With no little excitement, in early Summer the Victeur project team travelled to Edinburgh for an in-person workshop, the first opportunity to be back in the room with colleagues and fellow researchers since the beginning of our project.
Generously hosted by the Centre for Culture, Data and Society, the day began with online presentations by our Principal Investigators, Gerardine Meaney and Derek Greene, who gave an overview of the VICTEUR project through which the Curatr platform was developed, as well as exploring some of the functionalities and applications of Curatr. Watch the videos below for excerpts from introductions to the applications and functionalities of Curatr from Derek Greene and Gerardine Meaney.
Overview of VICTEUR by Gerardine Meaney
Analysing the British Library Digital Corpus using Curatr with Derek Greene
Historical Trends, Word Lexicons, and Semantic Networks using Curatr with Derek Greene
Gendered Associations in Corpus using Curatr with Gerardine Meaney
Using Curatr for Literary Scholarship – Trollope’s Palliser Novels by Gerardine Meaney
Recommender Systems and Classification Index using Curatr by Derek Greene
The aim of the workshop was to invite researchers from a range of disciplines to try Curatr out for themselves, to explore how the platform might be used in order to develop their own projects and research in a diverse range of areas. Respondents were given advanced access to the Curatr platform, and invited to participate in a feedback session to give insight into how they had used it to expand upon their own areas of research interest.
Enda Delaney, Professor of Modern History at the University of Edinburgh, described finding Ireland As I Saw It by William S. Balch, a text which, after having searched for it for months elsewhere, appeared in his search results on Curatr.
Anna Pilz, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh used Curatr to look at her current research work on travel writing along Ireland and Scotland’s Atlantic coastlines, with a focus on the engineer Alexander Nimmo. The search led to writing by Nimmo himself, describing some of the details of his development of the village of Roundstone, County Galway. Further exploration led to literary texts which, when cross referenced with other archives and search engines, led to The Heiress In Her Minority by Jane Marcet, a text relevant to Dr Pilz’s work which might not have been discovered without Curatr.
Rosa Filgueira, Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of St. Andrews, noted the intuitive interface and the speed of the engine, and the capacity to build a lexicon search hand-in-hand with the semantic network visualiser, which illustrates the context and usage of particular words within the collection, allowing for a more accurate lexicon to be created.
Brian MacNamee, Associate Professor in Computer Science at UCD noted the evidence of collaboration in the sensitivity of Curatr as a data analytics tool, and asked how the lexicon creation might be developed to be shared among researchers, as well as the ad-hoc OCR correction by researchers that might be useful to others. He also asked how Curatr might be expanded to empower users who encounter “search roadblocks” to find ways out in the future.
Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh echoed respondents who commented on the usability of the platform, and the diversity of the platform leading researchers to find texts that they had not found before.
The afternoon session was in Appleton Tower, on George Square, proving that one can never be far from Sir Walter Scott’s footsteps whilst in Edinburgh. The workshop, which was in-person and online, involved a guided trial of Curatr, inviting attendees to explore the platform, using iterations of words to create lexicons, Ngram visualisations of the word’s usage over time, and Semantic network visualisations.
The Q&A session led by Steve Yearley, Professor of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge and Director of IASH, developed conversations from the morning session, including the distinction between a “corpus” and a “collection”, developments in OCR technology since the digitisation of the texts and the role of errors in digitised content, “providence” and coming to terms when not understanding the language used at the time of publication, potential uses of Curatr and its visual elements for teaching and assessment of students’ digital literacy, the sustainability of Curatr, and improving communications to convey the functionalities of Curatr and its capacity to perform tasks that could not have been done before.
The workshop concluded with papers from Karen Wade, Lecturer and Assistant Professor in Cultural Analytics at UCD, and Briony Wickes, Research Fellow on the VICTEUR project, who presented their research on Mudie’s Circulating Library and the treatment of Italian organ-grinders in London during the Victorian period, as illustrated by Curatr.
‘Counting and reading: new routes toward meaning within the mass-digitized nineteenth-century collection’ by Dr Karen Wade (UCD).
‘Bodies with Organs: Italian Migration in the British Library Archives’ by Dr Briony Wickes (Royal Holloway, University of London / University College Dublin).
The workshop proved to be an energising and insightful day for the Victeur team, and the generous participation of attendees made for a fruitful and insightful discussion about the myriad potential applications of Curatr in the future.
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