The Visit to the BL Labs Symposium

***Xiaiqin Zhang, Zoi Pegiadou, Luke Buckley and Nicolas Dunn***

The Morning:

After an introduction the first presentation was hosted by Daniel Pett, who talked about ‘Cultural Heritage Digital Collections’ and what could be done with them. One of the points he made that stuck out to me was how difficult it can be to run such an institution, noting that funding and the right recruits is hard to come by. The next main talk covered building the library labs, followed by three quick talks. These seemed to revolve around viewing data and information in different ways, such as in a 3-D environment. We then went to lunch after an award was given out.

The Afternoon:

After lunch there was a brief talk about scholarship programs underway at the British Library, followed by a string of awards given to outstanding individuals. There was a talk about a project called ‘Living with machines’ which seemed interesting as it brought up AI and Robotics as something that could alter the way society functions. Following a short break we listened to a talk about an upcoming art exhibition. It involved using algorithms to create data which can turn into urban maps and 3-D art. The final main talk centred around data in virtual reality called project LUME. This involved exploring data in VR which was further demonstrated in a live test just outside the main symposium hall.

Final thoughts:

Most of the talks simply demonstrated how we could view data and what could be made from data. It’s interesting how, using technology, we can change the way we view data and information. By doing this we can develop better ways of deciding how useful data can be. It specific contexts like a LIS perspective, we can judge how useful and appropriate specific data can be. If viewing data in 3-D was further explored, more historical data could be better analysed for more historical discussion. Alternatively, exploring algorithmic and AI data could improve how we view and use such data in our society. Perhaps said data could be more useful in practical, more creative works rather than simple discussion. Much of it depends on the context and suitability but thinking about how we could view data could change how we interact with aspects of wider society whether it’s for preservation or for putting data into practical use.

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Looking at History Through the Eyes of the Future

***Wanting Wang, Valentina Dine and Valerie Valentine***

The British Labs symposium brought together a vast amount of new ideas and innovations that used the British Library’s digital collections and data to the table. It showed us the applications of learnt theory in a wider context and showcased bigger and better ideas that both havebeen implemented in libraries and beyond in recent years and are yet to befully implemented. Some of these included Digital Scholarships, 3D imaging and Artificial Intelligence. It is certain that an integrated future with these at the forefront will be beneficial and exciting, not only for Library and Information Professionals, but above all for the general public as well.

The value of experimenting in the GLAM sector

Daniel Pett, Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge BL Labs Symposium, 2018

Daniel Pett’s keynote on Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) was one of the many aspects of the symposium that was both interesting and thought provoking.

GLAM is essentially used to describe the cultural heritage sector as a whole and itis based on the concept of memory and history (Dempsy, 2000). Each institution in GLAM has interconnected roles in collecting, curating, preserving and sharing pieces of the community’s cultural heritage to better interpret this information for the public (International Librarians Network, 2015). Lately, GLAM institutions are transforming from physical to virtual as we are now connecting all the knowledge centers on the planet together into a single global network (Friedman, 2005). For example, museums, such as The Fitzwilliam Museum and the National Gallery, are hosting virtual exhibitions and tours. However, all GLAMs, even non-virtual ones, are needed for an informed society as they access and preserve the physical remains of human cultural and biological heritage. Clark et al.(2002).

But GLAM is facing a series of challenges lately ranging from attracting and retaining funding for these institutions, staff retention and recruitment within the GLAM sector to a scarcity of skills amongst current humanities researchers. At the symposium, Daniel Pett discussed these challenges and how to overcome them. It was valuable to learn that digital preservation is becoming a massive issue, especially since many tools that contain cultural memory are now moving towards a fee based assessed system (e.g. Flickr and Google maps) and some, such as Storify, have even completely shut down.

Part of the reason the GLAM sector is facing so much trouble is because users are not that concerned about where they find their information, whether in a library or a museum or an archive as long as they find it. Hedegaard (2003, pp.2). It is clear that the GLAM sector needs to change and the best way to do so is through digital research and development. A great example is Daniel Pett’s work and his development of the British Museum’s 3D capture system whereby viewers can view artifacts online fully withou thaving to restrict viewing to a two-dimensional image. It would be best if the GLAM sector is re-imagined in the near future so that our cultural heritage can be preserved.

How people’s seeking behavior affect the digital collection development

British Library have many projects that show cast their brilliant achievements. We can touch the future by different technologies and have a better understanding of the historical items. As we were born in the era of digital age, more and more things develop with digital technology, creating popular trends that resulted in many libraries developing their own digital libraries. People change their seeking behavior in this digital age; we start to search online, through the flexible use of digital collections, which constitutes to an important reason as to how digital collections develop in such a rapid pace. As Karen Calhoun provides the definition of digital collections, “a frame work for carrying out the functionsof libraries in a new way with new types of information resources” Calhoun(2014 pp.19). People used to read the physical books or articles in the past, but as time changes, people’s demand for information also increases, and the development of digital libraries allows the precious and protected documents to be no longer out of reach.

Jonah Coman, Zines, BL Labs Symposium, 2018

Different kinds of digital collections from the libraries, such as digital archives, records, manuscripts and images were presented. In the BL Labs Symposium 2018, it opens a new picture for us. Sounds, images, information, music, cultural relics can be presented to people in more vivid images. Nowadays, people are starting to use the 3D technologies in order to make those images resemble closer to people. People’s seeking behavior will always change in different environments, digital collections development brings a new type of seeking method as we saw how people’s ability to satisfy their demands. Digital collections can be improved in multiple ways within the technology’s development.

A New User Experience: 3D Imaging

Some of the current inspiring advances in digital technology using the British Library’s digital content were showcased. In “A series of three lightning talks”, some of the latest developments and benefits of 3D imaging were highlighted.

In the first talk “The Elasticsystem (an update)”, Richard Wright, an artist, explained how the British Library’s digital infrastructure is being used not only to find and retrieve information, but also to create works of art. Some collections like the King’s Library Tower display are being made more accessible to the public. Around 4,300 images including manuscripts and mosaics have been digitized and linked to the library collections. These can now be used as a form of physical browsing.

In the talk “Accessible Photogrammetry for the arts, Culture and Heritage Sectors” Donald Cousins CEO of Cyreal Limited promoted Cyreal photogrammetry. Photogrammetry is the science of taking measurements from photographs. The technique used to create the 3D images is quite fascinating. During the break, Donald explained to us briefly how these 3D images are captured; seven standard high-quality cameras are usedt o capture simultaneously thirty images of an object on a turntable. This takes about 2 to 3 minutes. The images are then uploaded to Control software which unites the appropriate pixels to create these high-quality 3D images. The processing time ranges from 1 to 30 hours.

Cyreal Photogrammetry, BL Labs Symposiums, 2018

These images can be put into Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) or made available on the web for research purposes. Cyreal use an accurate, simple system which is scalable. The benefits of using ordinary cameras is that it is cost effective and fully automated making the technology accessible to more libraries. Cyreal Limited would like to develop their systems further and are keen to know users’requirements.

Following along in this theme, in the talk “3D imaging at the British Library” Dr Adi-Keinan-Schoonbaert, Digital Curator for Asian and African collections highlighted how 3D imaging is being explored in the British Library. She explained how photogrammetry is being used to produce 3D images by the overlapping of images, whereas before Photo scam was previously used.

Some of the benefits of using 3D images were stressed; images are produced more quickly in house, they are embedded in the online content and are available for download. Once the models are ready they are uploaded to Sketchfab where they can be viewed in 3D worldwide, thus it allows for some of the more diverse collections to be made more accessible. Some items scanned and digitized include pre-19th manuscripts, figurines, leathers, fabrics and Jane Austen portable writing desk. In addition, the 3D images can be used in many ways; in Blogs, gaming, socialmedia, 3D printing, exhibitions, tours and for conservation. It is a way of bringing analogue and digital content together and a new way of creating. As Phelps and Keinan-Schoonbaert (2016) stated that the “models provide website visitors (and visitors to galleries) a view of objects as a whole, giving a tactile feel to items which are generally untouchable.” When one thinks of the large amount of collections contained in The Palace Museum in China alone, the potential for 3D imaging to make artifacts more accessible seems amazing.


British Library (2018) Sketchfab, Available at: (Accessed: 29 November 2018)

British Library, Collection guides: The King’s Library, Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2018)

Calhoun, Karen (2014) Exploring Digital Libraries: foundations, practice, prospects. London: Facet Publishing.

Clark,J. T., Slator, B. M., Perrizo, W., Landrum, J. E., Frovarp, R., Bergstrom, A.,Ramaswamy, S., and Jockcheck, W. (2002). Digital archive network for anthropology. Journal of Digital Information, 2(4), [Online] Available at:

Cyreal, ARevolutionary Photogrammetry Platform for the Cultural and Heritage Sectors, Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2018)

Dempsey L (2000). Scientific, industrial, and cultural heritage. A shared approach: A research framework fordigital libraries, museums and archives. Issue 22, 1999.

Friedman,T. L. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the globalized world in the 21st century. London: Penguin Group.

Hedegaard,R. (2003). Benefits of archives, libraries and museums working together pp.2 [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 22 November 2018)

InternationalLibrarians Network (2015). Discussion Topic: GLAM – Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. [Online]Available at: (Accessed: 23 November 2018)

Phelps and Keinan-Schoonbaert(2016) The Digital Life of a Hebrew Manuscript. [Online] Availableat: (Accessed: 25 November 2018)

The Palace Museum. Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2018)

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Thoughts on the BL Digital Labs Symposium

***Sarah Feehan, Stephanie Mcmullan, Susanne Trokhymenko and Tim Darach***

“The British Library Labs (BL Labs) Symposium showcases innovative projects that use the British Library’s digital content and data, and provides a platform for development, networking and debate in the Digital Scholarship field.”

(Programme for the Sixth British Library Labs Symposium, 2018)

Stephanie McMullan:

All too often we think of data as lifeless and uncreative. Reams of numbers, words and images being collected and flashing in front of us quickly and momentarily, being used to generate statistics and graphs to reflect on what has happened in the past.
However, as I left the BL Digital Labs Symposium three weeks ago I was struck by the creative purposes data was being used for; data is bringing new things to life. I found this most striking in the “Imaginary Cities” project by Michael Takeo Magruder. Magruder is using the British Library’s collection of historic urban maps on Flickr to create artistic, fictional cityscapes for modern audiences. The images will constantly change over time and using 3D technology, these cities will become accessible to the public through VR headsets for audiences to explore.

As we discussed in CityLIS week 6, information is needed for creativity and innovation. By making available digitised images from the British Library’s collections the BL has shown how the information libraries provide can be disseminated in new ways and be used to inspire new generations of artists, researchers and scholars. The BL Labs Symposium showed us this again and again.

Sarah Feehan:

The symposium showcased the seemingly limitless uses for digitised content from the British Library Labs. The four awards – comprising the categories Research, Artistic, Commercial and Teaching & Learning – gave the audience a fascinating insight into what I’m sure is just the tip of the iceberg.

The winner of the Teaching & Learning award was Jonah Coman with their Pocket Miscellanies: a collection of miniature zines which each provide a short lesson on a different aspect of Medieval visual culture, primarily featuring marginalised bodies that are so often missing from the historical mainstream media. The zines use images from the British Library Labs Medieval digital collection, which Jonah has permission to reproduce and make publicly available online as part of a free resource. However, the copyright of the images does not allow for them to be sold – so Jonah, an artist, has instead set up a Patreon so that this work can be supported, but without infringing on copyright law which prohibits the sale of the zines.

This is an area we touched upon in our morning session with Dr. Jane Secker in week 8, and which we will no doubt be revisiting soon as it is imperative information scientists and librarians understand it fully.

Susanne Trokhymenko:

I believe the purpose of knowledge is to create meaning in our lives, and true meaning can only be achieved if something is passed on to others to enrich and benefit their lives. A product, in this case the digital content and data of the British Library, is truly meaningful when it keeps on giving.

At the British Library Symposium, not only was I amazed at the winners of the awards but at the whole range of finalists. The use of the digital content available has been such a source of inspiration for many. From research awards demonstrating the development of new knowledge to artistic awards, and from commercial to teaching and learning awards exhibiting the creation of quality learning experiences, it was truly remarkable to see the innovation and use of the BL content for sharing the knowledge and cascading it further afield.

From collections being used for a fashion show – designer Nabil Nayal researched his PhD in Elizabethan Dress – to Jonah Coman’s zines (see above), the awards celebrate and recognise creativity, and encourage international collaboration (Pocahontas and after) with effective and exciting research and activities which enhance the Library’s digital content. All in all: Go BL! Can’t wait for next year…

Tim Darach:

During Daniel Pett’s talk at the BL symposium I was struck by how unreal the 3D objects looked up on the screen, floating phantasmal as if waiting to be picked up in a computer game.

I was expecting something more realistic, after all they were made from photographs! But at that point I didn’t understand what these 3D objects were or how they are made.

During the break I put on a VR headset and tried to walk around a lion – nearly knocking over an expensive looking camera in the process.

What I’d experienced was actually a model – based on measurements derived from photographs (photogrammetry) – with colours and textures copied from the photos stretched over the top of it, bulging ever so slightly like a stuffed animal in a museum. These 3D models are an interpretation – like archeological line drawings – except they are generated algorithmically rather than with a human eye. (The person producing the drawing has to decide where the boundaries are – where one feature ends and another begins – whereas for the 3D model this is done mathematically.)

Wireframe detail from a PhotoScanPro 3D model of Roman bust in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The idea of copies allowing an enhanced experience is not new, see for example the plaster casts that populate the Victoria and Albert museum’s sculpture gallery and other 19th century institutions:

“In the mid nineteenth century new casting techniques allowed for the production of huge architectural fragments. Well-selected collections could ideally display perfect series in galleries in which the visitor could wander among monuments and experience architecture history on full scale”

(Lending, 2015)

Although in this case the physical properties of the materials used to make the cast and the model mostly defined the outcome.

Viewing these 3D models on a screen or through a headset enhances the isolation of the artefact – that they can be objectified, can be seen on their own out of narrative context. We have been trained to accept the surreal juxtapositions of objects in museums and other cultural institutions, so in a way 3D modelling is another facet of that process.
The interposition of explanatory text and curatorial order is supposed to mitigate this surreality – or even disguise or rationalise how the artefacts came to be on display in a grand building. (Further complicated by our tendency to think we are looking at something authentic, whereas the provenance of many artefacts is in tension with this notion: such as restorations; reconstructions; fakes; copies made by the original craftsmen for collectors; authorised copies; versions made specifically for museums but left incomplete for cultural reasons…)

I wanted to learn more about the modelling process so I went to the Fitzwilliam Museum Photogrammetry workshop last week and there Daniel Pett taught us how to use modelling software to make 3D models from artefacts we photographed in the museum:

Click on the image above to view a 3D model of a stone head from the Fitzwilliam Museum.

If you swivel the model around you will see there is a hole in the top – you can look inside at the back of its face – I like this flaw; it is a reminder that you aren’t looking at reality.


Programme for the Sixth British Library Labs Symposium. (2018). [ebook] p.1. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2018].

Lending, M., 2015. Promenade Among Words and Things: The Gallery as Catalogue, the Catalogue as Gallery. Architectural Histories 3, np-np.

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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.


– BL Timeline. Illegal English Bible. Available at: (Accessed: 24 November 2018)






– History Extra (2016) Murderous History of Bible Translations. Available at: (Accessed: 24 November 2018)

-Patreon (2018) Jonah Coman Patreon Page. Available at: (Accessed 25 November 2018)

Lightening Talks (Megan Cross)


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