One way is through the British Library Labs project and the Digital Curator team which make up the Digital Research Team. The aim of the lab is to encourage scholars to experiment at scale with our digital collections and data. The team holds competitions, events, and creates the space in which to engage with scholars working in this realm. Through the labs we’re learning how to better support scholars and build new services.
With an algorithm by Ben O’Steen we snipped out images from digitised books and put them on to Flickr on December 13 2013, there were over a million, but the problem we had was that we knew which books they came from (author/dates), but we didn’t’ have any information about the images. By releasing them onto flickr, we have got people to start tagging them and using them in very creative ways.
Hosting them internally was not an option and there was not sufficient metadata to put them on Wikipedia. Flickr seemed the obvious option as it is a platform that can support high usage, did not require metadata, allowed tagging and it is free for public domain images.
ALISS Conference 2015
Digital Scholarship at BL
Digital Research & Curator Team
Formed in 2010 as part of the new Digital Scholarship department
• Support the BL to adopt clear strategies and operating models for
• Develop innovative models for Digital Scholarship exploiting
digital content and new technologies
• Offer training and support to BL staff on Digital Scholarship
practices and resources
• Involvement with various digital programmes (internal and
external) involving digitisation, born-digital materials,
• Engage with new and existing user communities
• Strengthen the BL capabilities
Engagement with users:
BL Labs (Launched March 2013)
• The BL Labs project, sponsored by A. Mellon Foundation, designed to support
the BL to provide access to its digital resources and enable scholars to research
entire collections rather than just individual items by:
• 1. Reviewing the BL’s approach to licensing: moving towards a coherent licence
framework and setting the standard for access to catalogue metadata and out-
of-copyright materials in digital form.
• 2. Enabling scholars to use and implement novel services; to access, download,
and analyse digital content; and to link data to other data and digital collections
in order to allow research that analyses entire collections. This will be achieved
by providing access to catalogue and digital materials through simple open
protocols and semantic linking.
• 3. Creating BL Labs so that scholars can work intensively with the Library’s
digital collections to collaboratively define and implement the services that they
need in the digital age.
• In 2009 British Library sound archive staff began tests
for a new kind of field recording project to aggregate
user-generated digital audio content using mobile
phones. Named the UK SoundMap, the project
represents a radical departure from the more
traditional, curator-led professional archival practices
we were used to.
• The UK SoundMap uses an informal community of
mobile phone users (via Audioboo) to capture and
describe their environmental sounds, then enable
near-instant public sharing on a dedicated website: in
effect, contributors as curator-publishers.
UK SoundMap: technical, legal and ethical
• poor sound quality, particularly wind noise
and low quality recording equipment
• deliberate or inadvertent contributions of
inappropriate recordings (e.g. copyrighted
music or spoken performances, invasions of
privacy, derogatory or rude language)
• inconsistent and missing metadata quality
• irrelevant recordings (e.g. outside the
geographical scope or subject matter)
Book Card catalogues
• First batch (or “drawer”) of the Pinyin card catalogue
was released to the public on June 8th with 1,278
cards and all tasks were completed (meaning three or
more individuals looked at every card and attempted to
make a match) just over two and half weeks later on
June 24th 2015.
• In the end for 50%, or 659 items, at least two people
matched the same OCLC record against a particular
card. The Indonesian Card Catalogue, launched at the
same time, had proven a bit more challenging as the
cards were digitised from microfilm so were more
difficult to read on screen. That said that batch was
completed a few weeks later with at least two people
matching the same OCLC record against 48% of the
batch, or roughly 483 out of 1,000 cards.
• next step is to do rigorous spot checking and work with
our pals in metadata services to integrate them into
The British Library began a project to crowdsource the georeferencing of
its scanned historic mapping in 2011 by partnering with Klokan
Over 8,000 maps have already been "placed" by participants checked for
accuracy and approved for reviewers.
We are currently on the sixth release, which features over 50,000 maps
from the 17th, 18th, and 19th-century book illustrations on Flickr
Video explanation: https://vimeo.com/36419466
Pin-a-Tale was an online crowd-sourcing initiative that sought to connect
our individual experiences of writing and place, and pin them to a
It accompanied the British Library exhibition “Writing Britain: Wastelands
to Wonderlands”, 11 May – 25 September 2012
We asked people to choose a literary work from any period and in any
form that relates to a specific location in the British and Irish Isles and to
tell us how the author captured the spirit of the place.
“Many hands make light work.
Many hands together make merry work”
Wrote the philosopher and reformer
Jeremy Bentham in 1793
A participatory project based at University College London.
Its aim is to engage the public in the online transcription of
original and unstudied manuscript papers written by Jeremy
The UCL Bentham Papers and the British Library's Bentham
material have all been digitised and made available
via Transcribe Bentham for crowdsourcing. The manuscripts
have been reunited (digitally) for the first time since
Bentham's death, thereby creating a free-to-access historical
and philosophical resource of great significance.
As of 7th August 2015 13,532 manuscripts have been
transcribed or partially-transcribed
Transcribe Bentham Getting Started video:
Transcribe Bentham website:
Sounds of our Shores
The British Library, in collaboration with the National Trust,
the National Trust for Scotland and audioBoom Ltd, are
creating the first ever interactive coastal soundmap of the UK
To get involved in this sound survey of coastal sounds all you
need to do is upload your recordings using the free
audioBoom app or a web browser.
When uploading your recordings via audioBoom, add the
tag #shoresounds and they will appear on the soundmap
From 21 June
will take a
snapshot of the
sounds of the
the summer of
Sounds of our Shores
Vote now open to find UK's favourite coastal sound
We have chosen 10 of the most evocative sounds from the amazing range
of sounds already uploaded to the Sounds of our Shores map and we’re
asking the public to vote for their favourite!
Sounds include the sound of waves rolling on to golden sands, seagulls
crying from the clifftops, seals snorting and children playing on the beach.
The online poll closes at midnight on Thursday 27 August 2015
The results will be announced on 4 September 2015