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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.

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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.

Enhancing DMVI news

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.

More soon.

DMVI: Workshop 1 summary

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 …