Posts Tagged DMVI
It started out as an experiment. We took the brains of a dozen undergraduate students and carefully placed them into the flailing bodies of several research projects; we fired up the electricity (well, actually, set up a webpage) and … the Project Management and Research module was born.
I have become very fond of what we have all created this year. Anthony and I have worked together on projects for over a decade now (hard to believe, I know) and it seemed like a good idea to share some of what we have learned along the way and pass on our genuine enthusiasm for project-based work. In an academic environment that is increasingly stressing employability and the transferability of skills, this module ticks all the boxes. I hope that it has given our first cohort of students a taste of research in an academic context and the opportunity to exploit the talent they have and bring out new talents they never knew they had. Read the rest of this entry »
archives, book history, books, databases, digital humanities, DMVI, editing, illustrations, literature, material cultures, pedagogy, print culture, publishing, Romantic literature, teaching, Victorian culture
On Thursday 13 October, we held two workshops with local schools to explore the potential use of the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration as a teaching and learning tool. The fact that the database is full of images that illustrate literary texts and contain a wealth of historic detail makes it significant for a range of humanities subjects, including English literature, history and religious studies.
The morning workshop consisted of staff and students from Stanwell Comprehensive School in Penarth. The first exercise involved giving the participants 25 illustrations and asking them to arrange them in order, with the aim of analysing how pictures can create narratives. Anthony had spent a considerable amount of time cutting the images out with great precision and they looked impressive spread along the desks. Some interesting stories emerged, a few of which came near to recreating the actual source text (Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). We then gave out the captions to see if that would help or hinder the creation of the story. The exercise was a very valuable one both for the participants and for us because it made us think about the relation between word and image in illustration and how these Victorian pictures can be ‘read’. The second half of the session involved a demonstration of the database and the new social networking features, which the students seemed to particularly enjoy. They were given the chance to try it out for themselves before a very hearty buffet lunch was served.
We had just about demolished the chocolate éclairs when the next school arrived for the afternoon session: St David’s College, Cardiff. We tried out the same exercises again with similar interesting results. This group were slightly older and managed to work out that the pictures were from Coleridge’s poem. After another demonstration of the database, tea arrived, so we forced ourselves to eat more plates of sandwiches and crisps.
The day provided us with lots of ideas of how to go forward with the education strand of the project and convinced us that this was really something worth doing. The feedback from the students suggested that the workshop had made them think differently about illustration and its value, so our job was done. Now all that was left was to do was to finish off that plate of muffins …
On 29 September 2011, the enhanced version of the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration was officially launched. A select coterie of dignitaries gathered in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) to get the first glimpse of the revamped DMVI website and the innovative features that the enhanced version will contain.
The launch went remarkably smoothly – or at least as smoothly as anything involving computers and at least three different academic institutions can. Special thanks go to Mike Pidd and Matt Groves from the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) at the University of Sheffield for coming all the way to South Wales to deliver their presentation. The efforts of the HRI team have been fundamental to the reconfiguration of the database. They have done the hard computing work, and produced an open-source back-end structure that allows the search and display capabilities of DMVI to be significantly more flexible and dynamic. Read the rest of this entry »
Background to the project
The first version of the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration (www.dmvi.cf.ac.uk) was launched in January 2007, emerging out of a desire to raise the profile and status of Victorian illustration, both within academia and beyond. Based in Cardiff University’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research and with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the aim of the DMVI project was to digitize and mount on a publicly accessible website a cross-section of illustrations from different literary texts by a range of artists and engravers. Key innovations included the ability to view the over 850 illustrations at high resolutions, a sophisticated system of iconographic classification to describe the content of each image, as well as rigorous bibliographical and technical data.
The current phase
In 2010, a second AHRC grant was obtained to enhance the database and make its innovative technologies accessible to the widest possible audience – in terms of language, location, background and user profile. Elements of DMVI had already been deployed in external projects, and this second phase has opened up the possibilities even further. Working with the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute, the project team has expanded the core elements of DMVI to include:
- conversion to an open-source platform compliant with today’s web standards
- extension of our iconographic cataloguing system to communicate with other platforms (e.g. ICONCLASS)
- enhancement of the advanced search capabilities and user experience/interface
- integration with Web 2.0 technologies (e.g. Facebook), to support user engagement, interaction and feedback
- development of teaching resources through pilot workshops with local schools and colleges
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this phase will be our release in October of an open-source Digital Image Curation Environment (DICE), which allows users to create web-based systems for displaying, cataloguing and describing their own image collections. DICE is an easy to use system aimed at individual users, groups and small institutions, in order to enable group or public participation in community and outreach projects, making it ideal for local history clubs, galleries and museums, and individual collectors, as well as researchers within academia. By making DICE freely accessible under Creative Commons licensing, the project team hopes to support and encourage other researchers, teachers and collectors, by dramatically reducing the technical development costs and timescales associated with similar projects. From the familiar context of a web-browser, potential creators will be able to upload their collections of paintings, maps, photographs and any other image-based material; describe their content using our preloaded vocabularies or devise their own ones; add important technical and bibliographical data; and supply additional contextual material, such as hyperlinks, essays and annotations.
On 29 September 2011 at 3pm, the DMVI team will be celebrating the completion of this second phase by holding a launch event in the Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) for the expanded and enhanced database. The event will include demonstrations about the new DMVI system, an overview of the DICE image management system and a discussion of applications of both resources to research and teaching.
The launch event will be followed at 5pm by a drinks reception and the inaugural Cardiff Rare Books and Music Lecture, to be delivered by Professor Hans Walter Gabler (University of Munich), who will be presenting ‘Ideas towards Interfacing Digital Humanities Research’, as part of the University’s Distinguished Lecturer Series.
Professor Gabler is known for his pioneering work on manuscript and genetic criticism, particularly his landmark genetic edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The titles of some of his recent publications testify to the significance of his current research: ‘Making Texts for the Next Century’, ‘There is Virtue in Virtuality: Future Potentials of Electronic Humanities Scholarship’ and ‘Theorizing the Digital Scholarly Edition’. Professor Gabler is currently Chair of the international COST Action Open Scholarly Communities on the Web initiative, the aim of which is to create a research and publication infrastructure on the web and an advanced e-learning system for the Arts and Humanities.
If you’d like to come along to the event, please get in touch via CEIR@cardiff.ac.uk.
On 26 May 2011, a one-day conference was held at the University of Oxford, titled ‘Beyond Collections: Crowdsourcing for Public Engagement’ (details of the conference and video recordings of the speakers are available here). The event was hosted by Oxford’s RunCoCo community collections facilitation project and sponsored by JISC. The aim was to explore the ways in which online communities can participate in and add value to digital resources—to the mutual benefit of both projects and participants.
Speakers from inside and outside academia with experience of the advantages and pitfalls of a crowdsourcing approach told their stories, and the intention was also to locate the potential for harnessing the power of online communities within wider discourses of grass-roots civic leadership, entrepreneurship, and the politics of the ‘Big Society’—not to mention the all-pervasive HE context of the REF’s ‘impact’ and ‘engagement’ agendas.
As part of the Enhancing DMVI project, the team are looking at the possibilities for developing tools which will allow communities of users to describe (tag) digital images in various ways. We are also interested in the potential for people to come together and share their readings and discussions of Victorian illustrations. It was from this perspective that we attended the ‘Beyond Collections’ day—hoping to benefit from the experience of previous projects. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the aims of the current Enhancing DMVI project is to explore the educational possibilities for the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration, beyond its primary audience of HE staff and students. To that end, the project team held a meeting with Professor Richard Andrews – of the Institute of Education, University of London – on Thursday 19 May. Professor Andrews has a wealth of experience in the theory and practice of teaching English in schools and of the education sector in general, and was able to suggest a number of potential avenues, as well as a give us invaluable practical advice on how to take this part of the project forward.
There are two broad ways in which DMVI and its methodologies might feasibly be utilised by schools and colleges. Firstly, the freely-downloadable Open Source Image Curation System, which will be developed as part of the project, will allow users (including schools) to create their own bespoke image databases. The choice of images will lie entirely with the user, and the pictures could relate to any subject – not only arts and humanities, but also maths, science or any other part of the curriculum. The development of an individual database and the creation of the associated tags, metadata and commentary could be undertaken by pupils as part of a range of project work.
Secondly, DMVI itself offers considerable scope for secondary and further education. Its hundreds of Victorian illustrations have obvious benefits as adjuncts to English Literature texts. Much more widely, the images hold significance for any number of subjects and questions. Illustrations can be used to explore the mechanics of narrative and storytelling; to teach history – particularly social history, but also the history of science, politics, warfare; in religious studies – to examine visual representations of different faiths and of the spiritual world; in art and art history – where wood engraving can be studied both as an historical technique and as a living medium. The possibilities are vast.
Our eventual hope is to hold two workshops involving teachers and pupils – one in Cardiff and one in London – and to develop these ideas into more concrete packages that would offer flexible teaching aids for a range of subjects. This is still some way off and this particular project strand is likely to remain in the developmental stage in the short term. What is clear, however, is that taking DMVI into schools has the potential to be an extremely exciting way to think about and promote the study of illustration.
On Thursday 17 March, we held the second Enhancing DMVI workshop. The theme of the day was social networking, and the broad aim was to investigate the ways in which online communities (after the fashion of sites such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace) might be encouraged to participate in the processes of tagging, analysing and commenting on digital representations of Victorian art. The participants (to all of whom the DMVI team extend many thanks) were an eclectic cross-section, consisting of students and staff from a number of Cardiff University departments, including English Literature, Language and Communication, Computer Science and Libraries/Archives.
The first session was an exercise designed to highlight some of the practical issues involved in tagging images. Participants were split into groups, and asked to provide keywords for a set of pictures, which had been taken from various websites which employ iconographic descriptors (‘tags’). The groups’ tags were then compared with the pre-existing sets of words – with some interesting results. In this part of the workshop, we also wanted to explore the possibility of employing established high-level categories, based on those used for DMVI, and compare the results when users’ tagged inside and outside an external framework.
The second session introduced the group to DMVI’s prototype Facebook App and online-tagging pages, and involved analysis of the some of the practical problems relating to user-generated iconographic description. As well as getting feedback on the webpage structure and point of entry, we also wanted to look at what might motivate people to come to and use such a site, and to think about the research aims that might be served by creating and maintaining an online community of taggers (not only for humanities scholars, but also for the computer scientists who would necessarily design and deliver any such system, and who have their own research interests to consider). A number of existing social-networking sites, and their methods of attracting and retaining users were discussed. Read the rest of this entry »
This post was supplied by Etienne Posthumus, member of the Arkyves project.
The Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration contains records and images of 868 literary illustrations that were published in or around 1862, providing bibliographical and iconographical details, as well as the ability for users to view images at exceptionally high quality.
The project has an extensive iconographic classification, allowing fine-grained browsing and searching capabilities. The iconographic taxonomy used was tailor made to fit the purposes of the project, and is immensely useful for the study of Victorian culture.
Due to the fact that the iconographic description was done systematically, it is possible to ‘map’ the system used by DMVI to other classification systems. One of the widely used Iconographical systems used internationally is Iconclass. One of the benefits of performing such a mapping is that the Iconclass system is widely used internationally, and has become a de facto standard for subject classification. The other more interesting benefit to the DMVI project is the fact that Iconclass is mulit-lingual, with the textual descriptions available in English, German, French and Italian with other language versions in progress.
In the last quarter of 2010 a project was started to map the DMVI classification to Iconclass by the members of the Arkyves project. The mapping has been completed, and the contents of DMVI can now also be searched and browsed iconographically in German, French and Italian in addition to the existing English version. The contents of DMVI can also be studied in a wider context of art & illustration, by seeing similar images and text from other collections for the same iconographical concept.
DMVI Iconclass mapping can be viewed here.
The Iconclass mapping will be integrated with the DMVI project as part of the ongoing enhancement project.
A few updates on the status of the Enhancing DMVI project:
Members of the project team will attend a digital humanities workshop at the University of Bristol on 23 February 2011. The idea is to try and build up a network of academics working in interrelated fields, and to showcase some of the projects and resources that are available at Bristol, Cardiff, and beyond.
Enhancing DMVI’s Social Networking Workshop will take place at Cardiff University on Thursday 17 March 2011, in Room WX3.07/3.14 of the Queen’s Building, The Parade. The aim of this day-long session is to explore both the theory and practice of using a social networking approach to tagging and analysing images.
A prototype social networking application, allowing Facebook users to tag and comment on images from the database, is currently in the early stages of development.
The ICONCLASS mapping, which is being carried out by image database consultants Etienne Posthumus and Hans Brandhorst, is nearing completion. In this phase of the project, the ICONCLASS classification system, which is used by art curation systems throughout the world, has been mapped on to DMVI’s internal metadata system. The addition of ICONCLASS will offer new ways to interrogate and organise the data, and will allow DMVI to be searched in multiple languages.
On Wednesday 15 December, just before we all departed for the Christmas break, we held the first of our DMVI/DEDEFI Workshops on ‘Planning and Development’. In attendance were Julia Thomas (PI), Anthony Mandal (CI), Tim Killick (PDRA), Mike Pidd (HRI Sheffield), David Skilton (consultant), Paul Goldman (Honorary Professor, Cardiff University) and Rebecca Blackwell (Research and Consultancy Division, Cardiff University).
David began by circulating a list of experts who had been recruited to test the new features of the database. The discussion then turned to how we might best publicize the open source image management tool that will be made available at the end of the project. This presents and exciting and challenging opportunity to expand the structures and iconographic classification system developed on the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration by making them freely available to those wishing to manage their own images. Omer Rana, who is directing the social tagging aspect of the project, could not be present at the meeting, but Tim reported that they had discussed how this might develop, starting with a workshop which would experiment with different ways of marking up and describing images. Finally, we looked at how the ICONCLASS mapping was progressing. This is being undertaken by Etienne Posthumus and Hans Brandhorst (Amsterdam), who are translating our image tags into ICONCLASS codes, with the aim of allowing multi-lingual searching of DMVI and enabling the database to be compatible with other archives using ICONCLASS. The mapping is well underway and should be completed in the next few weeks.
The meeting concluded on a festive note with a Christmas lunch in Aberdare Hall and several bad cracker jokes. Luckily, everyone made it home before the snow began to fall …
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