THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

Introduction

Tracking exciting developments at the intersection of libraries, scholarship and technology. Read more

21 January 2019

Can you help us with user experience testing for books designed for mobile devices?

On 7- 8th February, we’ll be running some user testing sessions, to help us understand how people might want to use new types of digital publications in our collections. We are interested in understanding what the user needs are for books published as apps or written specifically for use on mobile devices. If you use such publications in your work, or for reading for pleasure, we’d really like to hear from you.

We are carrying out these user testing sessions at the British Library in London and at the library of Trinity College Dublin on Thursday- Friday 7- 8 February. If you are interested in taking part, please follow the relevant link and complete the short form to sign up:

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The British Library and the other five UK Legal Deposit Libraries have been collecting various types of born-digital publications since 2013, as outlined in The Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations. These publications mainly comprised eBooks and eJournals, as well as archived UK websites. Over the past couple of years, we have started up the “Emerging Formats” project, to investigate new forms of digital publications whose structure and interactive features are more complex and pose new challenges in terms of collection and preservation.

The Emerging Formats project focuses on three formats: eBook mobile apps, web-based interactive narratives, and structured data.

EBook apps are digital books published as mobile apps, incorporating storytelling into the interactive functionality of mobile technology. They often rely heavily on the specific hardware and software they were created for, strengthening the relationship between content and device. They cover many genres, from poetry and academic to cookery and children’s fiction. They are often compared to games, as they require a significant level of interaction and readers’ engagement for the story to progress. Inkle’s 80 Days, Faber&Faber’s T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Nosy Crow’s Goldilocks and Little Bear are all relevant examples of eBook mobile apps.

Interactive narratives are text-based stories which rely on the reader to make decisions to determine how the narrative unfolds. While sharing interactive features with eBook mobile apps (as well as dependency on device functionalities, such as cameras and location tracking), this format is web-based and not packaged as an app. The genres of writing are again quite varied, although fiction seems to lend itself well to this particular format. Editions at Play, a collaboration between Visual Editions and Google’s Creative Lab, has published a number of interactive narratives, spanning from a ghost story personalised to the surrounding of the reader (Breathe) to a Google Street View-based love story (Entrances & Exits).

The British Library held a workshop last November for internal teams as well as external stakeholders to better understand what content has been created, why it is complex and what the challenges are in preserving these complex digital objects.

The next step for the Emerging Formats project is to understand users’ expectations and their requirements when accessing this type of publications. In order to achieve this, we are running some onsite user experience testing with the help on an external agency, Bunnyfoot Ltd.

We are looking for participants who have some familiarity with using mobile devices to read and interact with eBooks created for mobile platforms and/or web-based interactive narratives. However, there’s no requirement that they are “expert users” of any kind. We’d like to include people who use these types of publication in their research (e.g. Digital Humanities, experimental literature, Human Computer Interaction, Digital Media, education specialists etc); people who create publications of this type as part of their practice; as well as people who read these types of publications for pleasure.

We have two days of testing booked in, for Thursday 7th and Friday 8th February, at the British Library in London and at Trinity College in Dublin. The sessions will last for about 1 hour, and Bunnyfoot will offer a £50 incentive for anyone taking part.

If you are interested in taking part in our user experience testing, please complete the brief screening survey linked at the beginning of the post (make sure you select the one relevant to your location).

To find out further information about the Emerging Formats project, please see our project page.

This post is by Ian Cooke, Head of Contemporary British Publications, on twitter as @IanCooke13 and Giulia Carla Rossi, Curator of Digital Publications on twitter as @giugimonogatari.

17 January 2019

BL Labs 2018 Research Award Winner: 'The Delius Catalogue of Works'

This guest blog is by the winners of the BL Labs Research Award for 2018: Joanna Bullivant and Daniel M. Grimley of the Faculty of Music, University of Oxford; and David Lewis and Kevin Page of the University of Oxford e-Research Centre.

The Delius Catalogue of Works is a new, freely accessible digital catalogue of the complete works of Frederick Delius (1862-1934).

Explore more here: https://delius.music.ox.ac.uk

The Delius Catalogue (DCW) was created as part of a project called ‘Delius, Modernism, and the Sound of Place’ (https://deliusmodernism.wordpress.com), a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the British Library, and the Royal Library, Denmark, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project as a whole sought to better understand Delius and his music. Delius has been understood as an English portraitist, someone who wrote impressionistic works depicting natural scenes, whose music was strongly linked to the English landscape, and who had little interest in large-scale musical construction or in the details of performance.

However, Delius also lived and wrote music all over the world (in Scandinavia, Florida, Germany and France), and was the friend of many important modern artists, writers and musicians including Edvard Grieg, Edvard Munch, August Strindberg and Paul Gauguin. He also left behind very substantial sketches and other manuscripts that help us to understand his music, the vast majority of which are in the British Library.

Within the project, our aim in creating the DCW was to make a clear and up-to-date catalogue of Delius’s works which was both of a high scholarly standard and accessible to a variety of users (such as scholars, performers and students). We also wanted to integrate the catalogue as far as possible with the British Library’s own manuscript catalogue, to showcase the Library’s Delius collections and enable users of the catalogue to understand and have access to the physical manuscripts. This was a challenge both in terms of research (collecting and presenting information in a clear and concise manner) and web design (presenting it in the best possible manner).

Creating the catalogue was greatly helped by the decision to use MerMEId (Metadata Editor and Repository for MEI Data), specialist software created by Axel Teich Geertinger and his team at the Royal Library, Denmark, originally for creating a catalogue of the works of Carl Nielsen (http://www.kb.dk/dcm/cnw/navigation.xq). MerMEId is built on an eXist XML database with Lucene-based searching, and most of its functionality is implemented using xquery and xslt.

The core catalogue data is stored as MEI, an XML-based standard for the encoding and markup of musical data, inspired by TEI for text. MerMEId’s combination of open-source, standards-based technologies gave great flexibility to customise both the data model and the user interface to suit the application. In the DCW, we adapted genre categories, improved site accessibility, and adapted things like instrumental abbreviations and references to Delius reference works for our purposes. We also adapted the conceptual cataloguing model FRBR (https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/cataloguing/frbr/frbr_2008.pdf) in order to create records for each work that were narrative and hierarchical.

In the case of a work with a straightforward history like Brigg Fair, this meant adopting a standard presentational format in which the catalogue gave catalogue numbers, dedicatee, date of composition, a short introduction, duration, instrumentation, a musical incipit, and information in chronological order on manuscript sources, performance history and documents such as letters or bibliographic items:

Delius image 1

See: https://delius.music.ox.ac.uk/catalogue/document.html?doc=delius_briggfair.xml

In a work with a more complicated history like the Piano Concerto, however, the model may be adapted to show a long compositional process and multiple versions:

Delius image 2

See: https://delius.music.ox.ac.uk/catalogue/document.html?doc=delius_pianoconc.xml

By creating multiple “versions” of the work in MerMEId to reflect its journey through different stages of composition, and by noting extant manuscript and print sources and performances in each case, we can clearly and consistently both narrate the story of each work and show how existing sources and versions fit into it.

The data available in the British Library Archives and Manuscripts catalogue was essential for creating the Delius catalogue. At the ‘Sources’ level of each catalogue record, users can link directly to the manuscript and thus see how to access the physical manuscript, and how extant manuscripts relate to the history of each work, as in the Caprice and Elegy:

Delius image 3

See: https://delius.music.ox.ac.uk/catalogue/document.html?doc=delius_capriceelegy.xml

As well as fostering understanding of Delius’s works and their connection to the British Library’s outstanding manuscript collections, this project has led to exciting ongoing work. A subsequent project involving the same team involved digitising some of the British Library’s Delius manuscripts and other materials and creating a variety of articles, teaching resources and other metadata to showcase them. These are now part of the Library’s new online learning resource Discovering Music: https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-music.

We intend to expand our work to other composers, continuing to explore ways to make their music and manuscripts more accessible to a wide variety of people.

Find out more about Digital Scholarship and BL Labs. If you have a project which uses British Library digital content in innovative and interesting ways, consider applying for an award this year! The 2019 BL Labs Symposium will take place on Monday 11 November at the British Library.

15 January 2019

The BL Labs Symposium, 2018

On Monday 12th November, 2018, the British Library hosted the sixth annual BL Labs Symposium, celebrating all things digital at the BL. This was our biggest ever symposium with the conference centre at full capacity - proof, if any were needed, of the importance of using British Library digital collections and technologies for innovative projects in the heritage sector.

The delegates were welcomed by our Chief Executive, Roly Keating, and there followed a brilliant keynote by Daniel Pett, Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. In his talk, Dan reflected on his 3D modelling projects at the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam, and talked about the importance of experimenting with, re-imagining, and re-mixing cultural heritage digital collections in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs).

This year’s symposium had quite a focus on 3D, with a series of fascinating talks and demonstrations throughout the day by visual artists, digital curators, and pioneers of 3D photogrammetry and data visualisation technologies. The full programme is still viewable on the Eventbrite page, and videos and slides of the presentations will be uploaded in due course.

Composite bl labs 2018 awardees

Each year, BL Labs recognises excellent work that has used the Library's digital content in five categories. The 2018 winners, runners up and honourable mentions were announced at the symposium and presented with their awards throughout the day. This year’s Award recipients were:

Research Award:

Winner: The Delius Catalogue of Works by Joanna Bullivant, Daniel Grimley, David Lewis and Kevin Page at the University of Oxford

Honourable Mention: Doctoral theses as alternative forms of knowledge: Surfacing ‘Southern’ perspectives on student engagement with internationalisation by Catherine Montgomery and a team of researchers at the University of Bath

Honourable Mention: HerStories: Sites of Suffragette Protest and Sabotage by Krista Cowman at the University of Lincoln and Rachel Williams, Tamsin Silvey, Ben Ellwood and Rosie Ryder of Historic England

Artistic Award:

Winner: Another Intelligence Sings by Amanda Baum, Rose Leahy and Rob Walker

Runner Up: Nomad by independent researcher Abira Hussein, and Sophie Dixon and Edward Silverton of Mnemoscene

Teaching & Learning Award:

Winner: Pocket Miscellanies by Jonah Coman

Runner Up: Pocahontas and After by Michael Walling, Lucy Dunkerley and John Cobb of Border Crossings

Commercial Award:

Winner: The Library Collection: Fashion Presentation at London Fashion Week, SS19 by Nabil Nayal in association with Colette Taylor of Vega Associates

Runner Up: The Seder Oneg Shabbos Bentsher by David Zvi Kalman, Print-O-Craft Press

Staff Award:

Winner: The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project: Manuscripts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, 700-1200 by Tuija Ainonen, Clarck Drieshen, Cristian Ispir, Alison Ray and Kate Thomas

Runner Up: The Digital Documents Harvesting and Processing Tool by Andrew Jackson, Sally Halper, Jennie Grimshaw and Nicola Bingham

The judging process is always a difficult one as there is such diversity in the kinds of projects that are up for consideration! So we wanted to also thank all the other entrants for their high quality submissions, and to encourage anyone out there who might be considering applying for a 2019 award!

We will be posting guest blogs by the award recipients over the coming months, so tune in to read more about their projects.

And finally, save the date for this year's symposium, which will be held at the British Library on Monday 11th November, 2019.