THATCamp British Library Labs #thatcampbl

THATCamp British Library Labs will take place 10:30-17:00 on 13 February 2015 at the British Library Conference Centre (Bronte, Chaucer, and Eliot Rooms) 30 Euston Square, London [please note the change of venue] as an International Digital Curation Conference 2015 fringe event (note: attendance at IDCC is not required) organised by the British Library Labs and British Library Digital Research teams.

THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is an unconference: an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions pitched and voted on at the beginning of the day. To learn more see the ‘About‘ page.

To get involved first register and then – if you want – propose a session.

Any questions, contact us at .

THAT Camp British Library Labs is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council Visualising European Crime Fiction: New Digital Tools and Approaches to the Study of Transnational Popular Culture project. For more information about the project, please visit: 

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VOX: Voices Of eXperience

What does it happen when Humanists & Technologists work together? What are the challenges and opportunities of cross-field and interdisciplinary collaborations? What is your personal experience?

This Talk session proposes to listen to the voices of Humanists and Technologists involved in cross-field and interdisciplinary collaborations in order to understand what are the main constraints and the main benefits of those collaborations. What works? What doesn’t? Can we identify common problems and strategies to overcome the obstacles?

This proposal arises from the Digital Humanities & Arts Praxis project at the University of Nottingham. DHA Praxis aims to create a space for conversation around interdisciplinarity and to produce recommendations to facilitate the convergence of different fields and disciplines into shared practices.

So, THATCamp at the British Library seems the perfect event to discuss and exchange (Voices Of) experiences and suggestions.





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Show, Tell and Ask: Tools, Tips and Data

In a rapidly evolving field it is difficult to keep up with all the available tools, techniques and data sources available and being used. This session would offer a space to share experiences – good and bad – of various tools and data sources that people have used to do data cleaning, data analysis, named entity extraction, text analysis, visualisation and any particular experiences of using data sources (either specific sources, or types of interfaces)

This session isn’t intended to deliver an in-depth view of any particular tool or data source but to take a cook’s tour based on the experience of the attendees.

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Beyond the Text: Teaching DH with visual sources

With one foot firmly in corpus linguistics, Digital History has often been about finding, collecting, collating, manipulating and linking textual information.  However, just as historians have learned to move beyond the text in traditional historical research, so too do we need to move beyond the text in our undergraduate DH instruction. What can we do with digitised images, with our students, beyond merely viewing them.  How can we manipulate or otherwise analyse them with basic software (cloud or downloadable) tools in a way that is both ‘play’ and assists in developing in core learning outcomes.

I propose a “make” session in which we collaborate to great a seminar-ready package of

  • Freely accessible historical images
  • A basic historical or humanities framework in which to understand the image collection (blurb text!)
  • An undergraduate-friendly activity that students can undertake with minimal software or hardware requirements but which encourages active use of the digital environment for understanding material, visual or audio-visual sources.

I would advocate putting it up on Github at the conclusion of the session to allow for re-use and further development via forking.

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Visualising European Crime Fiction

A follow-up of the workshop held on February 12 in the frame of the Data Curation Conference ( ), and in particular in connection with the topic and objectives of the AHRC-funded project Visualising European Crime Fiction (, the proposed session aims at working with datasets collecting bibliographical and biographical information on a few thousands of crime novels and novelists. The data have been collected from the Paris Crime Fiction Library (; the catalogue of the British, French, Italian, and Hungarian national libraries; from and from numerous other bibliograhical sources.

With the help of an expert Tableau professional user, Chris Love (, and the expertise of the scholars involved in the project (Dominique Jeannerod, Andrew Pepper, and Federico Pagello from Queen’s University Belfast; Loic Artiaga; University of Limoges; Sandor Kalai, University of Debrecen), the session will allow the participants to explore the potential of Tableau public to visualise data in a number of different ways.

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Getting experienced

Digitised literature gives us the opportunity to explore how people experienced the past. However, if extracting tangible things from texts such as names and places can be tricky, consider the challenge of extracting something intangible such as an experience.

If the author has been kind to us, we can set our computer to look for keywords in the text such as ‘read’ and ‘listen’. We can use those words as cues to locate the description of an experience. For example, an officer in the Western Front trenches might describe the solace he finds when he reads Jane Austen; but what if his diary simply states that he grabbed Austen from his pack for some solace? How can we program a computer to extract that as an experience from the text, regardless of how the sentiment is expressed?

In this session, we would like to explore the challenge of extracting experience, in whatever form, from digital texts. Can we afford to have our valuable humanists wading through reams of data before they can get to grips with the real purpose of their study, or can we get the computer to tackle the issue of finding candidate experiences that merit close reading?

While our own immediate interests lie in historic literature, we believe the underlying challenge is equally applicable to extracting experiences from other digital sources up to and including contemporary social media.

The primary aim of the session is to discuss the challenge, and from that seek to establish some general principles to automate the identification of ‘experience’ in digital texts. We can initiate the discussion drawing from our own work with reading experience ( and listening experience (

If we make good progress with the discussion, and if time permits, we can extend the session to try out some of the ideas and any tools that may already exist. We will bring along some of our data and a suitably powerful laptop to start the work off, but we would love to see more and varied data, and to see any existing tools, to progress addressing this challenge.

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Gamestorming for DH

I would like to propose a gamestorming session to playfully combine technologies and applications, guided by current DH research questions.  The session can start with sharing the (technical and subject-matter) skill-sets, interests and data sources of the participants, then move on to brainstorm ideas, following by the rapid refinement and peer rating of these ideas.


We can use some of these

The outcome will be potentially viable research/development project ideas, which participants could either sign up to for further collaboration post-camp – or just use as personal food for thought.

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Enriching digitised archival content

Over the past year I have been project managing the content workstream of the British Library’s flagship digitisation programme with the Qatar Foundation, now launched and live on a bilingual free-to-use portal at

This service offers a unique resource on the history of the Gulf region, drawing on primary collections at the British Library including the India Office Records, visual arts, digitised sound collections and the maps collections. You can learn more at

My interest in this session is to riff with some digital tools proposed by the group for enriching the content without any further development to the portal. For example, that might mean:

Or many other ideas besides. I do hope you’ll join and contribute. Here’s a video to help you decide:

Categories: Collaboration, Digital Literacy, Libraries, Museums, Publishing, Research Methods, Social Media, Text Mining, Visualizations, Workshops | Comments Off on Enriching digitised archival content

Explain to a Newbie: Digital Research in the Humanities – What’s the Question?

The Challenge:

Can you explain in plain English what digital research methods in the Humanities allow folks to do that they couldn’t do before?

Some Discussion Topics:

  1. What new sorts of research questions can be asked?
  2. What new concepts or hypothesis can be tested?
  3. What new research and public audiences might be interested in the these approaches outside of the Digital Humanities?
  4. How can Digital Humanities researchers best articulate why they do what they do to them?

Session suggestion from a newbie (biomedical researcher knows about  digital research technologies but not about humanities research) which might appeal to other DH experts or newbies alike.

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