Mahendra Mahay's slides from the Bloomsbury DH Meeting 30/09/2013
British Library Labs
British Library Labs and Digital Humanities
September 2013, 1400 - 1600
Bloomsbury Digital Humanities Group Meeting
Meeting Room H, British Library, NW1 2DB
Mr Mahendra Mahey
British Library Labs Project Manager
Scholarship and Collections, Digital Scholarship
•Background, People, Details, Plan
•Content used with Labs
•The competition and engaging with Labs
Encouraging scholars and
developers to do research
and development with and
across British Library
collections and data (+other)
The project in a nutshell…
• The Andrew Mellon Foundation
• 2 year initial project
• No digitisation involved, just digitized and born digital Library content
• Some content online
• Other in digital form but not online yet
– e.g. too big, needs work, technical challenges, license restrictions
(e.g. onsite access etc.)
• Examine and analyse the content, especially entire collections (i.e.
cross collection research)
• Do research, publish
• Make things, e.g. tools, services, apps etc…
• Transforming processes, services and tools for scholars / developers
using Library digital collections
• Competitions, events and various activities
• Creating environment where scholars / developers can
work intensively with Library’s digital collections (winners will
be resident), but not only…
• Encourage research / developers generally to do
interesting things with BL digital content (+other) with and
across collections (a data driven approach)
• Labs is more than the competition!
• Ideas can be pursued by talking to Library staff , scholars /
developers interested in conducting research / making
things, e.g. meetings, events etc., business opportunities
• At least 2 Competitions, winners will work ‘in residence’ where
• Review and feedback to examine approach, at the moment
‘Data Driven Research’, i.e. here is our data come and do stuff
• Focus particularly on cross collection research, research at
• Other research and development encouraged too!
• Help develop tools and services to support digital scholarship
• Any suggestions for next competition? When to visit?
How Labs works…
The plan in time…
• Launch Event – 25th
March 2013 – draft details of competition and feedback, launched end
• Virtual 17 May (Video of Hangout Available), more virtual event?
• Hack Event 28/29 May London
• AHRC research network - 'the infinite archive‘, Open University, University of Nottingham,
University of Warwick
• Winners announced at 6 July 2013, York (Digital Heritage Conference)
• Best two ideas work in residence and showcase their work on the 11th
when the next competition will be launched (deadline end of March 2014, work on entry May
to end of October 2014, Nov/Dec Showcase and final event
• Other ideas, look at supporting in other ways e.g. through Labs, other Library departments,
Business opportunities etc.
• Case studies produced around Nov/Dec for first iteration 2013 and second iteration 2014
BL Labs Services
• Developed for scholars / developers wanting to use digital
Library collections for research and development
• Application Programming Interface (APIs) for data /
• Powerful interface for researchers and developers for
conducting innovative and transformative projects
• We are currently doing an audit of what web services the BL
• Lead by Technical lead
Labs Hack Days…
• Bringing researchers, developers, curators and anyone
interested with collections together at events, want to do
• Brainstorming ideas – ideas lab
• Scoping research, ideas, solving problems and developing
Brainstorm ideas and group
Consider and choose
Work into the night and show
what has been done
• Research generated from the competitions and general
activity of Labs
• Inform the Library / Other libraries around the world about
the issues, challenges, solutions and benefits generated
when using a Labs approach
• Work with curators to identify those digital collections that
are suitable for Labs
• Focus on those that are copyright cleared at the moment
• Others considered in light of challenges, i.e. in scope for
• Engage researchers/developers with these materials
through meetings, road-shows, hack days, promotions
(including competitions and events)
• Have list of 100s of digital collections
• Need a filter
Where do you start?
British Library Digital Collections
• Most content unique!
• Copyright cleared for research
and non-commercial use?
• Collection Level
not online –
Available only onsite at the moment
Hack Events, In residence
We are hoping to launch
http://data.bl.uk at some point
Types of content
• Books / Text
• Images / Music
British National Bibliographic Data
• bnb.data.bl.uk (part of data.bl.uk)
• 2.8 Million individual records
• Available as Linked Open Data, Basic
RDF/XML and Marc21.
UK Web Archive Data
• 32TB subset of the
Internet Archive’s web
collection relating to the
• Collecting freely since e-
• Comparing events across
Century Digitised Books
• 68,000 digitised volumes and their
accompanying JP2, PDF, metadata
and OCR text files
• Many rare or inaccessible books
published between 1789 and 1870
and covers a wide range of subject
areas including philosophy, history,
poetry and literature, travel
• Representative materials here:
• Text mining? Text is 29Gb
International Dunhuang Project
• IDP international collaboration
• images of all manuscripts,
paintings, textiles and artefacts
from Dunhuang and
archaeological sites of the Eastern
Silk Road freely available on the
Internet and to encourage their
use through educational and
• Time-lining the silk road?
Book ordering data…
• Every day thousands of items are ordered up from the
library stacks and delivered to researchers in our reading
rooms. We can provide daily anonymised reports of these
titles including shelfmark information and reading room
• Visualising what readers are reading?
Anonymised reader data…
• Anonymised information about our readers
• Big buckets
• Social trends?
Bringing Text Mining to the Library
Many electronic journals we have negotiated text mining
rights for (50%) journals
A project to get the tools to readers?
Environment and Nature Sounds
• thousands of recordings from the Sound Archive's unrivalled
natural sounds collection is available for free download as
MP3’s to staff and students UK higher and further education
• Adding sounds to poetry?
• London Community Arts Radio Show
• 10 year sound archive!
• Speech to text?
Example Research Methods
• Corpus Analysis tools
• Topic Models
• Location based searching
• APIs for datasets e.g. Metadata, Images
• Crowdsourcing / Human Computation
• Natural Language Processing
Examples from Launch event
Ideas from first competition
• Text mining in the reading rooms
• Curatorial – funded through other stream
• Visualising large collections of sound at a glance (thumbnails)
• Using sheet music – combined with AHRC proposal being submitted
• Working with a radio archive – possibly funded through another stream
– semantic media
• Serious news
What’s happening at the moment?
• Working with competition entrants
• Working on first year project deliverables
• Planning for next competition and dissemination
• Mixing the Library: The Disc Jockey and the Digital Collection
• Dan Norton is a PhD Researcher, University of Dundee and is Artist in Residence at
Hangar, Centre for Art and Research, Barcelona.
• Building an interface for interacting in digital collections developed from the DJ's
interaction with information. His project uses selecting and mixing as creative behaviours
for exploring, learning, and authoring with digital collections.
• The prototype will demonstrate the interface requirements necessary for collecting,
enriching (organizing, annotating),and mixing information from digital libraries; for building
aesthetic, experimental, or logical links between resources; and for developing ad hoc
visualizations, or publishing annotated data.
• Working on functioning prototype to collect URLs for different media types e.g. text, video,
sound and images, shuffle order and then comparing two digital objects and being able to
annotate in real time
• The Sample Generator for Digitised Texts
• Pieter Francois is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Oxford.
• The ‘Sample Generator for Digitized Texts’ is a relatively simple piece of software which
connects one or more major catalogues or bibliographies with one or more collections of
digitized texts through the metadata.
• The main aim is to tell the story of over a million nineteenth-century books through a
structured sampling of 68,000 books, focus is on travel routes/accounts
• Creating demonstrator which searches across 1.8 million records and where possible find
highly significant digital samples for further research from the books we have digitised so
Images from the 19th
From late 1600s
600,000 small images so far
Work on going with
BL Labs Technical Lead
The Mechanical Curator!
• Just launched, lot’s of interest!!
• Randomly selected small illustrations and ornamentations,
posted on the hour.
• Rediscovered artwork from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th
Distribution of the use of DDC in BnB
Work by Ben O’Steen, BL Labs Technical Lead
Looking at the metadata for the books they have limited
metadata for subject classification
Engaging with Labs
• Submit your name, contact details and lets speak!
• AHRC Big Data Call, a number of requests to use BL
Collections / Data if successful
• Next competition? Launch 11 November!
• Just talk to us, work with our collections!
• Ideas labs, workshops and hack events
Speak to me: 0207 412 7324
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Labs Website: http://labs.bl.uk/
Hash Tag: #bl_labs