Each year we ask our interns to write a blog post at the end of their time working with us looking back on their time in the DH Lab. Here is the third of this year’s blogs from Isabel:
Hi, my name’s Isabel and I’m a third year History student and intern at the Digital Humanities Lab and this year I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy my second year at the lab.
Recently, I’ve been spending my time getting to grips with photogrammetry and 3D modelling. On top of photographing and processing lot of palaeolithic flints and ancient pottery from the archaeology department’s teaching packs, one of my main projects I worked on was fully processing a small ornament from a physical object, to a digital model, to a physical object again in the form of two differently printed 3D prints. I started with the original Egyptian pyramid ornament, photographing it in the photogrammetry set up in the lab space. Then, these photos had to be processed in computer software which aligned the images into one digital 3d model.
Once this was completed, I printed the first 3D model in our Ultimaker 3D printer in white and finally I printed a green resin model in the form lab printer and had a look to see how different the results were.
This year I also got to spend a lot of time with the RTI dome. On the one hand this meant creating RTI images of the archeology from the teaching packs so that people could better see the markings and lines on the side where the pottery had been cut and which showed more information about how the pottery was made. On the other hand, this also meant experiemtnsing with some of my own objects to see how they would look under RTI. I experimented with a necklace of mine with bronze age chain on it to see what the different RTI photos would show me.
And finally, I got to have a bit of fun at Halloween this year when I printed a glow in the dark pumpkin pot!
Each year we ask our interns to write a blog post at the end of their time working with us looking back on their time in the DH Lab. Here is the first of this year’s blogs from Jane-Marie:
I am Jane Marie a final year Art History, Visual Culture and Classical studies student. I remember visiting the digital humanities lab on my open day at the university. I was immediately impressed at their wide range of technologies and the opportunity to become an intern at the lab.
Before starting the university, I had completed and art foundation course in graphic communication this meant I had some computer skills before I started the internship. At the end of my first year, I completed a short internship with the University of Exeter’s special collections team cataloguing the university’s Leonard Baskin Prints. Both experiences provided me with the necessary skills and interest to start my internship at the Digital Humanities lab.
Some of the modules I have taken during my time at university have been directly related to Digital Humanities. In my second year I took the AHVC Field study module as part of which we created a walking tour of Florence. From this module I learned digital mapping and audio editing skills. In my final year I took the ‘Hacking the Humanities: how to run successful digital projects’ module which paired very nicely with my work at the Digital Humanities lab.
Over the year as Digital Humanities Intern, I have assisted on a range of projects from digitisation to podcast editing. The most interesting and different project I have worked on is filming the CRAB Lab bees on the top of the Washington Singer Building.
I had no idea that there were any beehives on the Exeter university campus so to get to see them up close and personal was an amazing opportunity. I assisted in the filming of the video and had to wear a bee suit in the process. I was the responsible for the editing of the video.
The challenge when editing this video was knowing what of all the information Zoe, the beekeeper, had told us was the most important to include. We also had a lot of “Bee-role” footage to intersperse with the talking. Another challenge I found was controlling the audio levels across the different bits of footage. As we where filming in a working lab space there was some background noise that needed to be removed from the footage. While editing I learned how to edit the audio to remove the sound without distorting the audio. This example shows the problem-solving skills you develop when working with the digital humanities.
Along side the projects we have also completed training in all aspects of the lab from the 3D printers to Photogrammetry. This has helped me build confidence in using the technologies of the lab as well as introduce me to unfamiliar skills which I found challenging such as coding. Completing these challenges as a group made them less daunting.
Overall, my experience at the digital humanities lab has been an incredible opportunity to learn a range of different skills some of which I found quite challenging and others I immediately clicked with. It has been wonderful working with the other amazing interns, the DHL team and aiding academics in their research and outreach.
Hi, I’m Heide, a second year English Undergraduate. I first encountered the Exeter Digital Humanities Lab during the Festival of Discovery after my first year, but I had already unconsciously experienced Digital Humanities throughout my degree, through online resources such as EEBO (Early English Books Online), The Hardy Correspondents and many other archive websites that I used to research primary sources.
My first hands on experience with digital humanities was during my year one Rethinking Shakespeare module (EAS1041), where we used TEI text encoding to combine differences in Folio and Quarto texts for scholarly consideration. The digitally encoded text provides a more interactive text for study, as different textual variants can be easily seen and more equally considered. The accessibility of the digital texts and the significant scholarly applications inspired me to look further into the previously unknown field of digital humanities by applying to be an intern.
At the start of my internship, I had little technical knowledge about digital photography and technology, however, the DH Lab provided all the training basics. Every week I enjoyed learning new things: Basic Camera skills, Photogrammetry, RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imagery), 3D Modelling and Printing, Photoshop, Audio and Visual recording and editing… The list really does go on! I loved all of the training across the lab and attempted to partake in as many varied projects as I could throughout my internship. One of our training sessions was on photogrammetry, where we brought in our own objects to produce a model. I brought in one of my crochet projects – a kind of awkward looking rabbit (who can be found on one of the Digital Humanities information slides in the Breakout space!). The software wasn’t a great fan of the object, and fabric itself is not the best suited to photogrammetry, so it turned out a little bit wonky (as seen below).
My first projects consisted of 2D digitization in Lab 1, using the A0 copystand. I digitized many letters , and I still enjoy discussing the adorable wax seals to this day. The experience of touching and reading documents and artefacts that would commonly be sealed away in a private collection or museum is such an amazing and interesting experience. I also helped to digitise a collection of Arabic postcards and documents and the Exeter University Fine Art Committee documents. I also used Lab 1 to photograph and reverse negatives of Arabic documents for study in the Lawforms project. Alongside the other interns I helped with inbox and reception management, as well as social media contributions for the Lab and university projects, such as promotional material for the Famine Tales Project.
I also worked on digitising cassette tapes of interviews with Devonshire farmers to convert them into a digital format using the Audio-Visual Lab (AV Lab, Lab 3). As someone who grew up in Devon it was very interesting to hear personal interviews of the locals, and often quite entertaining.
I worked on a larger RTI project to digitize archaeological arrowheads for a university colleague at Exeter. RTI (Reflectance transformation imagery) is performed by capturing images of a static object with a static camera but with changing light angles (check out the DH Lab RTI demonstration page here: https://humanities-research.exeter.ac.uk/rti/). These images are then put into a software called RTI_builder and the process is followed to create an interactive RTI model. Here is a “normals” (the colours correspond to the direction of the surface) of one of the arrowheads:
And a regular screen capture of the object’s other side here:
I also worked on several of my own digitisation projects, including handwritten letters from my Grandma as well as wedding photos from my Aunt. I worked on this alongside all of the projects at the Lab, and it was nice to digitise some of my own family history.
I found working as an intern at Digital Humanities an invaluable experience and recommend it to anybody looking for any experience in the field for job opportunities and personal experience. Don’t let lack of digital experience daunt you – the lab is very welcoming and provides all necessary training help to all interns!
What a year! I have loved working at the Digital Humanities Lab over my third year at Exeter – I have had the opportunity to try so many different activities and have seen a side of the History Faculty and Department I would not normally get to experience as a student. Most enlightening has been the gradual process of understand just how much work goes into conserving and storing the documents we use in our daily studies, and it has given me a new appreciation for the feat of achievement of many of our digital archives. I have particularly enjoyed working with the Drama department’s new Podcasting studio; its accessible format and set-up making it really easy to create podcasts with other students and friends, and I hope to continue this project in my career as a way of enjoying more public debates on history. The most useful advice I could give to someone applying to the Lab or who has already got a place on the internship team is to try everything – and to not be afraid to ask questions. All the staff are super friendly and helpful, and it’s always a great idea to start off slow, learn the techniques properly and learn how to best use and approach each type of archival material, giving you the skills to work more efficiently as the year progresses.
A typical day in the Lab starts with me digitising the most recent documents, photographs or journals that have been brought in – I have partially loved digitising a collection of journals written in the late 1800s by local Devon women, to showcase their artistic, literary and poetic skill. Working with this was challenging, especially as the books were often badly bound or produced on thin, cheap paper, and so they had to be handled slowly and carefully. I used my training from the Special Collections team to plan how to approach each challenge in digitising such a varied type of document. I have also enjoyed seeing the various people and departments who use the Labs photography and recording equipment on a weekly basis to improve course delivery and structure. Learning how to integrate these technologies into future education approaches and lesson planning is the future of education, and will open up the Humanities to a much greater variety of abilities, learning approaches and stages- and as a protective future teacher this has been truly exciting to experience first-hand and have a ‘hands on’ impact on digitisation delivery at the University.
I have really enjoyed my time at the Lab, and can’t recommend enough applying for an internship – you’ll lean so much about the complex and intriguing world of document preservation, and get a new-found appreciation for our brilliant archives and libraries.
Here at the Digital Humanities Lab, we are called upon to photograph a wide range of objects, which means we often have to come up with creative ways to position them our lab copystands. I have recently been working on digitising a set of bound letters, for which I am using the 150MP camera in Lab 1. However, it took me while to work what the best way of setting up the volumes would be, as it became clear that the glass platform we usually use for keeping books flat for photography was not the most appropriate option in this case. For one thing, as each letter in the volumes was written separately, and later brought together into one book, any given double page spread was likely to cover two letters, rather than one. As I wanted to have each page of the letters as separate images, this made things tricky, and if I’d carried on I would have had to crop each image twice and export it twice as well. This also made the metadata that I created for this first dozen test images difficult to write as well, because almost every image contained a page each of two letters, meaning I was writing two rows of metadata for one image on CaptureOne. Another issue with the glass platform is that once I got more than a few pages in on the first volume, it started to squash the pages on the left-hand side of the book in such a way that they covered the first two or three letters of each word on the right-hand side. After all this, I decided that I needed to come up with a better way of doing things, and started again from the first page.
I knew that the pages of the book were too tightly bound to be able to lie flat unaided, so when I put them on top of the copystand, rather than under the glass platform, I tried holding down each page using a system of bone folders and weights to hold them up and in place. This works for pages made of quite thick paper and are naturally heavy, as I had found when I digitised a photo album from the university’s archive earlier in the year, but for the lightweight springy paper of the bound letters, this wasn’t as effective. As I was now moving the book for each photograph, so that only one page was in view of the camera, this method involved a lot of adjustment, and the bone folders always ended up in shot because they had to be a certain way onto the page to hold it down properly. The next method I came up with, after I had taken perhaps a hundred or so photos in this manner, was using strips of polypropylene cut from a roll. This material is normally used in museum displays for holding down pages of a book on a particular page, so I thought that it might work here. I cut two strips, one for each side of the book, put them round the page and cover vertically, and secured them at the back using paperclips so that they were taught. This was a much better solution than the bone folders, as it held the pages down almost completely flat, and all that was needed was a weight underneath the higher side of the book, which could be taken out once the pages levelled out. The downside of this method was that, like the bone folders, the polypropylene stood out in the photographs compared to the paper of the letters. Although all the writing underneath the area was perfectly readable, it was very obvious, and inconsistent with the standard methods for digitising letters. However, I was unable to come up with a different solution at that stage, so I completed the first and second volumes using this process; adjusting the length of polypropylene around each side of the book as the pages built up or decreased.
It was once I was about 20 or so pages into digitising the third volume that I stumbled across the approach that I am currently using. I was watching a recorded AHFAP (Association for Fine Art and Historical Photography) online event from 2020, which featured a talk from Jo Castle from the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester. She was speaking about the library’s project to digitise the archive of Heinrich Simon, namely the eight books known as The Simon Papers. As these books were made up of pages and scraps of paper of all different sizes, with many flaps and pages glued in, the digitisation team came up with the idea of using nylon monofilament secured between leather weights to hold down the pages as they were photographed. This was especially good for holding down the smaller pages in the middle of larger ones. Having watched this talk and seen how effective a method it was, I was able to acquire some finishing line from our Lab Manager Gemma.
As you can see from the pictures, this has proved a success, and in the final exported images, the fishing line is barely visible, especially compared to the bone folders and polypropylene. We have already utilised this method for another project in the lab, and I hope it will continue to be a viable option for digitising tricky material in the Digital Humanities Lab.
The 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.
In the blog-post below, Ollie Anthony, Technical Assistant at the Digital Humanities Lab and former BDCM museum volunteer, explains the significance of the panorama and the digitisation process involved in creating the interactive map.
The initial Panorama of London produced in 1845 by James Frederick Smyth and printed by William Little of 198 Strand, London, was commissioned by the Illustrated London News, the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine. This blogpost discusses the history of the London panorama, as well as the processes used to digitise a colourised copy, held as part of the Bill Douglas and Peter Jewell Collection at The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum (BDCM).
Despite its name, much of the contents of the popular Illustrated London News magazine series pertained to events happening around the world, particularly the far-reaching parts of the British Empire. Their magazines, often jeering and comical in style, were well known for their eclectic and extravagant displays of London life, politics, and royalty. On January 11th, 1845, upon the beginning of its third year of publication, readers were able to pay One Penny to purchase a copy of the Panorama of London or receive a free copy if they subscribed to the weekly Illustrated London News. Continue reading →
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