Last week, the University of Liverpool, held a conference to celebrate the launch of 19th-Century Pamphlets Online project
Delivered by JSTOR, managed by RLUK and digitised by the University of Southampton, the collection is bringing together many of the which played a vital part in the intellectual, economic and social landscape of the nineteenth-century Britain. The digital collection draws on the holding of seven research libraries in the UK; three of which are currently online, with another four going online shortly.
According to historian Laurel Brake, it brings together “a whole source that has been amazingly neglected.”
The resource is free for five years those in UK further and higher education, and JSTOR are also currently offering free access to users throughout the world.
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In a recent article, An Awfully Big Adventure: Strathclyde’s Digital Library Plan, published in Ariadne magazine, Derek Law describes the university’s plan to achieve excellence in league tables and innovation in teaching by focusing “on technology and by extension on e-content” while at the same time make savings on space, utility bills, and other Estate costs.
A substantial capital budget of £2.5 million has been authorised for the purchase or creation of digital material and a recurrent increase of £800,000 agreed for e-journal and e-book purchase. In return the Library has agreed to clear the equivalent of half the space on each of its six floors. This space will be re-used principally as teaching space. This in turn will allow consolidation of the Law, Arts and Social Sciences Faculty in a separate building and the removal of teaching space elsewhere, so reducing the size of the estate, and by extension utilities and other costs. The library collections will be digitised where possible, consolidated into rolling stack where usage merits it and disposed of where there is no real merit in retaining back runs of journals readily available electronically.
While university libraries, like other university departments and all the rest of us, are being asked to tighten their belt when it comes to budgetary decisions, investment in e-content might actually provide a more strategic and focussed long term solution for the survival of an effective library service.
At yesterday’s JISC Conference, Derek Law reitereated that what the University of Strathclyde’s Library has done is not particularly new, other libraries have been doing it too, but the difference is that Strathclyde made “content”, and investment in content, one of their USP.
Blogs, viedo streaming, tweets, interviews, photos and more about the JISC Conference can be found on the JISC Conference web pages.
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The philosopher, linguist and novelist Umberto Eco described libraries as a form of repository, or bank, which served to secure the written word and the treasures of the text.
The essential nature of the library, even today, is therefore one of contradiction: where the traditional processes of cataloguing and classification act to hide and ‘lose’ books as much as they reveal and allow access to books.
Such a view seems appropriate in the week that the British Library seems to have ‘mislaid’ 9,000 books.
A recent article in the Guardian highlighted that visitors to the British Library discovered
Renaissance treatises on theology and alchemy, a medieval text on astronomy, first editions of 19th- and 20th-century novels, and a luxury edition of Mein Kampf produced in 1939 to celebrate Hitler’s 50th birthday
were all apparently missing.
And I suspect that this is a situation that almost all libraries, special collections and archives can sympathise with.
What is interesting about this case is that the digitisation of such precious texts represents an opportunity to not only preserve these texts and the knowledge they contain, but also to open up access for everyone who might be interested in these works.
While there are often financial, infrastructural and ideological barriers to digitising such material, it is hard to imagine a better illustration of why digitisation is such an important part of an institutions practices.
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The JISC Digital Content Conference will take place on 30th June – 1st July 2009 at the Cotswold Water Park Four Pillars Hotel.
In the context of the completion of Phase 2 of the JISC’s Digitisation Programme the conference will look at the issues facing the UK’s universities as they deal with creating, delivering, sustaining and using a whole range of digital content as well as looking into future opportunities and challenges.
The conference will gather key players from both the UK and beyond to debate, discuss and decide the next steps that need to be taken to ensure the sustained integration of digitised content into research and education.
The event will be of interest to all decision makers involved in the provision and delivery of digital content to the education sector in the UK and internationally, including:
o Senior Librarians in higher and further education
o Managers of electronic resources and digital content provision
o Policy makers in charge of digital content strategies
o Government representatives
o Funding bodies, nationally and internationally
o Teachers and researchers with an interest in digital content
The conference will be held over two days, starting at lunch time on 30 June and finishing in the afternoon on 1 July. Transport from and to the nearest train station (Kemble, 6 miles) will be provided.
The conference is free and accommodation and meals are all included; however, JISC are unable to pay for travel costs.
A registration form will be available soon on the conference web page.
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The British Library’s Archival Sound Recordings project, supported by JISC, today launches a vital new resource for the exploration of western classical music heritage.
Bringing together nearly 1000 historic recordings, this freely available online collection allows researchers to easily compare various interpretations of great composers, tracing the impact of globalisation on performance style and its evolution throughout the early 20th Century.
Available works include:
- Bach - Brandenburg concertos, orchestral suites and solo concertos
- Haydn - Symphonies
- Mozart - Symphonies and concertos
- Beethoven - String quartets, symphonies and concertos
- Brahms - Symphonies, overtures and concertos
Celia Duffy – Head of Research, National Centre for Research in the Performing Arts, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama said:
“Digital collections, such as Archival Sound Recordings, have enormous potential for researchers and students. By placing previously inaccessible archives online, they create the potential for new fields of cross-disciplinary research, reflecting the social, cultural, technological and political changes that have shaped contemporary society. In particular, the Classical Music collection provides researchers with the means to easily assess how performance practice has changed over the years and gain fresh insight into familiar works.”
For further information about the archive visit the British Library’s Sound Archive
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There was an interesting article on the BBC recently that looked at how new technologies (specifically immersive environments using avatars, such as Second Life), are changing the way we interact with cultural artifacts (such as art and music).
Furthermore, Bill Thompson, the articles author, points out that these environments are changing the very way such artifacts are created, and if institutions do not adapt and adopt, they risk becoming obsolete. This ‘creative destruction’ has seen Google eliminate all competition, and Microsoft flourish in spite of IBM.
What is even more interesting, and is something that is being explored by the Resurrecting the Past – Virtual Antiquities in the 19th Century, is the space that exists between us and the relics of the past.
In creating a virtual museum environment within Second Life, and exploring innovative ways to allow us to interact with a reconstruction of the Pompeii Court from the Crystal Palace, the project is creating a new space between the present and the past
The use of technology will not simply allow cultural institutions the chance to survive and adapt to technological changes. It also gives these institutions a chance to develop a space that allows all of us an opportunity to interact with the past in a completely new way.
In creating this space inbetween there is the opportunity not only to interact with the past, but also to interrogate the present. It allows us all to ask questions of those cultural institutions that currently negotiate between us and our cultural artifacts, and to question whether what they are doing is relevant to where we are today.
By funding such innovative projects, by allowing this space, academic and cultural institutions are able to respond to the ways technology changes the demands of users, and what their role is within this relationship.
Rather than ‘creative destruction’ such projects can help foster a sense of ‘creative engagement’, not just with technology, but with how all of us interact with our own cultural heritage.
More information on the Resurrecting the Past project is available on their Blog.
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The Information Environment team has just released a new call for Rapid Innovation Grants. Further details of the call are below:
JISC invites institutions to submit funding proposals for grants to fund technical rapid innovation projects addressing priority areas.
Proposals are sought under the following priority areas:
- Mashups of open data
- Aggregating tags and feeds
- Semantic web/ linked data
- Data search
- Mobile Technologies
- Lightweight Shared Infrastructure Services
- User Interface Design
Bids for projects dealing with other areas that are relevant to the Information Environment are also welcomed.
Funding of between £15,000 – £40,000 for 6 month projects for up to 30 projects is available
The deadline for receipt of proposals in response to this call is 12 noon on Wednesday 22 April 2009.
Funding is available for projects starting in early-mid June 2009 for 6 months. All projects must be complete by 30 November 2009.
Further information can be found in the full Call
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The New Opportunities Fund ran a huge £50m digitisation programme between 2001 and 2004.
Opinion to the success of the programme has been somewhat divided; some have seen it as pioneering; others saw it is a poor use of money, which did not really reap the expected dividends.
There has actually been little analysis as to whether which of these judgements is more correct.
However, there now exists an online database of all the NOF-digi projects and some statistics on their current availability.
- Of the 149 projects, 115 are still available in one form or another (77%)
- This figures rises to 85% (104 out of 122) when considering the projects funded under the ‘cultural enrichment’ strand (the other strands were much less focussed on digitisation)
- This figures rises even further to 87% (34 out of 39) when the larger projects, i.e. those with more than £300k of funding are considered.
Of course, much more analysis on the long-term impact of the programme could be undertaken. While some may carp that about 20% of websites that are now longer available, given the issues in staff skills, sustainability and data capture that were learnt in the first mass digitisation programme ever undertaken in the UK, these statistics are reasonably respectable.
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The recently launched Freeze Frame project, which has digitised over 20,000 images of historic polar expeditions, has achieved phenomenal interest in the press.
The press page on the JISC website lists 32 news articles or features, including an audio slideshow on the BBC website, and articles in newspapers as diverse as the Scotsman, the Daily Mirror and the magazine Computer Active.
Offering the press eye-catching images such as the one featured here certainly help but a number of other issues also aided the project gain such recognition
- Having particular stories to about the images to tie into the images (in this case Scott’s journey to the Antarctic)
- Identifying a press day for the media to visit to take photographs, undertake interviews and get quotes
- Having a clear URL for the website accessible to all
- Support from a PR agency to contact media outlets to offer the story (JISC has offered this service to all its large-scale digitisation projects)
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The Learning on Screen Conference 2009 will be held at The Wellcome Collection, on 7th and 8th April 2009 and will focus on:
Disability and Access to Moving Image and Sound.
The Learning on Screen Conference will offer an opportunity for academic service providers, web developers, lecturers, broadcasters, educationists, advisors, publishers and representatives of disability groups to meet to see examples of best practice, to learn about new techniques and to discuss the challenge of reaching the standards of delivery required by legislation to meet the needs and expectations of users.
For more information and details on how to book a place see the conference programme.