Digital scholarship blog

29 November 2019

Introducing Filipe Bento - BL Labs Technical Lead

Posted by Filipe Bento, BL Labs Technical Lead

Filipe BentoI am passionate about libraries and digital initiatives within them, and am particularly interested in Open Knowledge, scholarly communication, scientific information dissemination, (Linked) Open Data, and all the innovative services that can be offered to promote their ultimate dissemination and usage, not only within academia, but also within the wider community such as industry and society. I have over twenty years experience in developing and supporting library tools, some of which have facilitated automation over manual methods to make the lives of people who work or use libraries easier.

Before working at the British Library, I was an independent consultant in the areas of digital strategies and initiatives, library technologies, information management, digital policies, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Open Source Software (OSS). Previous to that, I worked at EBSCO Information Services in several roles, firstly as the Discovery Service Engineering Support Team Manager (Europe and Latin America) and for three years as the Software Services, Application Programming Interfaces (API) and Applications (Apps) manager. My last role at EBSCO was implementing and managing the EBSCO App Store which involved working with several departments within the organisation such as marketing and legal.

Filipe Bento giving a talk the BAD conference in the Azores
Giving a talk the National Congress of BAD (Portuguese Librarians, Archivists and Documentalists Association), in the Azores

I helped the University of Aveiro's Library become the first Portuguese adopter of reference Open Source Software (OSS)  - OJS [Open Journal Systems] and implemented the institutional digital repository DSpace for the university (which included a massive data transformation and records deposit, often from citations exported from Scopus). I started my career as a lecturer and then as a computer specialist at the University of Aveiro’s Library, coordinating the development of information systems for its many branches for over fifteen years.

My PhD research in Information and Communication in Digital Platforms gave me the opportunity to connect with my professional interests in libraries, especially in the areas of information discovery. In my PhD, I was able to implement VuFind with innovative community features, as a proposal for the university, which involved engaging actively in its developer community, providing general and technical support in the process. My thesis is available via the link "Search 4.0: Integration and Cooperation Confluence in Scientific Information Discovery".

University of Aveiro (main campus), Portugal
University of Aveiro (main campus), Portugal

I have also been very active in a number of communities;
I was the (former) chairman of the board of USE.pt, the Portuguese Ex Libris Systems’ Users Association, and a previous member of the DigiMedia Research Center - Digital Media and Interaction at the University of Aveiro.

In my personal life I had been a radio and club DJ and worked on a number of personal music projects. I enjoy photography and video and am a keen traveler. I especially like being behind the wheels of cars / motorbikes and the propellers of drones.

I am really excited in joining the BL Labs team as I believe it provides an excellent opportunity to apply my skills, knowledge and expertise in library digital collections development, systems, data and APIs in a digital scholarship and wider context. I am really looking forward in offering practical advice and implementations in providing access to data, data curation, data visualisation, text and data mining and interactive web based computing environments such as Jupyter Notebooks to name a few. BL Labs and the British Library offers a rich, innovative and stimulating environment to explore what its staff and users want to do with its incredible and diverse digital collections.

26 November 2019

The British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership Project Hack Day - Theme: Collaboration

Introduction

On October 16th 2019, the BL/QFP Project opened its doors to its third and biggest Hack Day to date. After the success of the first two, it was decided to extend participation beyond the Imaging Team and invite everyone from the rest of the project to get involved. We wanted to utilise the unique way the BL/QFP is set up within the Library, with different teams and specialities all working in one place, and emphasise collaboration across these different teams. The diverse people and teams within the BL/QFP bring a wide variety of skills and experience, from language and collections knowledge to artistic and technicial expertise. By bringing these together, we were able to learn from and teach each other whilst engaging with the collections and producing a variety of fascinating and thought-provoking hacks.

 

The Hacks

During the launch workshop the vast array of skills and expertise within the team were evident, as well as the abundant enthusiasm and ambition people had. After the proposed projects were raised and discussed, five teams were formed focusing on a wide range of ideas. On the day, almost half of the BL/QFP staff participated in some way, proving the collaboration objective was well and truly met. The diverse outputs, from animations and games to pinhole cameras and data visualisations, were presented at a “show and tell”, and some were displayed on the BL/QFP Twitter page.

Below is a summary of the day, including descriptions of the hacks from each of the five teams, enjoy!

 

Games

Team: Renata Kaminska, Mariam Aboelezz, Anne Courtney, Susannah Gillard and our Quality Assurance Officer

For our Hack Day project, we wanted to make the Qatar Digital Library (QDL) more accessible to non-experts, or people who might not be looking at it with a specific research aim. With this in mind, we decided to develop some quick and easy games to engage users with the collections. Using free browser-based software, we created a word search, jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, and a game of hangman. These all drew on the collections which were already digitised. Where possible, we tried to include links to the items on the QDL. Although the free software had some limitations, we feel that these games offer a foundation to build on in the future.

Games

Crossword using information from a letter from Lieutenant William Bruce, Resident, Bushire, 1814 (IOR/R/15/1/14, ff 125v-127)
Play: https://tinyurl.com/yespowj7

Jigsaw using image from Tarjumah-ʼi ʻAjā’ib al-makhlūqāt (Or 1621, f 391v)
Play: https://tinyurl.com/yjuf9d7o

Jigsaw using image of ‘Persia and Afghanistan. Map I’ (IOR/R/15/1/730, f 87)
Play: https://tinyurl.com/yhpv3erw

Hangman game using words from the QDL collection
Play: https://tinyurl.com/yftf5vca

Word Search using words from the QDL collection
Play: https://tinyurl.com/yj9nugb9

 

Photogrammetry: Astrolabe Quadrant

Team: Darran Murray, Tony Grant, Nick Krebs, Matt Griffin, Rebecca Harris, Matthew Lee, Daniel Loveday and Annie Ward

Our Hack Day project centred on what the Library's Imaging Services can do with the technology and expertise they offer, in particular photogrammetry. Photogrammetry is a photographic process where any type of object can be rendered into a 3D image for display on a 2D screen. This process is beneficial as it displays the complete item, allowing users to see and understand collection items without having to handle them.

We chose an Astrolabe Quadrant from the collection and created a rendition but also an animation of the same object. As you can see from both renditions, they have certain advantages over a single photograph of a 3D object, bringing the object to life.

 

Camera view during photogrammetry creation
Camera view during photogrammetry creation

 

BL St Pancras Studio during photogrammetry creation
British Library St Pancras Studio during photogrammetry creation

 

Photogrammetry rendition of astrolabe quadrant

 

 

Animation created using images from astrolabe photogrammetry rendering
Animation created using images from astrolabe photogrammetry rendering

 

Obscura / Pinhole / Cyanotype

Team: Rebecca Harris, Matthew Lee, Daniel Loveday, Darran Murray and Annie Ward

Our team explored early types of photography. First off, we created a camera obscura in one of the bays in our Imaging Studio by blocking out the light and creating a small hole by the window. An optical phenomenon, this simple hack allowed us to create an upside-down projection of the London skyline, complete with moving clouds and the Shard. Viewing sessions were arranged throughout the day and resulted in a stream of curious visitors.

As well as the camera obscura, we each built our own pinhole cameras using card, stripy tape and light-sensitive paper. Once we can set up a temporary darkroom we plan to take and develop photographs illustrating different aspects of the BL/QFP Project. Lastly, an experiment using cyanotype paper in an old brownie camera is still in progress, taking a long exposure still-life of a spirit level borrowed from the Conservation Team.

Upside-down projection of the London skyline created using the camera obscura
Upside-down projection of the London skyline created using the camera obscura

 

Pinhole cameras
Pinhole cameras

 

Time-lapse video showing creation of pinhole cameras

 

Behind The Scenes: Visualisations

Team: Jordi Clopes Masjuan and Sotirios Alpanis, with translation assistance from George Samaan

Our Hack Day project aimed to illuminate some aspects of our digitisation workflow that are not directly represented in the material displayed on the QDL. We wanted to represent and celebrate some of the hard work that goes into the creation of digitised material, particularly the tasks and processes that most people wouldn’t necessarily think about. The 45+ people involved in our workflow have a huge variety of skills and expertise, and it was some of this that we wanted to capture. We decided to use ‘every day’ objects from our workflow and picture them in interesting ways. Then pick out some interesting facts and figures about the processes they represent. Using Photoshop these two were combined to present the facts in their ‘every-day’ setting.

QDL Homepage combined with a picture of the BL/QFP Team
QDL Homepage combined with a picture of the BL/QFP Team

 

Permission letters sent by Rights Clearance Team to people identified as Rights Holders for material being digitised
Permission letters sent by Rights Clearance Team to people identified as Rights Holders for material being digitised

 

A book undergoing conservation treatment
A book undergoing conservation treatment

 

The British Library’s digital servers
The British Library’s digital servers

 

A Leading Library Assistant’s trolley in the lift carrying collection items
A Leading Library Assistant’s trolley in the lift carrying collection items

 

The Workflow Team’s Kanban Board
The Workflow Team’s Kanban Board

 

A Foliator’s desk drawer
A Foliator’s desk drawer

 

Visualising Data

Team: David Woodbridge, Sotirios Alpanis, Laura Parsons, with assistance from Anna Waghorn

We had the idea to display data about the Project in visually dynamic and appealing ways. We thought we could experiment with displaying authority terms used in the Project’s catalogue records and see what we could learn about data manipulation and data visualisation along the way.

Whilst we were able to export data about the Project and collections from SharePoint (the platform we use to manage items through the digitisation workflow) and IAMS (the Library's cataloguing system for archives, manuscripts, photographs and other visual materials), we needed to tidy up the data to make it useful. For example, the IAMS data is exported as code in an XML file format so Sotirios experimented with extracting particular elements. This work highlighted how data visualisations rely on having well-organised and complete data.

Using Microsoft Power BI, we tried a variety of ways for displaying the data, including network and force-directed graphs. These graphs show relationships between data points, such as the authority terms assigned to different shelfmarks. We also created other visualisations, such as pie charts, that quantified specific aspects of the data, for example showing the numbers of person authorities according to gender, or the language of their name. The challenge being to create something visually appealing but still meaningful.

 

Dashboard displaying data visualisations including network, force-directed and pie graphs.

 

Weaponry on Walls

Team: Hannah Nagle & the British Library’s BAME Staff Network

Working in collaboration with the Library’s BAME Staff Network, we wanted to investigate people’s perceptions of weaponry displayed in our offices. We prepared a survey and sent it out to the BL/QFP Project staff, asking them to fill it in. A work in progress, the results, quotes and related imagery will be collated into a zine illustrating the survey responses to the weapons. We will be using original photographs, images from the QDL and public domain images found on Flickr, including from the British Library’s Flickr account. With this, we hope to start a conversation about what the weaponry can represent to different people and why this is important to keep in mind.

Example of images created to respond to the weaponry on the walls
Example of images created to respond to the weaponry on the walls

 

Further information

If you would like to explore the photographs and documents used in our Hack Day projects from the Qatar Digital Library or find out more about the India Office Records please follow the links below:

 

You can also read about the previous Hack Days in the blog posts below:

 

This is a guest post by the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership, compiled by Rebecca Harris and Laura Parsons. You can follow the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership on Twitter at @BLQatar.

The BL/QFP Project’s Imaging Team won the Staff Award at the British Library Labs Symposium 2019 for their Hack Days.

 

20 November 2019

Hacking Web Maps-T

This is a guest blog post by Dr Gethin Rees, Lead Curator for Digital Map Collections at the British Library. It was originally posted on the Pelagios Commons Blog.

 

The Web Maps-T working group aims to enhance the ability to visualise geospatial and temporal Linked Open Data on web maps. The group is coordinated by Gethin Rees and Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, see this previous post for more details. As a first step, we held a hack workshop in September at the British Library to scope applications to visualise and work with the GeoJSON-T standard. Participants at the workshop included from the Rainer Simon from the Austrian Institute of Technology, Karl Grossner from University Of Pittsburgh, Neil Jakeman from King’s College Digital Lab, Alex Butterworth and Simon Wibberley from Sussex University’s Humanities Lab alongside Mia Ridge and Olivia Vane from Digital Scholarship at the British Library. They came to the workshop with a variety of datasets derived from the art, archaeology and travelogues from the classical world for example, as well as the collections of the British Library, including contributions from the Endangered Archives ProgrammeGeoreferencer and Two Centuries of Indian Print.

Matching datasets to visualisation types
Matching datasets to visualisation types

 

Throughout the event we collaborated using repositories in the Pelagios GitHub organisation and Google Docs. After introductory talks, first by Gethin Rees on user stories and use cases for Web Maps-T, and second by Karl Grossner on GeoJSON-T and the Linked Traces app, participants introduced their own projects and use cases for geospatial and temporal visualisation.

Karl and Alex discuss the finer points of “The Prelude Timeline: On the Growth of My Own Mind” by Alex Butterworth and Stephanie Posavec, for The Wordsworth Trust
Karl and Alex discuss the finer points of “The Prelude Timeline: On the Growth of My Own Mind” by Alex Butterworth and Stephanie Posavec, for The Wordsworth Trust

 

Participants then coalesced around several tasks and divided into groups to work. These tasks included:

  • MoSCoW assessment of Web Maps-T app. This prioritisation technique divided potential features of the app into Must, Should, Could and Won’t. For example, our app must have a timeline, a map, and work with GeoJSON-T. On the other hand it could use animation for visualisation, and won’t include a text box querying for plain English.
  • Classification of datasets and visualisation types. We wanted to explore several forms of visualisation and it quickly became clear that some were better suited to certain types of datasets than others. For histogram, linear journey, period horizontal bars, valid time intervals and beeswarm visualisations we recorded data type, size, examples and pros and cons.
  • These activities were documented in detail and will form the basis of the white paper. Participants that wrote code worked on:
  • WhenJSON— a front-end JavaScript utility library for manipulating temporal data in the GeoJSON-T format (the ‘when’ object). The utility could, for example, help in calculating the interval that separates two data sources.
  • A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) web map with a time-slider componentto test visualisation types for different dataset classifications. This work borrows heavily from the work of Jonathan Skeate. The MVP allowed us to see how datasets looked when visualised using different methods such as histogram or time bars.
Visualisation of Endangered Archives Programme data
Visualisation of Endangered Archives Programme data

 

  • Scoping the adaption Karl Grossner’s Linked Traces app to be used with any dataset and to add a time slider. This could be a more robust and presentable solution than our adaptation of Skeate’s Leaflet Timeline.
Itinerary of the Bordeaux pilgrim in Linked Traces
Itinerary of the Bordeaux pilgrim in Linked Traces

 

Next steps for the group are to write a white paper and to attend the Linked Pasts conference in Bordeaux. All the workshop participants had projects where they were keen to apply Web Maps-T and there must be many more use-cases out there. However, the path from hack event to an open-source, production-ready component that can visualise any GeoJSON-T data we throw at it is not straightforward. Like any open-source project, success rests on people and projects requiring the component and standard for their day-to-day work. There are plenty of potential applications in the Linked Pasts community and beyond, the main resources that we now require are developer time and GeoJSON-T datasets. We will continue to encourage others to contribute, perhaps you have potential applications. Get in touch at visualisation[at]pelagios.org