Tag Archives: open access

Digital Preservation Day 2023

It’s World Digital Preservation Day! Two years ago, we posted about the work the DH team were doing to ensure the long-term sustainability of archival collections and the digital content we create in the Lab. Since then, we’ve been collaborating with colleagues from across the university to work harder than ever on digital preservation, and World Digital Preservation Day 2023 seemed like a great opportunity for an update on what we’re working on. 

Developing our capabilities in capturing legacy media  

Examples of media storage

One of the Lab’s specialities is safely capturing the contents of legacy media. In the past few years, the lab team and intern team have collaborated with colleagues in the Drama Department to digitise several extensive collections, including VHS recordings of Exeter City Football Club, and cassette tapes containing interviews with farmers from around Devon and Cornwall from the 1980s. 

We’ve also been working on expanding the range of early digital media we can work with – particularly to help the University Special Collections and Bill Douglas Cinema Museum access and preserve some of their older and more challenging collections. We are currently setting up two ingest workstations with tools like Bitcurator, and creating guidance for colleagues, such as a Field Guide to Legacy Media to help with identifying media types and the file formats and hardware they may require. Student interns in the DH lab and the BDCM have already been putting the workflows to the test capturing content from hard drives and floppy disks, with very successful results so far! 

Archiving project websites 

Our portfolio of research websites has also expanded since 2021, and we continue to work on making sure the data and interfaces of our websites will be accessible in the long term. Our first step has been using the Wayback Machine to create copies of website interfaces, to make sure a version will be available online even after the live site becomes unavailable.  

We have also been learning how to use tools like Browsertrix-crawler and Conifer to create our own web archive files. Finding ways to use the software to capture the wide range of content included on our websites has been a challenge, but we are now able to make our own copies of most of our sites, enabling us to deposit them in ORE (the University of Exeter data repository) and Zenodo, for secure long-term storage.  

Following our own learning journey, we are working on providing guidance to help web site users find and view the different sorts of web archives that we hope to make available. 

Open-Access Data 

As well as web archives, we have also been starting to deposit project datasets in data repositories, both to ensure their long-term safety and to make open-access copies available. The Exeter Digital Humanities community on Zenodo now includes datasets from the Lawforms project and the Hardy’s Correspondents project, available under CC-BY licenses. As current projects wrap up, we hope to continue to expand the collection of datasets there. 

Giving advice and raising awareness  

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the DH team continues to work to raise awareness about digital preservation both within the university and beyond. Part of our role is supporting research teams from the early stages of developing grant applications right through to archiving project outputs, and we provide advice and support for implementing good data practices throughout. We provide regular training workshops on how to plan data management for funding applications. Recently, we have also given presentations about digital sustainability to conferences of researchers and heritage professionals, to encourage them to consider the long-term safety of their data from the beginning of their projects. 

Two years on from our first post, it’s great to look back and see how far we have come. We have really expanded the skills and equipment we have available, and the support we’re able to provide. However, we are pleased to say we are still learning and developing our capabilities, and collaborating with colleagues to put new skills into practice. Digital preservation is a never-ending task, and the University collections continue to provide a steady stream of new and exciting challenges for us all. 

Happy World Digital Preservation Day!

We work on lots of exciting digitisation work in the Digital Humanities Lab, and our wonderful undergraduate interns have put together a video to give you a snapshot of just some of the materials we have made digitally available.

Just some of the materials and techniques we work with in the DH lab

But how do we make sure that the resources we create will be usable in 5, 10 or even 100 years time? Digital content can be extremely ephemeral, and is vulnerable to being irreplaceably lost if we’re not careful – just think of how many floppy disks and CDs most of us have that are no longer supported by our current computer. So while we’re creating new content through digitisation in the lab, we’re also working hard with colleagues around the University to plan for the longer-term future of the materials we create, as well as supporting the preservation of digital resources in the University collections.

A lot of digital preservation goes on behind the scenes, and isn’t always as obvious as some of the other work we do, so World Digitisation Day, run by the Digital Preservation Coalition is a great opportunity to stop and celebrate what we do as well as see how much else is going on around the world!

Continue reading

Uploading the Exeter Book – A behind the scenes look at digitising a literary treasure

Book on photography standThe new online platform for the Exeter book is now live, making one of the oldest surviving volumes of English literature in the world fully accessible to the public for the first time.  

The new platform has already been generating lots of interest, especially through Exeter’s role as a UNESCO city of literature, and since this kind of digitisation might be new to many of those interested, we thought we’d share a behind the scenes tour of what goes into creating the high definition images that make it possible to explore the tiny details of a 1,000-year-old manuscript on your phone. 

Continue reading

What difference does digital make? The present (and future) of Digital Humanities in the UK

Recently we welcomed a distinguished guest speaker to the DH Lab, Professor Jane Winters of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, to give a seminar on the current landscape of Digital Humanities (DH) in the UK.  Prof. Winters discussed the results of a major new survey, commissioned by the School of Advanced Study, the British Academy, the British Library and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, into DH research, teaching and practice in universities, GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) and the creative industries. The aims of the report were to document the current landscape of DH research, teaching and practice; identify what kind of support this needs; and explore possible demand for a UK-based DH network or association and the nature of the role that such an organisation could play.

Interpreting the statistics of the report for a highly engaged audience, Winters drew out from the facts and figures a picture of a diverse DH landscape, in which respondents identified themselves as belonging to almost forty different research areas.  More than three quarters also had extensive involvement in teaching, either in their subject area or in DH.  Winters noted that not all digital research and digital scholarship is described by its practitioners as ‘Digital Humanities’, even when it is firmly rooted in the study of Humanities sources and their related areas of specialisation.  As researchers within universities, we therefore need to ensure that when we collaborate with creative partners or GLAM institutions, we try to use a common language to describe what we do: this will help not only in the project itself, but also in how we communicate what we do to those outside our particular areas of expertise.

Continue reading

First impressions: light, sound and a new vision

New team member Emma Sherriff, outside the DH Lab

A warm hello to our blog readers, my name is Emma Sherriff and I am the newest addition to the Digital Humanities (DH) team. I am embarking on my DH journey at the beginning of an exciting new era of digital research, collaboration, and preservation for the College of Humanities; and ahead of the official opening of the Digital Humanities Lab on 23rd October by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith.

My experience at the University of Exeter to date has involved supporting the work of Postgraduate researchers, as a member of the Doctoral College. My former role led me to discussions with the DH team around how the Lab can offer specialist expertise alongside cutting edge equipment, creating an opportunity to engage with, and connect an existing body of researchers across disciplines and themes. I am pleased to be involved in shaping the planning and delivery of training, digital projects and technical support in my new role.

Continue reading

Report on the Digital Humanities Congress 2016, Sheffield

In contrast to the huge scale of the previous conference in Kraków, Autumn has offered an opportunity to attend something a little more manageable. The Digitial Humanities Congress is hosted biennially by the Humanities Research Institute in Sheffield, and is a national conference that attracts international audiences.

In a very varied programme, the speakers covered topics such as musicology, text mining and analysis, semantic encoding and infrastructural issues. An early highlight was a series of papers, introduced by Marilyn Deegan, on the ‘Academic Book of the Future’, which discussed the potential shape of academic outputs, and specifically monographs, as the move to digital and open access opens up new possibilities. Creating works with greater interactivity and engagement, that can link directly to open access source material, and provide insight through well-designed interactive visualisations and access to raw data were all high on the wish-list, with some intriguing experiments.

Continue reading