Cotton Operative’s dwelling – ‘Illustrated London News’.
Courtesy of the ‘Cotton Town digitsation project’, and accessed via GeraldMassey.org.uk
During the American Civil War, the supply of cotton to the UK stopped, and the Lancashire mills and factories that relied on it shut down, causing sudden mass unemployment on a scale previously unknown. The cotton industry was the hub of the industrial revolution, and whole families would work in the cotton mills, meaning that the loss of income hit even harder.
In response to the crisis, many former cotton workers wrote poems about their situation, and these were published in regional newspapers. In the 1860s, there were 200 local newspapers in Lancashire reporting on local and national news, and many of these papers also published a daily or weekly poetry column. This ‘Cotton Famine poetry’ has not previously been collected together and interpreted, so the Poetry of the Lancashire Cotton Famine (1861-5) project, funded by the AHRC and led by Dr Simon Rennie, aims to identify these poems, collect them together from their disparate locations in regional archives, and interpret them, making them freely available in a searchable text database developed by Exeter’s Digital Humanities Lab. We are also including audio recordings of the poems, including those in dialect.
What we’ve been up to…
Over the past six months, we have settled into life as interns for the DH Team. Throughout the internship, we’ve become accustomed to supporting and facilitating the research of staff in the College of Humanities, and acting as the first point of contact for all the types of people coming in to use the lab spaces. We’ve undergone training in photogrammetry, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), and 3D printing… all whilst attempting to formulate an answer to the question “what exactly is digital humanities?”
We’ve been supporting numerous research projects such as Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth’s digitisation of Early Modern Bristol women’s wills, digitising Ronald Duncan micro-cassette tapes and the 2D digitisation of a collection of historic posters from the Northcott Theatre.
We recently spent a week at the Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives, working on a very exciting new project to digitise the Exeter Book.
Last term, we were lucky enough to be able to attend a seminar on a database resource that our team created.
Famine and Dearth text archive
Death: Detail from Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Albrecht Durer (1471-1528). Woodcut print, 392×282 mm 1498.
As part of the Famine and Dearth project, we produced a text archive of over 750 texts from India and Britain, in languages such as English, Bengali, and Persian, and with English translations for key texts. In addition, we produced an interactive map of a merchant’s journey through India during a time of famine, chronicling his emotional reactions to the conditions of dearth or plenty he encountered.
Hannah Petrie works in Digital Humanities Archives and Documentation in the College’s Digital Humanities Team. Her expertise includes working with archived data, documenting research projects on the web, and text encoding with TEI. She is currently contributing to an XQuery- and XSLT-based text archive system as part of an AHRC research project. She attended this conference along with two of her colleagues from Exeter: Graham Fereday from the Digital Humanities team, and PhD student Helen Angear.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities conference in Manchester, along with my colleague Graham Fereday and Exeter PhD student Helen Angear. DCDC is a national conference organised by The National Archives and Research Libraries UK.
This was the first time we had attended the DCDC conference, but judging by the conversations I had in the networking sessions, we were far from the only ones attending for the first time. My colleagues Graham and Helen were also presenting a paper in the Linked Open Data session, about our project Hardy’s Correspondents, digitising the collection of letters written to Thomas Hardy held at Dorset County Museum. Our talk was about reviving the conversations between Hardy and his correspondents by collating the two sides of correspondence for the first time, using TEI/XML text encoding within an eXist-db database to recreate that conversation. The talk was videoed, and, since I originally published this post, has been made available to watch on YouTube (‘Reviving epistolary conversations: linked data and dialogic approaches to letter collections’ in the conference schedule):
DCDC16 | Reviving Epistolary Conversations – University of Exeter
Digitising using the conservation cradle in the Special Collections
Hannah Petrie works in Digital Humanities Archives and Documentation in the College’s Digital Humanities Team. Her expertise includes working with archived data, documenting research projects on the web, and text encoding with TEI. She is currently contributing to an XQuery- and XSLT-based text archive system as part of an AHRC research project. She was awarded an ADHO early career bursary, which enabled her to attend this conference. She attended this conference along with five of her colleagues from Exeter: Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman, Graham Fereday and Rich Holding from the Digital Humanities team, and PhD student Richard Graham.
This was my first time attending the annual Digital Humanities conference, and it’s certainly the biggest conference I’ve ever attended. We were told that at final count, there were 902 delegates from 45 different countries (to put it in perspective, the Digital Humanities congress that I attended in Sheffield in 2014 had 100 delegates). I went along with four of my colleagues from our Digital Humanities team in Exeter and one PhD student.
The main lecture theatre that we congregated in for the plenaries was impressively huge, and must have seated around 1200 people. The scale of the conference was reflected by the number of parallel sessions on offer. Eleven sessions ran concurrently throughout most of the conference, meaning that each one involved a difficult decision. Checking Storify feeds of tweet highlights from the conference, I felt like there was at least another conference-worth of additional material. I sometimes wanted to attend two or three sessions that were running at the same time, and wished that some of the sessions could have been recorded so that we could listen to the ones we missed afterwards.