The 2018 British Library Symposium

***Rachel Cummings, Omar Ebanks and Nicola Swann***

LIS professionals as agents of change – Rachel

Well, the 2018 British Library Symposium was truly an incredible experience! The symposium is considered to be both a conference and a conversation, providing a place to network, and to build friendships and connections. What I really took away from the day filled with speeches, talks, awards and snacks, was the concept of LIS professionals (and future professionals) as agents of change.

We, as LIS professionals, become agents of change, through the sharing of information and knowledge, as well as from the sharing of our experiences, whether it be success or failure. It is our natural instinct to only want to promote our successes, as we often believe that showing our failures means shining a spotlight on our weaknesses. In the keynote speech given by Daniel Pett, he talked on the value of sharing all of our knowledge, because our mistakes are important. We grow from mistakes, we learn from mistakes, and most importantly, we can teach others from our mistakes. With sharing this knowledge, it helps us make connections.

Connections to the community that you are serving is incredibly important, and as LIS professionals we should be keeping the concept of connections in the backs of our minds. Not only do LIS professionals need to share, and keep sharing our knowledge, but we also need to be aware of what’s coming next, such as new and innovative technologies, and to be able to adapt successfully to these new trends and technologies.

How can the agent of change work with BL’s material? – Nicola

How to bring these characteristics of the LIS professional which came out on the day, and which Rachel’s identified – agent of change, sharer, connector, future-watcher – to bear on the raw material that BL offers?

The shape of the BL Labs Symposium gave myriad suggestions, as the event gave our national library the chance to celebrate people and projects who had won awards for inventive use of the data and digital collections that the library has made available – including its own staff.

The BL website says that the library is ‘only just beginning to appreciate the distinctive, dynamic roles that libraries have to play … as curators of vast and rapidly growing collections of digitised historic items and born-digital content; as creators and analysers of new datasets.’ The winner of the staff award was a joint project between BL and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which built on 800 digital images to create a new curated website and project book in both languages. Another partnership – between the public and the library – is using crowdsourcing to make playbills from the late 18C to end-19C more accessible, giving a ‘chance for the human eye’ to the public as they transcribe information about playbills, share discoveries and improve the catalogue.

Are changing, connecting, sharing and future-watching gateways to sustaining the work of BL Labs? It would seem so, in that on the 11th the BL outlined its Living with Machines project, on the mechanisation of work practices and speaking to the consequences of AI and robotics, which the library is about to start work on with the Turing Institute. The link will make the most of the institutions’ co-location, push at the disciplinary boundaries of data science and digital humanities, and foster collaboration. BL has already spent a lot of time explaining library timelines, ways of working and tacit knowledge – and everyone’s learned how to use GitHub. This project will be fascinating to watch.

Case study – Ambient Literature

BL digital curator Nora McGregor noted that the digital scholarship dept keeps an eye out for the next big thing to impact the sector – one being interactive ways of telling stories and format changes. Two and a half years ago the British Library hosted sessions for the public to experience work from a collaborative project between UWE Bristol, Bath Spa and the University of Birmingham on ambient literature – an emergent, experimental form of literature that responds to the presence of the reader.

Three authors wrote new works exploring the impact of new technology on the reading experience. To take just one, Duncan Speakman’s It must have been dark by then offers an audio walk and physical book. The audio walk chooses locations for you or lets you choose, playing you sounds from other locations in your own environment; the collaborators felt the process influences mood and attentiveness to the world, leading you to see people and places differently. The walk experience video is mesmerising; you’re left in your own sound world in a unique, altered state – appealing, save for the use of earphones next to St Pancras traffic, forgive a prosaic thought. Speakman himself says he’s not sure it works yet – so next step for this observer is to find out how BL might have tracked this project since last reports, and to look out experiments that might be taking place now.

More creative projects, LIS chants and the potential of 3D – Omar

Whilst she was reading my blog, I was happy to see a friend explain their take on aspects of LIS, and was enjoying it to the point that I began to chant (in my best hypnotic cult movie voice); “One of us, one of us.”

I am so enthused whenever I get the chance to express why LIS has the impact it does, (on what? I hear you murmur, patience oh wonderous readers of thine blog, all will be revealed) and it was, at the perfect location and the perfect event; British Library Labs Symposium. A marvellous experience filled with innovative thought. The exposure and networking opportunities were an extremely important aspect of the symposium. Learning from colleagues and leaders in the field of LIS and being introduced to new ideas.

So what observations were made in creativity and research? The British Library’s digital content was showcased through Nabil Nayal’s fashion collection and Richard Wright’s Elastic System Project, inspired by 19th century librarian Thomas Watts; these artists found ways of expressing data artistically through their respective mediums, which were absolutely phenomenal creative ways to bring the British Library collections to life. LIS projects possess the power to reach audiences far and wide, even the virtual world isn’t safe from LIS, that’s right people, you heard it here first, or if you were present at the symposium, then you heard it there first, or if you were there but you somehow missed it, then once again, you heard it here first … or maybe you knew about it all along, in which case kudos to you, you futuristic go getter (or is that simply a ‘haver’, because I’m assuming that a futuristic go getter would already have whatever it is they needed … hence the name. “Great Scott!”) and did I cover all the scenarios? I digress, or do I? Let us get back to the real world of virtual reality.

The keynote speaker, Daniel Pett, shared his experience in 3-D modelling within the G.L.A.M (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) sector. I was highly interested in this topic and enquired about the training he provides at the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University. Feedback from CityLIS students who attended this training was very positive. Daniel Pett mentioned that he has also started to train colleagues in 3-D modelling. One of the main benefits this has to exhibitions and projects within GLAM is the accessibility to allow the public to handle objects, as a tool for teaching, and to increase the knowledge of professionals who can gain valuable information from extensive access to detailed replicas … that’s right, it’s all about information, how to gather it and share it with the masses … L..I..S, L..I..S..(there goes my cult movie voice again)

The BL labs symposium was a day to remember, if only I could make my thoughts as an image, put said image into a 3-D printer, make multiple copies and, oh, wait, that’s a blog. Eureka?

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BL Labs Symposium

***Megan Cross, Monica Boria and Mary Blomley***

Attending the Labs Symposium at the British Library for the first time was an inspiring, eye-opening experience. We were all impressed by the amazing work carried out by the BL teams, the dedication of the staff to enhance their collections in our digital era, the creativity unleashed by the Library’s projects in collaboration with artists, schools, and communities.

The impact on the development of new research methodologies and new knowledge afforded to scholarship, as well as the opportunities offered to high-tech companies for new scientific exploration is also a remarkable on-going effect of the Labs. Among this incredible richness, and enriching material, we have selected a few examples that resonated with our individual interests, personal and professional.

Digital Scholarship (Monica Boria)

Adam Farquhar, Head of Digital Scholarship at the British Library, presented the Institution’s mission for the future: to make the Library’s intellectual heritage available to everyone for enjoyment, inspiration, education. The BL has, for example, over 1m images freely available on Flicker, but to further the digitisation agenda expertise, funding and time are necessary. Collaboration is another key component, something that the academic community, chronically on a lean budget, has long realised.

No surprise then if this year’s Research Award went to the amazing Frederick Delius Project made possible thanks to the experience, knowledge and resources of institutions like Oxford University, the Royal Library of Denmark, AHRC and the BL’s collection of materials relevant to Delius. One of the major outcomes is a freely-available on-line catalogue of the works of the composer. The runner-up of the Award was Prof. Catherine Montgomery (Bath University), whose work is perhaps more representative of the kind of research that most academics, pressed for time as well as money, more typically engage with.

By searching the UK doctoral theses database at the BL (EThOS) the project aimed to investigate the impact of internationalisation both as a topic of research and as an epistemological tool by focusing on students from ‘Southern’ cultures. The (unsurprising) outcome is that PhDs, in these cases, tend to generate … research conformism. The post-colonial world is still very much a colonial one, I’m afraid!

Jonah Coman (Mary Blomley)

A presenter whose work is anti-conformist, Jonah Coman, phD student of Medieval Studies at the University of St Andrews, drew images from repositories like the BL Labs to create a series of zines called Pocket Miscellany. The zines began exploring topics of under-represented bodies (Transgender, People of Colour, Disability) in late Medieval visual culture. Additional zines were created covering topics such as Sex. The revised editions include a reading list on the topics covered.

The size of the zines is not accidental, miniature publications date back to the Medieval ages as the size was suitable for travelling monks and nuns. In the 14th Century, Middle English translations of the Bible were banned, and the small sizes could be concealed. This ban occurred after John Wycliffe (1330–1384) an early reformer, expressed the radical idea of the Bible being available to the poor in order to improve literacy. He was posthumously burned alongside his translation and many of his followers were punished including Jan Hus, a Czech priest who completed a full Czech translation of the Latin Bible.

The small size of the zines well represents the scale of ‘marginalised bodies’ in Medieval visual arts. Barely seen, still existing. Perhaps the ‘taboo’ topics also influenced the scale. As an owner of Coman’s zines, he rightfully won the British Library Labs Teaching and Learning Award.

Elastic Systems

Richard Wright, a previous artist in residence at the British Library created an online resource that employed the use of visual data and online systems to create an interactive artistic rendition of the collections at the British Library. These collections are not immediately available to the public, in the sense that they are stored in the basement at St Pancras and it becomes something that must be actively sought out. Wright attempted to bring the existence of the collections into a more public view through this site that has a visual representation of all the books available in the collections.

When viewed as a single entity rather than separate items a picture of the librarian Thomas Watts is visible, and once a book has been taken out through the online request system it is removed from the piece to reveal an underlying collage of faces. These faces are the human element that is still present in an increasingly digital age, and these are the people that work behind the scenes with these collections. In total there are around 4,300 photographic representations of the books at St Pancras.

Listening to Wright talk, he had an obvious passion for what he was talking about, and his interest in the topic shone through to really engage the audience, along with the way in which he had made something so simple and interactive yet complex.

Richard Wright’s Elastic Systems talk and Donald Cousins’ Accessible Photogrammetry talk. were deeply engaging to me personally, and I’m sure I would have found the third one just as interesting. However, the bright yellow background meant I had to avoid looking up for extended periods of time, and I didn’t fully grasp what was being said without the use of the visual aids that were provided.

Accessible Photogrammetry

Donald Cousins spoke on accessible photogrammetry; something that on the surface sounds like just another way to try and bring history to an unwilling general public by creating a hip, fresh gimmick. However, after listening to the Lightening talk, his project is one that attempts to bring Historical artefacts to the masses through a battle for accessibility and ultimately improves the potential relationship between artefacts and the public. His aim was to create 3D models in primarily virtual space with the potential for various uses; from providing 3D images that can be embedded into web pages, to providing more accessible educational services. He uses the science of taking measurements from numerous photographs at different angles in order to create a detailed model in 3D Space.

Cousins’ talk resonated with me personally and I was not sure as to why until I spoke with my mother about it a few days later. I was pushing her round the science museum in a wheelchair, and her comment in response to the idea of printing out the 3D models made my fascination with the subject click into place. My mother has a variety of medical conditions, many of which affect her fine motor skills, and we agreed that it would make these Historical Artefacts far more accessible if they could be handled.

Visually impaired people would be able to get a tactile feel for what the artefacts look like, while people like my mother would be able to get close to the artefacts without the rented wheelchair getting in the way, and without the danger of breaking an item of historical importance. Her excitement at the possibility of handling a replica of an enigma machine (what we were looking at while we were talking) was something that I’m sure would be the case for many people for whom historical works were not so easily accessible before Cousins’ project.

Sources:

– BL Timeline. Illegal English Bible. Available at: http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item107718.html (Accessed: 24 November 2018)

– http://www.elasticsystem.net/WWWMuse/About.html

– https://blogs.bl.uk/living-knowledge/2016/11/the-elastic-system-what-can-you-do-with-a-library.html

– https://blogs.bl.uk/living-knowledge/

– https://www.cyreal.com/3d-360

– https://www.cyreal.com/about-us

– History Extra (2016) Murderous History of Bible Translations. Available at: https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/the-murderous-history-of-bible-translations/ (Accessed: 24 November 2018)

-Patreon (2018) Jonah Coman Patreon Page. Available at: https://www.patreon.com/MxComan (Accessed 25 November 2018)

Lightening Talks (Megan Cross)

 

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3(D) is the Magic Number

***Kayleb Barclay, Leah Matthews and Madiareni Sulaiman***

Having reflected on the varied presentations that took place at the BL Labs Symposium on 12 November 2018, our group met to discuss our individual areas of interest. In sharing our ideas we agreed that we could use each of our interests to display three different approaches to the projects. Therefore, in this post we outline the exciting developments and practical challenges for the digital humanities as a whole, look at how remixing data may challenge our understanding of a document, and reflect on the changing landscape of access and financing – something all projects must take into consideration.

Digital Humanities

Many speakers in BL Labs Symposium embrace digital humanities as a crucial issue to discuss. They presented arguments on cultural heritage digital collections in GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums); Living with Machines project, which relates to data science and artificial intelligence; and various awards nominees that covered humanities aspects. One point that could be discussed further in this area is how we could assess the value, impact and importance of experimenting cultural heritage object in digital format.

Daniel Pett, Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

 

Daniel Pett (University of Cambridge) and Mia Ridge (The British Library) presented the current approach to digital humanities practice.

Mia Ridge, Digital Curator for Western Heritage Collections, the British Library

 

“We consider that there is still so much to learn about the human, social, and cultural consequences of this historical moment… we aim to examine how technology altered the very fabric of human existence on the hitherto unprecedented scale.”

(Mia Ridge on BL Labs Symposium 2018)

Nowadays, GLAMs community is adapting 3D-recording in their conservation projects, such as photogrammetry and laser scanning. They offer a real potential for research: enabling museum objects to be accurately measured and recorded in the round and great detail; highlighting comparisons and distinctions; and facilitating long-distance discussions (Warwick, 2012). Moreover, this record represents a ‘digital fingerprint’ of the real object, which could also support analytical methods and identification for a better understanding of the material culture. Nevertheless, there are some concerns about its use, incorporate with the cost of technology and the overall process (risk of damaging the real object during the 3D recording and staff training). That is why there is a requirement for the international standard on its image capture, processing and storage, and also digital curation procedures.

BL Labs and partners showcase innovative and inspirational schemes which use the British Library’s digital content, contributing a platform for collaboration, networking and discussion in the Digital Humanities and Scholarship field as well as being a focus on the creative reuse of digital collections and data in the cultural heritage sector.

Remixing meaning

There is a phase – knowledge is power. If we can agree that it is typically those in power who create or control the record, we might also conclude that some documents in our collections may contain some level of interpretation or bias. It was, therefore, inspiring to see a number of creative projects using BL data to re-contextualise such records to present them alongside a narrative or focus that was different from the original.

The project Pocahontas and after did just that. Recognising that portraits of indigenous peoples from the BL archives may have exposed the photographer’s preconceived notions of culture rather than the authenticity of the subject, the team took equivalent modern portraits across a diverse group of volunteers, each of whom had complete agency over their identity and the way in which it was expressed in the photo. Side by side the images display a dichotomy that reminds us to consider and challenge the context of “truth” in our records.

Similarly, Pocket Miscellanies is a project that identifies and explores diversity and representation in medieval images. Produced as zines, a nod to both the size of medieval artefacts and a traditional ‘underground’ format, the miscellanies reflect on how topics such as sex, disability and racism are expressed in Elizabethan visual media.

Both of these projects seem to analyse the documentality of the BL data used – its historical context, social complexity, and for some users perhaps engaging a subjective emotional response. They reformat and annotate the original information to create an iteration that inevitably brings a different cultural meaning or understanding.

The combination of digitisation, open access and promotion of materials through different projects as seen at the symposium means that BL information is likely to be more widely circulated. The topic of wider engagement in order to better measure cultural value is one that has been investigated by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Crossisk and Kaszynska, 2016). In giving access to a broader range of individuals and communities, how to explore a document’s social meaning (Buckland, 2015) could form the basis of many projects working in partnership with the digital humanities.

Funding and Accessibility

This was an eye-opening conference on technological innovation and the many ways in which contemporaries are developing the basis of traditional curation. However, amongst all the presentations and awards there appeared to be an underlying tension that had provided as the most prominent hurdle to the speakers. This tension came in the form of institutional support/financial backing.

As mentioned above, the first guest speaker was Daniel Pett, the Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum, UK. He spoke of his previous position at Cambridge, one that had unfortunately ended due to a lack of funding for the project he had been working on. An unfortunate side-effect of working on open-access and not strictly profitable work is that institutions may often see it as not worth the financial burden. Any mistakes or hindrances that slow a project are seen to the project’s detriment rather than to their gain. Daniel raised a strong point in this regard – that in order to learn and recuperate from a setback, it was essential to celebrate failure rather than see it as a sign of an unsuccessful project. In a world as forefront and on the technical edge as digital curation, this is essential for progress.

Open-access technology and knowledge sharing show to be profitable for many entrepreneurs in the long scheme of things, such as in the case of another speaker, Alexandre Kitching. Alexandre presented the project that he had co-founded, Lume:‘a VR platform to explore, visualize and collaborate around your 3D Data.’ Interestingly, this project is extremely accessible in that it is listed as Free on Steam, a game/software sharing platform.

Having the Alpha software free for people to use creates a community of testers that can suggest improvements, find bugs and suggest the software to other people on their own accord. Garnering interest in a project like this creates the demand that would give a sponsor/institution motive to continue to support its development.

The Labs shed light upon a number of concerns to the innovation of digital humanities but also offered ways around them, as touched upon above. It seems that the best way to gain the backing these projects need is to make it as accessible/appealing to the public as possible – easier said than done!

References

Buckland, MK. 2015. Document Theory: An Introduction. UC Berkeley. Available at: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/87s642x7 (Accessed on 27 November 2018)

Crossick, G. and Kaszynska, P. 2016. Understanding the value of arts & culture. Arts & Humanities Research Council. Available at: https://ahrc.ukri.org/documents/publications/cultural-value-project-final-report/ (Accessed on 26 November 2018)

Warwick, C. 2012. Digital humanities in practice. London: Facet Publishing.

 

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3D-Modelling: Curation and Commercialisation

***Catherin Woods, Catherine Jenkins, Claudia Salaru Ma and Eleonora Winger***

Methodology

We took a collaborative approach to writing the blog, consisting of a virtual meetup to discuss ideas and co-edit our accounts in a shared Google Doc. Selections from the chat transcript below show our thought process. We agreed to focus on the 3D-modelling aspect after each identifying an item of interest that we could focus on and develop further in our individual sections.

Chat Transcript

Catherine Jenkins: Hello!

Eleonora Winger: Hey Catherine,

It’s such a great idea that you set up the Doc.

I’ve started writing a little bit below (Group Blog) – just some ideas. We can change and delete it, in case you want to write about another topic.

Catherine Jenkins: Excellent idea to focus on the 3D modelling and printing! As it is such a new concept and will present challenges for LIS people in terms of cataloguing – it will have advantages and disadvantages I guess. Thank you!

Eleonora Winger: You’re most welcome. I hope the others will like the topic as well.

Catherine Jenkins: Cathi is on her way!

[…]

Cathi Woods has opened the document.

Cathi Woods: Hi ladies

Catherine Jenkins: Hello! Sorry it was so complicated!

Eleonora Winger: Hey Cathi

Cathi Woods: no probs, my laptop is set up to my own gmail!! that’s where it got confused.

Catherine Jenkins: Eleonora has added a lovely piece on page 2 about the 3D modelling aspect, which might be a good focus, as it’s quite new and has advantages/disadvantages?

Cathi Woods: I liked the fact that there can be a revenue stream attached to the 3D printing.

Catherine Jenkins: Saw this by Library of Congress recently, we could look into it more to fulfil the ‘additional research’ part of the brief https://www.loc.gov/preservation/digital/meetings/b2b3d/b2b3d2018.html

Yes great we can discuss the commercialisation aspect further!

Potential blog title: 3D or Not 3D: Commercialisation and Curation (?)

Eleonora Winger: Looks great, Catherine! I think it’s a great topic, which can be exploited. In case, you’d like to switch topic though, that’s fine too. I’m flexible.

I love your blog title. Sounds great!!!

Cathi Woods: Just got your email Eleonora and that looks fab too. WIll have to give it some reading time though.

Eleonora Winger: Thx, Cathi.

Cathi Woods: What are the questions that we want answers to about 3D? answers that we can each take an aspect of?

Catherine Jenkins: Thanks for emailing those sources! We can build a nice reference list 😉

Eleonora Winger: http://www.dirdim.com/lm_everything.htm

Catherine Jenkins: Is 3D worth it? It costs money to e.g. 3D-print a book. But then you will save money on the restoration costs of having a precious book out on display…

Cathi Woods: yes I like that

Eleonora Winger: Sounds great.

Cathi Woods: What are the ethical realities of 3D printed ‘antiques’? can they be sold as ‘fakes’?

Eleonora Winger: How is 3D data visualized?

Catherine Jenkins: Is it ethical? Some people in future, might never get the chance to see a ‘real’ object, if 3D becomes the preferred way of displaying objects. And what is lost when you 3D model an object? I think it was the first guy who spoke, he said something about the back of the real Rosetta Stone not being able to be photographed, because of the case. So then there is a bias there, he skipped over it and got it from the ‘fake’ Rosetta instead

OOo yes Cathi!! A whole black market for fake antiquities!!

Eleonora Winger: The first ever 3D cataloguing of Hatshepsut’s temple

Catherine Jenkins: Yes Eleonora, will be good to look into the visualization options – ties in with Lume perhaps as well? (or is that 4D…)

Eleonora Winger: True, ties in with LUME.

Project Lume
Project Lume is a VR software for scientists to better explore, comprehend and share their 3D point cloud data.

I just found a website: https://www.lumevr.com/?ref=producthunt

I also quite liked Cyreal: https://www.cyreal.com/process

Cathi Woods: So I feel we have done our thoughts from the day but they need to be a paragraph that melds together. Shall we write that first or last?

I was just looking at the guidelines again…

Eleonora Winger: What do you think would be the best way to do it?

Shall I write a paragraph on LUME and Cyreal and then send it to you?

Cathi Woods: Perhaps a couple of sentences each about our thoughts before and what we expected, then a couple more lines about the one aspect that we liked, enjoyed listening to, then onto another couple of lines each about why we as a group think that focussing on the 3D aspect appealed to us?

Just some thoughts though…

Catherine Jenkins: Haha thank you for confirming it’s def 3D Eleonora! OK, what about: 1. Thoughts from the day, we could do it like an ‘interview transcript’, with our names, as the opening paragraph? Then 4 new paragraphs after it, one written by each of us, expanding on other possibilities.

yes I like that Cathi! your idea is way better 🙂

Eleonora Winger: I love both of your ideas!!! You can decide which stance we’ll take. xxx

Cathi Woods: that’s only the first paragraph though… I like your idea about the 4 paragraphs one written by each of us expanding on other possibilities.

Eleonora Winger: Me too. Shall I write my paragraph on LUME and Cyreal?

Cathi Woods: so that’s 250 words to into

150 words each to explain

then another 250 to conclude

125 each

maths never was my strong point!!! lol

that doesn’t sound like a lot!

Catherine Jenkins: Sounds good! yes please Eleonora, that would be great if you would like to write yours on LUME

We can use this chat record for the intro, it kind of contains all of our thoughts in motion 🙂

[…]

Catherine Jenkins: Cathi, would you like to write yours on the possible sale of fakes? To tie in with the unintended consequences/dark side of commercialisation? And I could write mine on bias

[…]

Cathi Woods: brilliant idea! I would love to explore the dark side!!

[…]

Cathi Woods: OK Cath… Tech Wizard…. How do I save this conversation????

Catherine Jenkins: I can copy and paste this chat into the main document body. We can add our paragraphs to it as and when they are done 🙂 You can download this Google Doc and open it in Word as a normal, non-live document – go to File (top left corner), then ‘Download as’, then choose Microsoft Word.

Cath

More often discussed in the context of STEM, reproducibility is of increasing relevance to cash-strapped museums. Sharing the underlying code for 3D-modelling programmes and documenting procedures in open access repositories like GitHub can better support the physical preservation of items.

However, 3D has a fourth dimension: the ethical. Considering the commercial opportunities for 3D models, it may be tempting to doctor objects so that they “show their best side”. I am thinking in particular of partnerships with video-game producers, who may be interested in embedding museum-originated 3D objects in their virtual worlds. If Rockstar Games, the publishers of Red Dead Redemption – an object-oriented game which incorporates a detailed inventory of realistic items, replicas of which are themselves sold as physical merchandise to fans – were to sponsor such bespoke modelling, a conflict of interest between faithful replication and bias towards aesthetic properties could arise.

The involvement of funders in monetising the 3D re-interpretation of objects is not the only issue in the shift to 3D. Public-engagement projects like the Clay, Marble and Pixels workshops, while laudable in their aims to enable open access to museum holdings, run the risk of spreading confusion: attendees are advised to use the software to ‘generate amusing historical paradoxes, featuring, for example, modern furniture in ancient buildings, or placing Victorian coaches in prehistoric cities’. While such combinations are doubtless ‘amusing’, museums developing a 3D offering should maintain accuracy and reproducibility at the forefront of projects. If this responsibility is not recognised and encoded in 3D practices as a precedent, I fear 3D-modelling will not be “ready for its close-up” as an innovative technology of real benefit to GLAM.

References

Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities (2018). ‘Clay, Marble and Pixels’. <https://beinghumanfestival.org/event/clay-marble-and-pixels-the-house/> (Accessed 25 November 2018).
England, E. (2017). ‘Using Three-Dimensional Modeling to Preserve Cultural Heritage’. <https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2017/01/using-three-dimensional-modeling-to-preserve-cultural-heritage/> (Accessed 25 November 2018).
Gerstenblith, P. (2016). ‘Technology and Cultural Heritage Preservation’, in Wallace, A. and Deazley, R. (eds) Display At Your Own Risk: An experimental exhibition of digital cultural heritage. <https://displayatyourownrisk.org/gerstenblith/> (Accessed 25 November 2018).
Miller, O. (2014). ‘Collecting Library Resources for Video Game Design Students: An Information Behavior Study’, in Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 33, no. 1, pp. 129-146.
Museum in a Box (2018). <http://www.museuminabox.org/> (Accessed 25 November 2018).
Rockstar Games (2018). ‘The first set of collectibles from the #RDR2 Outlaw Essentials Collection are now available’. <https://twitter.com/RockstarGames/status/1064587384145264640/photo/1> (Accessed 25 November 2018).

Eleonora

Doubtless, 3D modelling appears to be the future, as it enhances and improves the sharing and visualization of data. In addition it can be exploited, as it provides room for projects and new ideas.

Project Lume: Visualization of 3D Data on a grand scale

At the BL Labs Symposium, I was particularly fascinated of Project LUME, the ‘world’s first multi-user VR software’, which was designed to ‘better explore, comprehend, manipulate and share 3D point cloud data’ (Project LUME, 2018). During the talk, Alexandre Kitching (Kitching, 2018), the CEO and co-founder of Project LUME also mentioned the special collaboration with Cambridge University and described the project, as a ‘virtual reality platform for scientific exploration and collaboration’. What is more, is, that LUME ‘allows users to rediscover data’, by merely ‘dragging and dropping it into the VR’ (Project LUME, 2018). Furthermore, the data can be ‘brought to life’, with the aid of vive controllers and then ‘measured, selected and shared’ (Project LUME, 2018). In addition to the aforementioned factors, LUME can ‘navigate the world and control aesthetic output’ (Project LUME, 2018). At first, LUME seemed very surreal and it was hard to get my head around this rather abstract concept. At second sight, however, I think it’s ingenious and definitely brilliant, as it already helped to combine and discover medical data related to diabetes (Kitching, 2018). It has thus been a huge aid to patients, suffering from diabetes. Henceforth, LUME is, as the name already suggests, a tool that has the potential to bring a little light into the world and renders our planet a better place.

References:
Kitching, Alexandre (2018). BL Labs Symposium presentation.
Project LUME (2018). <https://www.lumevr.com/?ref=producthunt>, accessed 23 November, 2018.
3D Visualization (2018). <http://www.djisvms.com/use-3d-visualization/>, accessed 23 November 2018.

Cathi

The two main purposes for 3D technologies in museums are to enhance accessibility and educational experiences, and repatriation to the country of origin.

Recently in the Guardian newspaper Simon Jenkins wrote an article countering the method that museums must have the ‘original’ by any means necessary. His opinion is that “Museums love the word ‘authenticity’”, but at what cost politically (Jenkins, 2018)?

Whilst visiting the British Museum myself this past week to see the Ashburnipal exhibition I witnessed the the Easter Islanders tearfully request their statue held in the British Museum be repatriated as keeping it decried that the museum has their ancestor and therefore their ‘soul’ (Jenkins, 2018). Should a polystyrene or 3D printed copy to be made and displayed in the BM whilst the original was returned, as long as it was advertised as such this would then meet the ICOM recommendation at least (ICOM, 2010, p. 2). However, would the public visit our museums if they only saw facsimiles of originals, and were still told not to touch? On the same day I saw the “ancient obelisk that forms the focus of the British Library’s current Anglo-Saxon exhibition [however, this] is made of polystyrene”, an exhibition that found me in my element, yet we were asked to refrain from taking photos at the British Library exhibit but encouraged at the British Museum, which I found rather odd.

When told that we would be visiting the British Library Symposium I was unaware of what one of these actually was, it sounded impressive and I told my non-library friends that I was going, and they were equally impressed until they asked what it was. I did not know what to expect. I thought there would be speakers from a variety of LIS related fields. This was not far from the truth. The discussion around 3D modelling piqued my interest from a School Librarian point of view, we have a 3D printer in school and now I had a reason to commandeer it, for education purposes only you understand? Printing a 3D Viking longboat or an Egyptian Sphinx for students is a great way of bringing lessons to life.

On the theme of bringing lessons to life… The artist, Richard Wright’s lightning talk on the “Elastic System; How to judge a book by its cover” was by far my favourite presentation. The intricate use of 3D rendering a book shelf then using that to create a picture of interactive individual books that resembled Thomas Watts, which, if borrowed, removed themselves from the picture and revealed another picture underneath of the archive staff at the British Library. A fascinating and almost Russian Doll style of art, peeling back the layers. Another future project for school?

References
British Library, 2018. British Library Living Knowledge Blog. [Online]
Available at: https://blogs.bl.uk/living-knowledge/2016/11/the-elastic-system-what-can-you-do-with-a-library.html
[Accessed 25 11 2018].
ICOM, 2010. Original, Copy, Fake, On the significance of the object in History and Archaeology Museums, Shanghai, China: ICOM.
Jenkins, S., 2018. Give the Easter Islanders their statue back – it doesn’t belong in the British Museum. The Guardian, 24 11, p. 1.
Jones, J., 2018. Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms review – barbaric splendour and fierce vision. The Guardian, 21 10.p. 1.
Richard Wright, British Library, 2018. http://www.elasticsystem.net. [Online]
Available at: http://www.elasticsystem.net/
[Accessed 24 11 2018].

Claudia

The 3D technology revolutionised our lives. The 3D performance has created the possibility of working on different projects. For example, 3D scanning simplifies the process of making an electronic copy of a physical object. The object does not have to be even moved. Small or large pieces digitally transformed keep all their details. The process is ideal to create a prototype, to enlarge or reduce an object.

Moreover, another way of creating 3D models of objects is by using the photogrammetry method. This method uses photographs from different angles and with the help of a computer programme “stitch” them together.

“Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs, especially for recovering the exact positions of surface points. Photogrammetry is as old as modern photography, dating to the mid-19th century and in the simplest example , the distance between two points that lie on a plane parallel to the photographic image plane, can be determined by measuring their on the image, the scale (s) of the image is known.” (Wikipedia)

The Cyreal project has developed a semi-automated platform which controls the photographic process ensuring reliable and consistent data capture.

One real-life example is the “Model of a human brain”, France, 1801-1850, by Science Museum on Sketchfab.

References
https://www.cyreal.com/
https://www.cyreal.com/single-post/2017/05/09/Photogrammetry-what-is-it-what-can-it-do-for-me

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CityLIS at the British Library Labs Symposium

***Akina Maeda, Amanda Cooper, Andrea Anderson and Andy Farquhar***

The Elastic System – Akina
Although it was a very short talk, one of the talks particularly grabbed my attention. Indeed I believe many other attendances were interested in it as well. The project was about The Elastic System, which is a very artistic project that shows collections in the British Library as a digital catalogue. Therefore, as it is said ‘Catalogue’, it is possible to see what collections there are and even to request some from the artwork.

The main purpose of this project is to make a connection between people and the collections in the British Library and to influence each other by seeing and knowing the collections within the digital catalogue. One of the most amazing points of the system is the structure of the picture. It shows a portrait of Thomas Watt, who tries to innovate how to store huge number of collections in the British Library. Then if someone requests one of the collections, the cover is removed from the book shelves and it shows the picture of people who are working on the basement in British Library.

I think it has a great significance because it illustrates that there are always workers behind the technology and they take care of users. City LIS students had lectures about digital sources and AI (Artificial Intelligence) before. Then we found quite a few of people considered a need to have a librarian in a library in future. However, I presume a librarian will not disappear and the picture of workers in British Library represents there are always people to help us from an invisible place.

Also I think it is quite fascinating that Richard Wright, who is in charge of the Elastic System, tried to show library collections on purpose. The collections in British Library are usually hidden from the public. I have heard from so many people that they could not find and see books, which is disappointing despite the visit to the library. Now he has been successful in letting the public see enormous collections and allowing them to even request to borrow some.

The Breadth and Depth of the Collections – Amanda
British Library Labs is a project seeking to encourage the use of the British Library’s digital collections in interesting and exciting ways. Innovation and collaboration is emphasised through competition and events such as the Symposium held on Monday 12th November 2018, which was the 6th Annual BL Labs symposium held at the British Library.

As an attendee at the BL Labs Symposium on Monday 12th November, I found the concept and project fascinating. It seemed to me that the digitisation of British Library content is a prime example of the benefits of a digitised and increasingly connected world. As an Antipodean, the possibilities resonate; imagine being involved in a University of Auckland research project, while being able to access the treasures of the British Library online and in digitised form? Not only might I be able to view and interact with British Library collections in 3D virtual reality, but I might also be able to connect with and collaborate with other researchers interested in my field and sphere of investigation. In the vernacular: how awesome is that?

Keynote speaker Daniel Pett, currently Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, set out to emphasise the importance of innovation and experimentation. A varied background has clearly influenced Daniel’s approach; while studying at UCL and Cambridge where “he managed to play too much rugby” and previously working on the trading floor of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, an old merchant bank, his background suggests wide and varied experience – which drives perhaps his ability to “think outside the box”. Daniel advocates open access, open source and reproducible research.

Daniel spoke on “The Value, Impact & Importance of Experimenting with Cultural Heritage Digital Collections”, highlighting that the British Library’s collections are not just about books, but that their collections also contain patents, stamps, maps, sound recordings, musical scores and manuscripts. Daniel noted aspects to take into account such as sustainability and funding, mentioning using volunteers or crowd sourcing to assist with work. In his view democratising access to data means both institution and citizen benefit. Additionally, digitising means blending old and new becomes more viable, thus opening new avenues for future research, while also opening up new communication channels for museum professionals. Additionally digital content offers opportunities for renewing public interest in collections and social media can be used effectively to encourage pubic participation.

All in all the presentations made during the symposium served to highlight just how varied and extensive the British Library Labs projects are; incorporating areas such as the Asian and African Collections, European and Americas Collections, Western Heritage Collections, 18th and 19th Century Maps and utilising technologies such as 3D imaging, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. The possibilities for the future it seems are limitless, bound only by our imaginations.

Zine, Zeen! – Andrea

The Codex Gigas, 13th century, Bohemia.
Image from : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex

Zeen

Slang expression used when one is in agreement with something that was said, similar to ok, yeah or yes.

Example Sentences :

Patois: Wi a go a Dunn’s River tomorrow, zeen?

English: We are going to Dunn’s River tomorrow, ok?

http://jamaicanpatwah.com/term/zeen

Zine

some sort of publication, usually mass-produced by photocopying (in some cases,

scanned, put on the ‘net, or copied via fax) on any range of topics, but usually filled with

passion. a means of telling one’s story, sharing thoughts, and/or artwork/comics/doodles.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Zine

Medieval Miscellany
I have always found old books beautiful, especially Medieval Manuscripts my mother use to say I was an old soul. Something within me admired the Calligraphy, it being so similar to a machine print meant accuracy was mastered over many years. The vibrant tone of velvety greens, oranges, and reds like old de-oxygenated blood on skin. Ironically most were printed on vellum (an animal skin). I admired the patience and artistry that the old scholar took in creating such stylish letters that illuminated, borders and other decorative elements. One of the most famous of these old manuscripts is the Codex Gigas, 13th century, Bohemia. The word itself is derived (from the Latin caudex for “trunk of a tree” or block of wood, book). These early books were intended for religious use, ether in church services or private devotions.

As a part of our immersive learning experience, the class of Library and Information Science took a visit to the British Library Labs Symposium on Monday 12th of November 2018, the full day event ran from 09.30-17.30 in the Library Knowledge Centre, St Pancras.

I was personally very excited to be attending the event, as it was promoted as showcasing innovative and inspiring projects which use the British Library’s digital content, providing a platform for development, networking and debate in the Digital Scholarship field as well as being a focus on the creative reuse of digital collections and data in the cultural heritage sector.

There were many exhibits and technologies that I loved but the one that captured my imagination won the digital scholarship ;

Pocket Miscellanies won the British Library Labs Teaching and Learning Award.

The British Library recognised the importance of printed zines.

“their recognition of the importance of printed zines that re-materialise digital collections is a radical stance. The discussions around the zines also highlighted the importance of fair copyright policies for historical images.”

https://www.patreon.com/MxComan/overview

The reason why I found it so interesting was it resurrected images about people who we often do not see or know of, being mentioned in Medieval Manuscript. The creator delved into the BL Historical Medieval Archives and unearth these fascinating images and text.

Image taken from (https://www.patreon.com/MxComan/overview)

The Zine format was a great choice for the creator to use, as historically it was the best and most cost effective from of printing, for members of socially marginalised groups. They alone would publish their own opinions in leaflets and pamphlets.

The common Zine styles were influenced by Dada, Fluxus, Surrealism and Situationism.

The lineage of Zines could also be traced back as far as:

Thomas Paine’s exceptionally popular 1775 pamphlet Common Sense, Benjamin Franklin’s literary magazine for psychiatric patients at a Pennsylvania hospital and The Dial (1840-44) by Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zine

It struck me has being very creative, and resourceful because it was low budget. To be able to educate the public as well as make a business from a small self publish pocket size item, I thought was inspiring and accessible.

It also looked pretty awesome, zeen!

VR Data Visualisation – Andy
Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend the symposium but I have since investigated many of the technologies featured, of which Project Lume particularly piqued my geeky curiosity. It’s a 3D data visualisation application that allows scientists, or really anyone with a lot of 3-dimensional point data, to “explore, comprehend, manipulate and share” their data in immersive virtual reality. The presentation was by Alexandre Kitching and the software itself is from Imagination Labs in partnership with The Lee Lab at Cambridge University. Drag and drop your .csv data files into the system, don your headset and grab your controllers, and you can dive into the data cloud and gain a totally new perspective on your research data. Even better, an alpha version of the software is already available to use free of charge, although it’s only compatible with an HTC VIVE VR setup. Very cool!

References and further reading

Elastic System

http://www.elasticsystem.net/
http://www.elasticsystem.net/WWWMuse/About.html
https://blogs.bl.uk/living-knowledge/2016/11/the-elastic-system-what-can-you-do-with-a-library.html

Zines!

https://www.patreon.com/MxComan/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zine
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex
Project Lume

Dawood, S. (2018) This VR data visualisation tool looks to make dense research more “digestible”, Design Week, 16 November. Available at: https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/12-18-november-2018/this-vr-data-visualisation-tool-looks-to-make-dense-research-more-digestible/ (Accessed: 25 November 2018).
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