Author: Tim Killick

Tim Killick is Research Associate in the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research at Cardiff University. He was the lead researcher on the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration (DMVI), and has research interests in Romantic-era short fiction and the history of literary illustration.

DMVI Phase 2 launch

Lift off!

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. (more…)

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Beyond Collections: Crowdsourcing for Public Engagement conference

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. (more…)

Enhancing DMVI: Illustration and teaching

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.

DMVI Social Networking Workshop

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. (more…)

DMVI Iconclass mapping

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.