art history

Image searching of classical artefacts using the semantic web


Women in Trousers

Dr Becky Munford (Cardiff University) has been awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant to undertake research for her project ‘Women in Trousers: A Cultural History, 1789 to the Present’. Linked with periods of social and political upheaval, women’s liberation, radical thought, aesthetic innovation and erotic freedom, trouser-wearing women in the West have historically represented an illegitimate assumption of male authority and power—of ‘wearing the trousers’—that destabilises fixed notions of sexual difference and threatens the fabric of the social order. The aim of Becky’s research is to illuminate and analyse the complex meanings assigned to and by women in trousers in the British Isles, France and America since the French Revolution. As part of her research, she will be visiting archives in Bath, London, Paris and New York; she will be sharing some of her research findings on the CEIR blog in the coming months.

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…)

Visiting speaker, 15 Mar 2011: Juliet John on Dickens and mass culture

Juliet John will be presenting her paper, ‘Dickens, Mass Culture and the Machine’ at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 15 March 2011. The talk will take place in the Cardiff Humanities Building, Room 2.48.

That the idea of Dickens and the adjective ‘Dickensian’ continue to have a cultural resonance which extends beyond the book-buying public almost two centuries after Dickens’s birth is testimony to his sense of himself as a mass cultural artist.

This paper contends that Dickens’s popularity is unique, different even from that of Shakespeare because, writing in ‘the first age of mass culture’, Dickens was instinctively aware of the changed context of art, or of the need for popular art to find its place in an age of mechanical reproduction. It examines Dickens’s attitudes to Culture and the machine, looking forward to the importance of machines to Dickens’s afterlives, and back to the real and symbolic importance of machines in his own day. (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.