Working with the British Library’s Digital Content, Data and Services for y...

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University of Edinburgh

School of Informatics (Room G.07)

10 Crichton Street



United Kingdom

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A series of presentations exploring the British Library's digital collections, how they have been used and the lessons learned by working with researchers who want to use them. This will be followed by discussions and feedback around potential ideas of working with the Library's data.

Organised by British Library Labs and the CAHSS Digital Scholarship initiative, University of Edinburgh as part of the British Library Labs Roadshow (2018).

The Roadshow will showcase examples of the British Library’s digital content and data, addressing some of the challenges and issues of working with it, and how interesting and exciting projects from researchers, artists, educators and entrepreneurs have been developed via the annual British Library Labs Competition and Awards. This year we intend to focus on some of the lessons we have learned over the last four years of working with the Labs, promote our awards and get attendees thinking of what they might do with the British Library's collections. The team will also talk about future plans at the Library to support Digital Scholarship. The day will include presentations from the researchers who are working on interesting Digital Humanities projects.

Date and Time:
Wednesday 2nd May 2018, 09:30 - 13:00


University of Edinburgh, School of Informatics, Room G.07, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB, UK.

Please refer to the following map for how to get to the event.

BL Labs Roadshow (2018)

The British Library Labs project has been running since 2013 and the Labs team have been regular annual visitors to University of Edinburgh. The team will reflect on the lessons they have learned over the last four years and focus on some of the typical questions researchers first ask and the common misconceptions they have of working with the the British Library's digital collections and data. They will also provide examples of what researchers were able to actually achieve and the challenges they faced.

Hundreds of thousands of digital items and objects are being created and collected for researchers to use such as digitised manuscripts, sheet music, newspapers, maps, archived websites, radio, performances, TV news broadcasts, and artworks, as well as the more expected items like scanned versions of books.

This wonderful cacophony of content is having a significant effect on how institutions like the British Library support the research needs of their users. Will people discover new information when they are no longer restricted to viewing a single page from a single book at a time? How can the British Library build systems that provide a coherent route across its content, regardless of whether it is a televised news report or a unique signature drawn in the margins of a map? How can we use crowd-sourced information, computer vision and machine-learning techniques to provide people with better tools to better judge and interpret the context of illustration or work? How can we exploit animations and interactive infographics to better convey the information found in our holdings?

This is the research space that British Library Labs explores and we want to encourage researchers at the University of Edinburgh to work with us and share their research questions and innovative ideas around this.


09:30 Registration and Coffee

10:00 Introduction and Welcome

Professor Melissa Terras

Introductions from the delegates

10:10 "What is British Library Labs? How have we engaged researchers, artists, entrepreneurs and educators in using our digital collections"

Ben O'Steen, Technical Lead, British Library Labs

10:30 British Library Labs working with University of Edinburgh and University of St Andrews Researchers

"Text Mining of News Broadcasts"

Dr. Beatrice Alex, Informatics (University of Edinburgh)

"Text Mining Historical Newspapers"

Dr. Claire Grover, Senior Research Fellow, Informatics (University of Edinburgh)

"Visualizing Cultural Collections as a Speculative Process"

Dr. Uta Hinrichs, Lecturer at the School of Computer Science (University of St Andrews)

11:15 British Library data: discussions and feedback on ideas, challenges and issues.

Labs will give an overview of some of the Library's digital collections and lead on a discussion on how they can be used. The team will also give feedback on ideas delegates might have on using the collections.

Ben O'Steen

11:30 Developing Services for BL Labs at the British Library

12:00 Coffee Break

12:15 Developing Services for BL Labs at the British Library: Feedback and discussion

12:40 Conclusion and wrap up

13:00 Finish

Feedback for the event

Please complete the following feedback form.

Speaker Biographies:

Professor Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage, University of Edinburgh

Melissa Terras is the Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh‘s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, which she joined in October 2017, leading digital aspects of research within CAHSS at Edinburgh, as well as building digital capacity in the new Edinburgh Futures Institute. Her research focuses on the use of computational techniques to enable research in the arts, humanities, and wider cultural heritage and information environment that would otherwise be impossible.

With a background in Classical Art History and English Literature (MA, University of Glasgow), and Computing Science (MSc IT with distinction in Software and Systems, University of Glasgow), her doctorate (Engineering, University of Oxford) examined how to use advanced information engineering technologies to interpret and read Roman texts. She is an Honorary Professor of Digital Humanities in UCL Department of Information Studies, where she was employed from 2003-2017, Honorary Professor in UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, which she directed 2012-2017, and previously Vice Dean of Research in UCL’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities (2014-2017).

Ben O'Steen, Technical Lead of British Library Labs

Previous to working for Labs Ben was a freelance developer in the academic sector. While his expertise lies in solving interesting problems using computers, his formal training is in chemistry: He has authored a Physics GCSE training course, created electronics for art installations, co-founded the “Developer Happiness” conference (, and he was the lead developer in the Bodleian Library’s Research and Development department building their Resource Description Framework (RDF) - powered repository and digital asset management systems. In recent years, he has worked on Jisc funded projects (OpenBibliography, OpenCitation), wrote reports for funders on topics such as text-mining and sat on technical advisory boards for the Web-service Offering Repository Deposit (SWORD) protocol , ORCID and other groups.

Dr Bea Alex, Research Fellow, Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Dr Beatrice Alex is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation (ILCC) and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. Her research centres around text mining for data in different domains, including digital humanities and social science as well as healthcare related areas. Most recently she has directed her focus to speech transcript analysis. She is also a co-convener of the Turing’s Data Science and Digital Humanities special interest group.

Dr Claire Grover, Senior Research Fellow, Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Claire Grover is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation (ILCC) and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. Her current work focuses on text mining electronic health records but she has extensive experience in digital humanities and social science. She is a co-developer of the Edinbugh Geoparser and was part of the text mining team on the Palimpsest project. As part of the Administrative Data Research Centre Scotland she has recently been analysing historical local Scottish newspapers to mine background information around Scottish birth cohorts.

Dr Uta Hinrichs, Lecturer at the School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews

Dr. Uta Hinrichs is a Lecturer at the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, specializing in visualization and HCI. She received her PhD in Computer Science with specialization in Computational Media Design from the University of Calgary, Canada. Heavily drawing form fields outside of Computer Science (e.g., Design, Literary Studies, and Information Sciences), Uta’s research is driven by the question of how to facilitate insightful, pleasurable and critical interactions with information in physical and digital spaces, both as part of professional activities and everyday life. As a visualization researcher Uta has been involved in number of collaborations with artists, historians, and literary scholars which have fuelled her interest in the role of visualization as part of humanities research and practice. Her research has been presented and published at academic venues spanning the fields of Visualization, HCI, Literary Studies, and Digital Humanities.

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University of Edinburgh

School of Informatics (Room G.07)

10 Crichton Street



United Kingdom

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