Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

3 posts from April 2024

29 April 2024

Recovered Pages: Digital Scholarship Training Programme

The British Library is continuing to recover from last year’s cyber-attack. While our teams work to restore our services safely and securely, one of our goals in the Digital Research Team is to get some of the information from our currently inaccessible web pages into an easily readable and shareable format. We’ll be sharing these pages via blog posts here, with information recovered from the Wayback Machine, a fantastic initiative of the Internet Archive.  

The first page in this series is about our Digital Scholarship Training Programme, captured by the Wayback Machine on 27 September 2023.  


The Digital Scholarship Training Programme 

A laptop with one of the online tutorials covered in a Hack & Yack

The Digital Scholarship Training Programme has been running since 2012, and creates opportunities for staff to develop necessary skills and knowledge to support emerging areas of modern scholarship. 



This internal and bespoke staff training programme is one of the cornerstones of the Digital Curator Team’s work at the British Library. Running since 2012, it provides colleagues with the space and opportunity to delve into and explore all that digital content and new technologies have to offer in the research domain today. The Digital Curator team oversees the design and delivery of roughly 50-60 training events a year. Since its inception, well over a thousand individual staff members have come through the programme, on average attending three or more courses each and the Library has seen a steep change in its capacity to support innovative digital research.  



  1. Staff are familiar and conversant with the foundational concepts, methods and tools of digital scholarship. 
  2. Staff are empowered to innovate. 
  3. Collaborative digital initiatives flourish across subject areas within the Library as well as externally.
  4. Our internal capacity for training and skill-sharing in digital scholarship are a shared responsibility across the Library. 


The Programme 

What's it all about? 

To celebrate our ten year anniversary, we created a series of video testimonials from the people behind the Training Programme - coordinators, instructors, and attendees. Click 'Watch on YouTube' to view the whole series of videos.


Nora McGregor, Digital Curator, gives a presentation all about the Digital Scholarship Training Programme - where it started, where it's going and what it hopes to accomplish. 



As digital research methods have changed overtime, so too have course topics and content. Today's full course catalogue reflects this through a diversity of topics from cleaning up data, digital storytelling, to command line programming and geo-referencing. 

Courses range from half-days to full-day workshops for no more than 15 attendees at a time and are taught mainly by staff members but also external trainers where necessary. Example courses include: 

105 Crowdsourcing in Libraries, Museums and Cultural Heritage Institutions 

107 Data Visualisation for Cultural Heritage Collections 

109 Information Integration: Mash-ups, API’s and Linked Data 

118 Cleaning up Data 


Hack & Yacks 

We host a monthly “Hack & Yack” to run alongside the more formal training programme. During these two-hour self-paced casual meet-ups, open to all staff, the group works through a variety of online tutorials on a particular digital topic. Example sessions include: 

Transcribing Handwritten Text 

Transforming XML with XSLT 

Interactive writing platforms 


Digital Scholarship Reading Group 

The Digital Scholarship Reading Group holds informal discussions on the first Tuesday of each month. Each month we discuss an article, conference, podcast or video related to digital scholarship. It's a great way to keep up with new ideas or reality check trends in digital scholarship (including the digital humanities). We welcome people from any department in the Library, and take suggestions for topics that are particularly relevant to diverse teams or disciplines. 

Curious about what we cover? Check out this previous blog post that cover the last five years of our Reading Group.


21st Century Curatorship Talk Series 

The Digital Scholarship team hosts the 21st Century Curatorship Programme (C21st), a series of professional development talks and seminars, open to all staff, providing a forum for keeping up with new developments and emerging technologies in scholarship, libraries and cultural heritage. 

What’s new? 

In 2019, the British Library and partners Birkbeck University and The National Archives were awarded £222,420 in funding by the Institute of Coding (IoC) to co-develop a one-year part-time postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), Computing for Cultural Heritage, as part of a £4.8 million University skills drive. The new course aims to provide working professionals, particularly across the GLAM sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), with an understanding of basic programming, analytic tools and computing environments to support them in their daily work.  


Further information 

For more information on the Training Programme's most recent year, including our performance numbers and topics covered by the training, please see our full screen, interactive inforgraphic 

Please also see our two conference papers from Digital Humanities 2013 and Digital Humanities 2016 for more details on how the Training Programme was established. Any queries about this project can be directed to [email protected]. 

10 April 2024

DH and the International Dunhuang Programme at Ryukoku University

This blog post is by Dr Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Digital Curator for Asian and African Collections, British Library. She's on Mastodon as @[email protected].


I had the honour of being invited, together with Anastasia Pineschi (IDP Project Manager), by Prof Mazumi Mitani, Director of the Research Center for Digital Archives of Classical Books and Cultural Properties (DARC), to give talks at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan. These were part of an international research seminar on 1 March 2024, and a Digital Humanities conference on 2 March 2024. These events aligned perfectly with the launch of the new IDP website as well as progress made in the area of Chinese Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) - especially after the successful completion of Peter Smith’s PhD placement with us.

Screenshot from the newly launched International Dunhuang Programme (IDP) website
Screenshot from the recently launched International Dunhuang Programme (IDP) website

The first of these two events was the international research seminar entitled “The Frontline of Digital Humanities 2024.” This was organised by DARC and co-organised by the Research Center for World Buddhist Culture (RCWBC) "Interdisciplinary Research Group", and sponsored by the Research Center for World Buddhist Cultures (RCWBC) “Western Region Comprehensive Research Group.”

After an opening speech by Prof Mitani we had two research presentations: the first one, entitled “Developing Digital Tools for an Online Audience: Customising and Modernising the IDP Website” was presented by Anastasia with brilliant interpretation to Japanese by Pradhan Gouranga. The second presentation was by Dr Oyunjargal Ochir (Mongolian National University), presenting on “Research on the history of Mongolia during the Qing Dynasty - its horizon and prospects.” This was followed by comments made by Prof Setsu Matsukawa (Faculty of Sociology, Otani University), followed by a Q&A session and closing remarks.

Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert and Anastasia Pineschi in front of Ryukoku University’ Omiya Campus main hall
Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert and Anastasia Pineschi in front of Ryukoku University’s Omiya Campus main hall


View of Ryukoku University’ Omiya Campus
View of Ryukoku University’s Omiya Campus

In the afternoon Anastasia and I had a tour of the main hall of Ryukoku University’s Omiya Campus. Prof Mitani recounted some of the rich history of this university campus and its buildings which are of great cultural importance. Ryukoku University was founded as a school for Buddhist priests of the Nishi Hongan-ji denomination in 1639, only much later to become a secular university (1876). We toured the main hall, which was built in 1879, and especially enjoyed the shrine upstairs which was striking in its beauty.

In front of the shrine in the main hall, from left to right: Ochir Oyunjargal, Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Mazumi Mitani, Anastasia Pineschi, Ochir Ayudai, Setsu Matsukawa, and Pradhan Gouranga
In front of the shrine in the main hall, from left to right: Ochir Oyunjargal, Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Mazumi Mitani, Anastasia Pineschi, Ochir Ayudai, Setsu Matsukawa, and Pradhan Gouranga

We passed by the Karamon Gate on the way to the Omiya Library with its outstanding collections on Buddhism and interesting items on display. At the library, we had a ‘show-and-tell’ – collections items laid on tables for us to observe – both originals and replicas. These featured many of the Dunhuang collection languages, such as Kharosthi (written on wood), Khotanese, Sanskrit (Nepali wood bark leaves), Tangut, Tocharian, and Chinese. Walking around these wonderful manuscripts has sparked many fascinating conversations on their history and digital methods that could be used to study them in new ways.

The Karamon Gate
The Karamon Gate


Wooden tablet letters written in Kharsothi script
Wooden tablet letters written in Kharsothi script


The Book of Zambasta in Khotanese, and a Tocharian temple treasurer document
The Book of Zambasta in Khotanese, and a Tocharian temple treasurer document

The second day (2 March) saw a DH conference on the theme of “The Future Image of the Digital Archives of Classical Books and Cultural Properties." After opening remarks by Prof Takashi Irizawa (President, Ryukoku University), Anastasia and I gave talks in a special lecture session entitled “IDP's Contribution to Digital Humanities and Future Prospects.” Anastasia gave a shorter version of her talk from the previous day, after which I talked about “Digital Research and Handwritten Text Recognition at the British Library & Opportunities for IDP.” In this talk I gave an overview of the activities of my team (Digital Research), the Library’s work around OCR/HTR, and especially Peter’s placement, working with Colin Brisson on advancing Chinese HTR (see Peter’s recent blog post).

Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert presenting on Chinese HTR work
Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert presenting on Chinese HTR work

Afterwards we had a presentation by Prof Ayudai Ochir (Japan-Mongol Cooperative Bichees Research Project) on “Archaeology and Digital Archives: Expectations and Prospects.” This was followed by a talk by Prof Yasuo Abe (Professor Emeritus, Nagoya University, Professor, Faculty of Letters, Ryukoku University) on “the Significance of Archives of Religious Texts and Cultural Heritage: Focusing on the Cases of Honjoji Temple, Shitennoji Temple, and Ren-in Temple.”

On the third day (3 March), Prof Mitani has kindly arranged a visit of the Nishi Hongwanji Temple, which is located not too far from the Omiya Campus of Ryukoku University. We walked around this marvellous 17th century temple and enjoyed explanations by Prof Mitani on the paintings, architecture, gardens and other temple features. A few of us had the pleasure of meeting Prof Mitani’s wife where we were welcomed at their home. We were immensely privileged to enjoy her traditional tea ceremony expertise!

This trip was jam-packed with engaging meetings, thought-provoking academic exchanges, and memorable cultural experiences, all at the backdrop of the beautiful city of Kyoto. Next week we will be reuniting with Prof Mitani and other representatives from Ryukoku University at the workshop in Dunhuang, China, where we will be discussing our ongoing IDP partnerships. I very much look forward our continued conversations and collaborations.


05 April 2024

Curious about using 'public domain' British Library Flickr images?

We regularly get questions from people who want to re-use the images we've published on the British Library's Flickr account. They might be listed as 'No known copyright restrictions' or 'public domain'.

We're always pleased to hear that people want to use images from our Flickr collection, and appreciate folk who get in touch to check if their proposed use - particularly commercial use - is ok.

So, yes, our Public Domain images are out of copyright and available for re-use without restriction, including commercial re-use. You can find out more about our images at

You don't have to credit the Library when using our public domain images, but we always appreciate credit where possible as a way of celebrating their re-use and to help other people find the collection.

If you'd like to credit us, you can say something like 'Images courtesy of the British Library’s Flickr Collection'.

We also love hearing how people have used our images, so please do let us know ([email protected]) about the results if you do use them.

By Digital Curator Mia Ridge for the British Library's Digital Research team