May – Seminar

Today Claire Warwick – Head of the Department of Information Studies, and co-director of UCLDH, gives a lecture titled:

From me and my database to the jar of moles:  the evolution of public DH at UCL.

We are tweeting to the hashtag #uccdah – please do post questions.

Warwick begins by addressing the question of what is DH – it is the application of digital technology or computational research to: research in arts and humanities and to cultural heritage practice – museums, galleries, archives, libraries etc.

In UCL DH – neither the digital or humanities is pre-eminent.  It includes the use of humanities methods to study of digital objects, and also the creation of new knowledge in both domains.

She quotes John Unsworth – “We done good!”  in theorising and examining where ‘we’ were in terms of unreflective descriptions of ‘cool’ tools and limited analysis.

The Roman iPad – the Vindolanda tablets is a great example of creating new knowledge – using digital analysis and access to historical information.

Projects that show the range of DH:

Studying users – to find out what they wanted, what they needed, and how they wanted to use resources.  If you build it they won’t come – you have to go where people are!  The LAIRAH study reflects that sense of the needing to know what users need.Looking at social media and its potential for inclusion and exclusion – at DH2011 – great visualisation of the social network, and discussion about how the network can include and exclude.  Further discussion of how artefacts – scanned in 3D have cultural and social impact, and theorising how people interact with those artefacts in museums and new ways of interacting with the scanned artefact in 3D.  She goes on to speak about the Transcribe Bentham project – and how people literally get to see precious objects, transcribe some early 19C handwriting, lots of people wanted to participate – going into the archive, going into/beyond the museum case.

DH is no longer inward looking, but outward looking – with lots of participation.

Moving on to the QRator project – and speaks about the project and visitor engagement.

They use iPads to do more – so they take the traditional 60 word label – and transform it – yes – revealing the scholarship but also having interactive labels – asking the visitors to the museum what do they think?  There was some resistance – but people, visitors, do use it and the overwhelming amount of comments are not spam.  People engage on a high level with the questions posed – and the museum can change what it does.  By trusting people – that trust is rewarded.  They do have QR codes too, but it is mostly about the interactivity, and the Imperial War museum now have come to the project and want to implement this in their seven sites across the UK.  People also want to read what other people have read – it tells us a lot of new things about what people want in the context of museums, within this concept of radical trust.

Using the digital to augment the humanities is at the core of what we as Digital Humanists do.  The QRator project is where all of the ideas mentioned throughout the talk come together – the jar of moles is the most popular exhibit in the museum @GlassJarofMoles.

Summing up:

Digital HUMANities

-augment don’t replace

users are the the centre of everything

conversations not monolgue

engagement and inclusion







4 Responses to May – Seminar

  1. This style of visitor engagement in museums is fascinating. Some of the best I’ve seen is the Nobel Prize Museum and National Museum, both in Sweden. Ireland is following suit: Organisers in Fort Camden, Crosshaven is currently moving towards introducing various interactive digital elements to its exhibition space.

    • This is also finding its way into the arts. Was in the Art Gallery of Ontario on Wednesday – they had a similar project running there where user contributions actually formed part of one of Iain Baxter’s works…

  2. Mary Galvin says:

    Something to look at re participatory design and engagement in galleries and museums

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