which relate to censuses taken from 1801-1931. To enable access to this collection of material the "histpop" website will offer browse and search facilities both of which can be refined to access the data by date and/or by geography. Results of both browse and search are presented in two stages. Firstly a table of contents is displayed that lists the volume and section titles from which users can select the page they wish to view. Having made that selection, the page is displayed as an image together with information about where in its local hierarchy the page comes from. Using this information users can navigate to adjacent pages or to other levels in the volume and section hierarchy in which the displayed page resides. Great emphasis has been put on contextualising the images in relation to their location in the source volumes hierarchy and in relation to other source material. For example over 150 historical essays, written by Edward Higgs and Matthew Woollard, will accompany the site and can be accessed through search and browse as well as through "Associated Content" when viewing an image. If one or more essays have a relevance to the page being viewed, than it can be accessed as "associated Content". This principal applies to all resources where an association exists. Other facilities will include image zooming, rotation and download in high resolution TIF and PNG format and the download of a selection of tables in XLS and other formats. How the website has been developed

Usability and functionality have been the keywords which have driven the website development programme. An alpha version of the website ("Demo A") was launched in June 2005, the purpose of which was to test user reaction and usability. A usability assessment of "Demo A" has been carried out by Mike Pringle of AHDS Visual Arts. The conclusions of this study have been fed into a functional specification for a beta version of the website which we expect to be available for evaluation by the end of April. The design of our website uses open source components wherever possible and no client-side Java scripting is used. Users' web browsers must be able to render PNG images otherwise there are few restrictions on the type of browser used, providing they are able to render XHTML 1.x

What "histpop" will look like

The implementation of website functionality has been separated from the design of its appearance. This approach has allowed the website developers to concentrate on making the website work without becoming involved in the potentially controversial issues around the aesthetics of graphical design. Screen layout, colour and icon design has been dealt with as an asssociated but seperate exercise. The final outcome of that exercise has yet to be unveiled, however, we can reveal for the first time the "histpop" logo.

Where to find "histpop"

"histpop" can be found at www.histpop.org which is currently displaying the "Demo A" version of the website. In a few weeks time this will be replaced by "Demo B" with its enhanced features, functionality and usability.

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Making the web intuitive
Jayne Burgess on the merging of Humbul and Artifact to create one consolidated service for the UK arts and humanities research, teaching and learning community.

The JISC-funded Resource Discovery Network (RDN) http://www.rdn.ac.uk selects, catalogues and delivers high-quality Internet resources via eight subject gateways or hubs. Artifact http://www.artifact.ac.uk is the arts & creative industries hub, led by Manchester Metropolitan University Library. Humbul http://www.humbul.ac.uk is the humanities hub, led by the University of Oxford. During 2006 the RDN is undergoing significant changes with the existing eight RDN Hubs merging into four new subject groups.

The Virtual Training Suite of Internet tutorials, will be updated and given a new look, maintaining its position as one of the service's most popular tools.

The experts who develop and maintain Humbul and Artifact will form a single, distributed group working within the overall vision to facilitate and champion the effective use of the Internet in research, teaching and learning within the arts and humanities.

Technical integration

A new database containing all the Internet Resource Catalogue records from each of the RDN Hubs has been created. The main benefit of this will be to make cross-disciplinary browsing and searching easier and more effective.

Other benefits have accrued from the process of creating and migrating records to this database.These include a significant weeding of the data and a review of collection management practice and policies to improve relevance and currency. This integration also offers potential for a national platform for subject-based development relating to Internet resource discovery and access, for example the extension of hub-specific value-added services (e.g. My Humbul personalisation tools) across all subject areas.

Change of Name and Re-launch

The RDN will become Intute and the Hubs will take the name of their new subject group. Whilst Intute is not an existing word or acronym, we hope it will develop its own set of associations matching the service’s vision.

Humbul and Artifact will join together to become Intute: Arts and Humanities. There will be launch parties during Summer 2006 and a series of seminars in September on using the Internet to support education. These will be at a variety of locations and designed for both academics and information professionals. Information is available at http://www.intute.ac.uk/development/

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Networked Music
Lorna Gibson reports on the Methods Network's launch and its seminar on Modern Methods for Musicology

The second Methods Network Expert Seminar, Modern Methods for Musicology: Prospects, Proposals and Realities, took place at Royal Holloway, University of London, 3rd March 2006. It was organized and co-chaired by Tim Crawford (Goldsmiths College, University of London), and Andrew Wathey (Royal Holloway and Methods Network Associate Director representing music).

The Seminar was a one day event with eight speakers, a small invited audience and a Rapporteur (David Meredith, Goldsmiths College, University of London). For details of the Programme, please see The Rapporteur’s report will be available shortly on the Methods Network website at the same URL

There were, broadly speaking, two aims of the Expert Seminar; firstly to allow a selection of musicologists and technologists (two disciplines which typically do not engage with one another) the opportunity to discuss the issues that are important to them, and secondly to assess the current state of play of ICT within musicology. It is intended that the Methods Network will continue to promote this sort of dialogue between musicologists and computer scientists in their forthcoming activities.

For musicologists, the Seminar highlighted both the importance of training postgraduate students in ICT, and the need to need to engage with computer scientists in order know what tools are being created, how they work, and what questions need to be asked.

For computer scientists, the Seminar revealed the importance of presenting technical information that that does not isolate musicologists but rather entices them into using new technology, as well as the need to develop tools that fit the needs of the musicological community. Other key themes which were discussed include the importance of dealing with Intellectual Property issues, and the role of the web in music-making of the future.

The Methods Network is delighted to announce that Ashgate will be publishing a series of books based on these Expert Seminars, and the papers from the Music Expert Seminar will form the basis of one. For details about the publication, please see http://www.methodsnetwork.ac.uk/publications/guides.html

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Methods Network Launch

The event, which consisted of a wine reception with canapés, took place at Trinity House in London (which is the headquarters for the lighthouse service). The venue (built in 1796) provided a unique setting; beautifully furnished rooms overlooking Trinity Square and the Tower of London. The proceedings took place in the main room referred to as the library (as a collection of Maritime books are kept concealed behind the doors that form part of the paneling).

David Robey, Head of the AHRC ICT Programme, introduced the five speakers; Dr Marilyn Deegan and Professor Harold Short, of the Centre for Computing in the Humanities (CCH) at King’s College London, highlighted the Methods Network’s events and planned activities. and emphasised that the Network, which has its administrative base at King’s College, London, is a partnership headed by three other institutions: the University of Sheffield, the Royal College of Art and Royal Holloway, University of London.

This was followed by AHRC’s new Chief Executive, Professor Philip Esler, who drew an analogy between Trinity House (and its associations with the maritime) and the Methods Network - both being suitable places for a “launch”. Professor Rick Trainor, principal of King’s College London, then spoke of his delight that the Methods Network is located at King’s College London.

The final speaker was Natalie Ceeney, Chief Executive of the National Archives, who highlighted the importance of technology in scholarship and archives and libraries, and its role in networking communities. The launch of the Methods Network was a highly successful event – highlighting the AHRC’s commitment to ICT and the Methods Network’s importance within the ICT Programme. For the latest information on the Methods Network, please see www.methodsnetwork.ac.uk

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Where does User Evaluation Get Us?
Mark Greengrass reports on the Repah Project and its findings

Research practitioners in the Arts and Humanities have been targeted by requests to cooperate in user-evaluations from all quarters. The initial reaction of many of us is to put these requests in the bin. Why should we be bothered with such enquiries? How will the results affect us?

The fact is, however, that user-evaluation is an inevitable consequence of the services that we have come to depend on. What services? Besides the AHDS, there is the Resource Discovery Network (soon to become Intute) – Humbul and Artifact. And we probably all use from time to time data providers in individual disciplines, such as British History Online from the Institute for Historical Research

All these services must justify their existence to the funding councils that ensure their continued existence. More significantly, these services are being continually developed to respond to changing technologies. Knowing whether they are actually meeting the needs of the communities they serve, and envisaging how they might do so even more effectively in the future, is therefore of considerable importance.

What is more, it matters to us all, especially since the methodologies and practices of research in the arts and humanities are starting to change profoundly. The challenges to adopt models of research activity common in the pure and applied scientific communities are ever-present.

There is a more specific background to a particular set of current user-evaluations. Three studies were commissioned in 2005 by the AHRC ICT Strategic Programme to feed into a major strategic report on ICT provision in the Arts and Humanities, to be compiled by Programme Director Professor David Robey.

RePAH [Research Portals in the Arts and Humanities]. Based at De Montfort and Sheffield Universities, its task is to evaluate the ‘portals’ that the arts and humanities research community uses to find and exploit the internet resources that it needs and then, in a second phase, to develop ‘demonstrators’ to investigate future user requirements for more advanced information services. http://repah.dmu.ac.uk/

LAIRAH [Log Analysis of Internet Resources in the Arts and Humanities]. Located at University College London, its objective is to investigate through analyzing surviving log data what research practitioners are consulting, refined through case-studies based on individual behaviour observation http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slais/LAIRAH/ Gathering Evidence [Current ICT Use and Future Needs in Arts and Humanities Research]. This is directed from Bristol University by PI Lesley Huxley. Using a combination of surveys and in-depth case studies it traces longer-term trends in how scholars in Arts and Humanities departments currently use ICT in their research. http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/projects/project?search=AHRC-ICT

The projects are all due to report by 30 September 2006, but what sort of results are emerging in the meantime? We can report on those emerging from the RePAH project. At Sheffield, Jared Bryson has now conducted its first round of focus-groups. Its online questionnaire, conducted with LAIRAH and implemented by Robert Ross and Dave Gerrard at DMU, has been completed by a satisfyingly well-distributed selection of the research community at large. Log analysis has been undertaken in close collaboration with LAIRAH and its technical team.

The challenges of mapping the likely future trends of research activity in the variegated domains of Arts and Humanities disciplines are all too evident. This is especially the case as the penumbra of ‘research-related’ activities continues to grow for many practitioners.

It will shortly be possible to evaluate, probably for the first time in detail, how the disciplines served by the AHDS have embraced the possibilities offered over the past decade by its services. And we shall begin to see whether Arts and Humanities research practitioners are ready to take forward the technical developments which now make it possible to refine, personalize, cross-link, and make interactive online information gateways. The possibilities for ‘validating’ online research materials through research-practitioner usage are only just emerging. Whether the Grim RePAH’s report puts a smile on our face may depend on our willingness to embrace the potential these changes afford.

Other User Needs Reports

Readers may also be interested in a recent report on undergraduate user needs in digital resources from the University of Berkeley http://cshe.berkeley.edu/research/digitalresourcestudy/report/

The JISC are also due to a publish a user needs study, based on the use of UK resources, at their blog at http://jiscdigitisation.typepad.com

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Technical Appendices for AHRC Funds Applications - How to do it right
These notes supplement AHRC information on completing the technical appendix for Research Grant Scheme, Fellowships in the Creative and Performing Arts and some other awards (see the AHRC Research Funding Guide and other Guidance Notes, available via http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/ahrb/website/apply/research.asp).

For full article please see http://ahds.ac.uk/creating/information-papers/writing-appendix/>

For further information please contact

Archaeology and Classics Catherine Hardman 01904 433 954

History Roberto Cozatl 01206 872 326

Literature, Languages and Linguistics, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Law Alan Morrison 01865 273 238

Performing Arts Daisy Abbott 0141 330 2758

Visual Arts Mick Eadie 01252 892 723

Library Studies Alastair Dunning 0207 848 1972

Interdisciplinary Subjects, Other Subjects Alastair Dunning 0207 848 1972

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AHDS-curated resources on Landscape & Environment
In this edition of AHDS Update we explore another AHRC funding programme theme, ‘Landscape and Environment’. For more information about this programme, see http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/apply/research/sfi/ahrcsi/landscape_environment.asp

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Recent Collections deposited with AHDS
  • http://vads.ahds.ac.uk/collections/ST.html Textile World The rich and stimulating collection of world textiles at the University College for the Creative Arts at Farnham has supported the practical study of woven and printed textiles for over forty years. The collection consists of over 3000 artefacts. Woven textiles range from an important collection of Coptic textiles from 800-1000 AD through to British woollen cloths, Kashmir shawls, African strip weaving and Scandinavian furnishing fabrics from 1950 to 1990.
  • http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/archive/stonehenge_eh_2005/StonehengeWessex Archaeology was commissioned by English Heritage to produce a comprehensive report on the twentieth-century excavations at Stonehenge, as a result of which the Wessex Archaeology Stonehenge Archive was compiled.
  • http://www.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/collection.htm?uri=hist-4975-1Saints' Cults The Trans-national Database and Atlas of Saints’ Cults aims to establish a parish-by-parish, commune-by-commune inventory of religious devotion in Europe and beyond.

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