GeoForum LiveBlog

Today are be holding our GeoForum 2012 event at the National Railway Museum in York.

We will be liveblogging the talks throughout the day so look out for updates to this page during or after the event. As with any liveblog we hope you won’t mind a few typos, spelling errors, etc. If you see something you’d like to know more about or you would like to let us know about a correction then please leave a comment below. You can also join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #geoforum.

You can take a look at the programme for the day (which will be gradually becoming headings for our liveblog post) below:

Welcome – Emma Diffley

Emma is welcoming us to the GeoForum. It has been four years since we last ran a GeoForum event so it’s great to get everyone together again. Many of you will have been in touch with the EDINA staff who you will be able to meet in person today, particularly our helpdesk staff.

We have lots of work to show you today, we will also have an opportunity for you to see our exhibitors stands, we have our keynote Professor Dave Martin, and then after lunch we will looks towards the future and developments coming soon, including a talk from one of our Digimap developers.

New Home Page – Guy McGarva

We have been working on this project to create a new homepage for over 6 months. This includes updating all supporting interfaces and support materials. Our project team has had input from our web designer, our software engineers, and we have done usability testing. We are now looking for feedback as we move towards releasing the new homepage.

But why do this? Well the existing collections infrastructure was making it difficult  and time consuming to maintain. It was not obvious to users what services we offered and what they had access too. And it wasn’t an attractive front door to our services. So we really wanted to focus on our users and how we could make a more intuitive and appealing frontpage for them in a way that would be much easier for us to maintain.

We did, however need to retain the functionality. We went through various wireframe processes to try to find the best way to retain functionality but improve the page. On our new design we have one page with access to all of the services. The login is presented at the outset to make it clearer to users that they do not have to login but if they do they will have access to more services.

As a non logged in user you can browse the available services, you can access our increasing range of open services such as OpenStream and ShareGeo, and you can view news, alerts, etc. There are still all of the same components as before but the design is much more flexible and we can easily update and more things around whenever needed.

As a logged in user there is a new tab which will appear called “My Digimap” that includes user details, local support information – you, as site reps, can supply this to us and we will add institutional information. Site reps will have an additional Site Rep Support Area on this tab. This area can be personalised for you.

The main thing is still accessing the collections. So we have Ordnance Survey, Historic, Geology, Marine and we have a tab called Discover where we are grouping other related services, APIs etc. and which we can add to in the future. Each of these service tabs includes supporting information to help the user get started with the service and to group all the relevant materials in one place but you only have to deal with the information you need.

On the new homepage we also have a news feed from the Digimap blog as well as links to our social media presences: our blog, facebook page, twitter account, Youtube channel etc. We also have a panel highlighting our geo services. And finally we have an optional newsflash area at the top of the page which we will be using when there is a scheduled downtime coming up or other essential alert to share.


Q1) When will it go live?

A1) We hope to have the first release in early to mid July. We will then also be able to do some minor fixes over the summer as needed.

New Data Download & the USeD Project- Addy Pope

I will be talking about a recent JISC-funded project called USeD – Usability Service enhancements for Digimap. The idea was to improve the Data Downloader within Digimap. It is heavily used by Digimap’s 48,000 users. It had over 74,000 data requests in the year from Jan 2010-2011. The existing downloader has been around for a while and we knew that it wasn’t meeting our user needs at the moment.

The workflow was based around a single linear sequence of interaction, it preseumed significant familiarity with ordnance survey, really it was built with what technology could do in mind, not with what our users needed. But we can do better than that now so we wanted to look again at how the downloader could work for our users.

We undertook a process to develop user personas. We went out to interview Digimap users and consider how their usage is grouped. We broke our 25 interviewers down into four groups representing different types of usage, expertise, and usability style. I was sceptical about these personas but building these really lets you understand how they use the service, the wider picture of what else they do, the context for their usability requirements.

Based on this work we were able to understand how our users are thinking when they access our services. As we began to think about how to address this we set up a usability lab – this allowed a volunteer candidate to work through a number of tasks with a facilitator. In a nearby room I was able to view two screens – a web cam of what the candidate is doing and whether they are engaged on one screen, a mirror of their screen on the other. We used a baby monitor to listen to the audio feed from the usability testing. This set up let us only have 2 people conducting the testing which put the candidate at ease.

We provided several versions of the data downloader. Version 1 looks a lot like ROAM and is visually appealing but there were issues. There is a linear process in place here even if it is not obvious that this is in place. But in testing we found that the user was comfortable with linear order.

In Version 2, which we retested, we made a few changes to make a similar design easier to work through. But there were other things to sort out. Odd errors on certain buttons, buttons users were happier and more comfortable using because of the wording used. And so we moved through Version 3, Version 4, Version 5. And eventually, after a lot of tweaks, we reached the final version which is now live.

We have had good feedback so far. You can select multiple data areas, multiple data sets, we’ve increased the download limit. It works better and you don’t have to select by tile if you don’t want to which makes it much more usable for some.

Sometimes you can be overfamiliar with an interface so I recommend the testing process – the usability lab set up can be very inexpensive – and having a developer sit in on this process is hugely valuable for understanding user behaviour.

That’s pretty much all I was going to say today but you can read much more about the project on the USeD blog where we recorded the whole process throughout the project:


Q1) Can you now select data by smaller areas than before? I remember some tiles being enormous?

A1) It depends on the tile size of the data. You can select only a smaller area but large tiles won’t be split down into others.

Q2) Will this be available for geology and historic?

A2) Geology should be fine. Historic has so many datasets in it that that would be more tricky.

Welcome to the Sensed World! – Ben Butchart

I will be talking about what is called web 3.0, augmented reality, the web of things… I am going to call this the Sensed World.

There has been a huge amount of change through mobiles in the last few years but the key thing to note is that we now carry serious computing power with us pretty much everywhere through our phone – our computer is with us wherever we take our clothes!

You might be aware of the sensor web as a concept. This isn’t about humans but about lots of automated devices. By comparison the sensed web is about humans, about sensing, about geo location, about enhancing vision – the reading of barcodes, the taking of images, etc. But sensors and connected devices are also throughout our home now – the Kinect for instance.

I think the Sensed Web really began in 2008 with the launch of the iPhone 3G. This was the first iPhone with GPS but the 3G, the app store, the application of that GPS data was the big moment.

At EDINA we have done various work with the sensed web – through projects like Walking Through Time, AddressingHistory, Phone Booth and our new exciting project called Digimap FieldTrip GB which allows you to use Digimap data for fieldtrips. You can cache maps onto the device for when you are out of range for networks, you can annotate, gather text notes etc. You can use this with the open Ordnance Survey data. But you can also login to Digimap and get the richer more detailed mapping materials.

So we have had location based services but we are now moving more towards Augmented Reality. This is the joining of the real world and things we wouldn’t normally be able to see – hidden things, small things, secret history, add context to the current location, explore human or building anatomy. Chemistry applications etc.

So examples here include Augmented Sandbox using Kinect and a projector to make a fun augmented reality experience of a traditional physical kids sandbox. Then there is the idea of gesture presentation through a clip of Hans Rosling from BBC4.

The issue we have is that sensor web authoring is really hard – you have to be an expert across multiple technologies and authoring languages and there is no one clear tool that helps you develop for AR. I am working with the International Augmented Reality Standards Group to try and work through some of these issues. And at EDINA we are using that Digimap FieldTrip GB app as a starting point to developing an AR authoring tool.

Hopefully we will see ourselves moving towards augmented lectures. The web may have made the world feel smaller, I think the sensor web is going to make the world feel richer, deeper, with more to explore.


Q1) What is the timescale for the Digimap FieldTrip GB app?

A1) We think probably October or November for that. We have lots of material on this at our table here at the back of the room and would love your feedback about what you need, what name you’d like to see this have.

Keynote Address: Open Geospatial Data and the End of the Census: What Next? – Professor Dave Martin

Our keynote speaker today is Professor Dave Martin of the University of Southampton.

What I’m hoping to do today is to look back at the world in the last ten years around the ESRC Census Programme. I think lots of changes around census data mirror what is changing in the geospatial world and that’s why I’ve chosen those two areas for now. And I want to think about pervasive geospatial data, open data, linked data… and I want to consider the loss of certainties. We may have seen the last Census in England and Wales but that data will still be needed and collected so what does that mean. And I’ll be doing this with lots of train analogies as I couldn’t help myself given our location.

Census data is very geospatial, much of the strength of the data is that it covers very detailed, small geospatial areas that can be connected to other geospatial data sets. If I look back at geospatial products things are becoming increasingly detailed. We have seen more detail, we’ve seen that becoming more freely available. We’ve seen the census data being a driver to other geospatial data.

Small area census geography is used in multiple contexts. In location-based, migration. transportation research are all based on census areas. The boundaries and geographical understanding of those areas are from the census, around the collection of census data. And anything requiring a denominator population really depends on the census. But there are limitations on this usefulness since the census only runs every 10 years.

If we look through a number of historical sets of census data we see classic shaded census maps breaking down output areas by particular data. As we get to 2001 we start to be able to use census data online. It is a very basic interface at this point but it was a big deal to be able to do this online and to be able to query the data, graph it. There are lots of reasons why this data is fundamental for what people want to do but… shaded maps are hard to interpret. There are additional issues. Most commonly dependent on traditional census-type data but increasingly there is a desire for different geographies, for location of people in the daytime, not just their nighttime location. There are things we are needing to provide that are not currently possible with the census data.

But it’s all change now… there is increasing interlinking of data sources, particularly in government.  Open government licensing wasn’t even conceived of when we ran that 2001 Census. We have various examples here from to any manner of

So the world is shifting here. Some population data sources are “national statistics” – very clear data, metadata, etc. Some sources are thoroughly documented (e.g. Department for Transport) and we know any limitations. Some sources are demonstrably incomplete – particularly where crowdsourcing comes in (e.g. OpenStreetMap). So we have this rich, diverse but confusing world. So many data souces but each has their own provenance and limitations, not all are comparable.

Even the census data is moving towards this – albeit with old census data. For instance the CASA tool, PublicProfiler, uses census map layers with OpenStreetMap. Similarly nestoria compares census data, openstreetmap, and house prices in an area. Some of the data here is presented in charts like that Office for National Statistics site from 2001 but with that additional context of map, interface, comparison data, it has more interesting context and can be more useful.

So.. was Census 2011 the end of the line? Census day was 27th March 2011. It was a mail out/mail back format but we also did internet data collection. We had a flexible enumeration strategy. The First data will be available in July 2012 and we expect to rely on that data for 12 years. But that whole process is a very costly one.

The 2011 census was broadly similar to the content in 2001. More questions on citizenship, place of residence etc. The web form is innovative, some content is innovative but there wasn’t anything more sophisticated in terms of how data was collected. Although there are tools like InFuse around now – designed to pick up data and run your own queries.

But what has changed here is that the census is getting more complicated to do and there is a retreat from census-taking internationally. Attempts to optimnise zone-based census output geography, carried over into other official statistics – e.g. Indices of Deprivation. There are alternative multiple georeferenced data sets and they can be used to validate the census… but if we have those it’s not surprising that politicians look at that data and ask why we cannot collate this data and do that every year instead of census taking.

We are now working on new ways of collecting personal data, an initiative called “Beyond 2011″. International comparators are already moving away from census. But these alternatives are heavily reliant on data sharing and linkage – they are not neccassarily directly comparable, they are hard to trace. If we trust a complex mixture of sources we have to take very different positions on how we trust and use that data. All of those models rely on mixing of data, new spatial data infrastructures including the address register – this was created specially for the Census that combines several separate UK address lists. The tide is against gathering resources and funding for big censuses.

So what is happening elsewhere? Well France has a rolling census, last full enumeratiob ib 1999. Canada long form became a voluntary survey 2011. the USA has a short form community survey that replaced the long term version in 2010. Austria has a new register-based survey… it’s a changing world.

We have a lot of exciting possibilities around what we could do with Census data but so much is shifting in the landscape. My own theory is that we have had a good quality and cost effective census process. And that census alternatives will eventually become sufficiently good and cost effective to become a better option – but the date when that takes place is debatable.

GeoPlace is the register of addresses that ties postal addresses closely to their geospatial location. That’s worth noting. And one last idea to note is LandScan USA – this is an attempt to compile an understanding of daytime populations in the USA based on existing data sets – employment information for instance. We are just starting to do something similar in the UK in a similar way.

So, if we looked back to 1960 we had digital census data. We are now looking at the biggest change since then. The world has woken up to things geospatial but they don’t always do it how we would have done it, especially with regard to metadata. And there are ethical and public acceptibility debates to come. Licensing will remain an issue but how that works may change.

The general trend is richer data, but increasingly from unconeventional sources and needing new methods.


Q1) You seem to imply that metadata is old hat, that something will replace it?

A1) I didn’t mean to imply that that metadata was old hat exactly. A lot of the alternative census data sets come from administrative systems. The moment you move from a purpose built database for the census you are reliant on the motivations of the data collector. The Scandinavians took twenty to thirty years to improve administrative collection of geospatial data so that it could be combined with other data sets. We have to think carefully before combining a known and an unknown data source.

Now onto the Lightning Talks, short talks from our suppliers and partners:

CadCorp ( – Martin McGarry

Cadcorp are an independent British GIS software company, active in GIS since 1995 and we work with UK, Japan and European markets. Our relationship with EDINA is as a supplier. In September 2008 EDINA announced that it had chosen our server software, GeoSys, and our GIS product to work with data.

LandMark (

Landmark provide historic mapping, including town plans, that are used in the Historic Digimap service. But that is only part of what we do. We manage data from multiple different suppliers, we do data warehousing and hosting for Department for Energy and Climate Change, Sport England etc. We hold data ourselves, we host data from others. We already get some requests through from Digimap users for specific datasets. Even if data isn’t in Digimap Historic you are very welcome to just make a request, get in touch, ask us for data that we might have, etc.

ESRI UK ( – Angela Baker

I am the Higher Education contact for ESRI UK. I wanted to just show ArcGIS online. An interactive web maps and apps site which you can register for as an individual for free and then upload and overlay your own data on top of these maps. You can bring in CSV files, Shape and GPX files, and you can use this with your own WMS if you have one. We are interested to see what can be done, what might be useful. We think it might be good for embedding your maps, for using maps on your mobile devices, for field trips (with web access), or for introducing these concepts to students.

ArcGIS Online subscriptions for Higher Education will be established soon, it may even be free for some of those on the top tier of our CHEST agreement. Get in touch for more details.

BGS – British Geological Survey ( – Gerry Wildman

Two quick sales pitches first. We are a research organisation, if there is something that isn’t in Geology Digimap already just let us know and we are usually happy to share that for free. And we just launched a new app called MySoil.

But I wanted to focus on 3D mapping that addresses geology but also geographical information. The Geological Survey has moved from handdrawn maps from 1820 to the modern era where we use Map and DTM, with Boreholes, with cross-sections to produce a fence diagram, a geological block model, and an exploded model, synthetic sections, etc. In the EDINA agreement you can use 3D models for Edinburgh and London and play with those right away.

We have also made available our modelling software, GSI3D, which you can trial for free for academia, to build your own geological models. For instance this is useful for asset management, e.g. pipelines.

SeaZone ( – Litan Paul

We were established in 2004 and acquired by HR Wallingford in 2010. We are driven by user requirements in digital marine data and GIS. Our objective is to provide Marine Geographic Information Solutions. We don’t believe traditional data meets these needs – charts are for navigation with varying scales, inconsistent content. Often there can be errors to ensure safety (e.g. underestimating depth to avoid ships accidentally grounding). And there is no interoperability with other data sets.

We have created a vector product called Hydrospatial with 6 topic layer data and this is currently available in Marine DigimapThis data has been used, for instance, in offshore wind supply contexts.

We use TruDepth grids but how do we build this model? Well a number of surveys are taken at any one point at any time but how do you select the best available survey? We do this based on type of survey, time and density of data. The result is a seamless surface and 3D image. You will see that survey data is smooth and detailed, chart data can be more pixelated. Survey image is much more details. If you compare the same area mapped in both ways you can see a clearly more detailed view from the survey data. That data can also be applied in other contexts. We comply with metadata standards and the INSPIRE Directive.

Old Maps Online ( – Humphrey Southall, University of Portsmouth

This is a JISC-funded project led by a partnership of the University of Portsmouth and our technology partners Klokan Technologies.

The website will detect your location as you access it and will try to find maps in the collection from that location. You can scroll through the 80,000 maps in the collection if you want. Clicking on the map lets you view a thumbnail and clicking again you can go through to access that map. We don’t host the map, it’s a pure portal. But it is a smart portal. If you zoom in it will filter to more detailed maps a appropriate. You can also search globally – so you can search for New York maps say.

It’s a very simple facility so go and try it out. It is very much about maps held by libraries and exploring those. We are keen to add additional collections. We launched the portal early into the project but we are continuing by working with map librarians. We want to add more maps into the site, we want librarians to see georeferencing as a routine part of the map scanning process. It adds small cost (20-30%) but hugely increases the utility of those maps to others. We hope that we will also be able to make map URIs that are stable and quotable long term rather than URLs that will change depending on the viewing software used. And finally we want to include geo-referencing in exposure of library metadata so that these can automatically be harvested.

And the final part of this project is a meeting in Edinburgh in December that will bring map owners and users together. This workshop is called “Working Digitally with Historical Maps” at the National Library of Scotland on Thursday 13th December 2012. We can’t pay expenses but it’s a free day so do come along.

Landmap (

Landmap is based at Mimas, the sister Data Centre to EDINA. We have aerial photography data, we created our own service from a research-led place. We do not have complete aerial photography or the UK but we are aiming to have complete infrared photography – for mapping greenery, trees, etc. That is possible because the data is available. We have metadata from a German supplier. We have some information in competition with Ordnance Survey, in particular UKMap – currently only available for London – which is like MasterMap on steroids with the height and age of buildings, occupants of buildings etc. for M25 area. We have building heights for all conurbations larger than 25,000 people, and building classifications (of 93 types) for a more limited number of sources. Come and collect a postcard or leaflet from our table.

At this point we broke for lunch and an opportunity for our in-person attendees to look around the 15 exhibitor stands at the forum which includes EDINA projects and services and all of our partner and suppliers who were featured in the Lightening talks.

For the next part of the day the group is splitting into two. In the main GeoForum room we will be viewing a series of Project and Services presentations/demonstrations. This will be the strand we are liveblogging. In the second room we will be running a Support Workshop on Digimap. We won’t be liveblogging this but will be using the discusssion and notes taken to feed back into our ongoing developments.

Project and Services Demonstrations

James Reid is chairing this strand of presentations which will look at projects and services, many of which have their origins in various bids etc.

Addressing History ( – Stuart Macdonald, EDINA and Edinburgh University Data Library

AddressingHistory is a project, phase 1 of which was funded by JISC Rapid Innovation funds. The project was led by EDINA working in partnership with the National Library of Scotland with support from other organisations including the School of History, Classics and Archealogy at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh City Libraries.

The project hoped to built an online crowdsourcing tool which would combine Edinburgh’s historical Post Office Directory with georeferenced maps from the appropriate eras. The directories are the most popular resource in city libraries and have huge usefulness for those engaging in local and genealogical research. The names and addresses from the directories were georeferenced through a geoparser, with various degrees of accuracy, and presented in the context of the historical maps.

The directory data is in the public domain so we have been able to make the website and directory parsing tool under Creative Commons licence. The project uses OpenLayers for the mapping and data is held in a PostGres database. Now that the initial georeferencing has taken place any user can go in and edit and correct an entry via the website by moving a map pin, comparing this to the scanned directory, and/or editing the OCR’d text. We also have an API allowing the data to be used and combine with other materials. The site and API launched in November 2010 and was accompanied by lots of social media amplification to engage the local and family history community in particular. The site is free to use so please do go and take a look.

We are just coming to the end of our phase 2 work, internally funded by EDINA, to further develop AddressingHistory. This involved significant changes to support spatial searching, to better associate map pins with search results and particularly to better support entries with multiple addresses. We also have an Augmented Reality layar allowing you to view this data against the modern day locations – that can be used on pretty much any phone via the Layar browser app.

This project has been about crowdsourcing at three levels – at the POD entry level, at the directory parsing level – we have made our code available under open source licence so that anyone can adapt, edit, contribute back to the project. This is particularly important as there are so many PODs – well over 700 just for Scotland that range frome the 1770s to the early 1900s – and they all have unique formatting issues.

We will be launching a wider range of POD coverage soon, bringing in Glasgow, Aberdeen and additional Edinburgh PODs. And we are looking at sustainability – how new PODs can be added, how we can help the site to fund itself, etc.

OpenStream ( – Guy McGarva, EDINA Geosupport

I will be giving you a brief overview of a service we run called OpenStream. This is an Application Programming Interface (API) to an EDINA Web Mapping Service which provides Ordnance Survey OpenData mapping products for use within the UK academic community. We’ve been running it for over a year now and over a 1000 people have registered for the service so I will just be saying a wee bit about it and how you might find it useful.

The reason for setting up OpenStream was to allow use of the open OS data without the overhead of downloading and managing data directly. You can also use that WMS directly in many GIS to provide the background mapping without the need to download data. It is free to use but we ask you to register so that we can give you an API key. It’s a very simple registration providing immediate access. You need to provide a address (or contact us as in some cases we are able to also provide access to others) and you will be given your own key.

The website includes lots of help and advice about using OpenStream, snippits of code, examples etc. It’s an OGC WMS which means it’s standards compliant. You can use the data for many purposes, we only require that you attribute the data appropriately.

To use the WMS in a GIS you need to supply a number of required parameters and you can optionally provide additional parameters. The OS OpenData products are included here: GB Overview, miniscale, 1:250,000 colour raster, VectorMap District Raster, OS Streetview. You can request either a single layer or a stack of all layers. These are available in a variety of projections.  There is a good range of scales here, except of course for the very large scale mapping.

When you use OpenStream in ArcGIS you can enter the WMS and then interact with the data through the ArcGIS interface. Similarly you can use it in QGIS, Google Earth, ArcGIS Online etc. You can also use the OpenStream WMS to embed OpenLayer dynamic mapping.

Have a look at the website and if you have any questions let us know.


Q1) Currently when you switch between zoom levels it can be a bit restrictive, perhaps your scale bandings could be a bit different?

A1) We can have a look at that, we have tried to accommodate different screen resolutions and zoom levels to ensure the best display quality but we can have a look at this.

GoGeo ( / Geodoc ( / ShareGeo( – Tony Mathys

GoGeo started out in 2001 as a feasibility study for a portal for geo metadata. It launched in 2003 and we’ve very much been trying to create a spatial data infrastructure for metadata.

GoGeo is an interface designed for UK academia for search and discovery of spatial metadata. The website includes a significant range of GIS resources – we have gathered around 3,724 items across multiple themes, and news items. We try to keep this up to date and it can be hugely valuable. We cover events, tools and specific softwares, books in this area, and we have a GoGeo blog to cover various geo presentations, developments, etc.

We also have a metadata section including AGMAP – the UK Academic Geospatial Metadata

We have resources on metadata – including a video on YouTube – and a learning module on metadata and field data. We have run 37 metadata workshops across 24 disciplines associated with GoGeo now. And we have a biannual newsletter that covers what happens in the world of geospatial metadata.

GoGeo also includes a search for spatial metadata that looks out across a huge range of databases, networks across the world in three major areas. The GoGeo Portal Catalogue, the space and INSPIRE materials. GoGeo is intended to be a one stop shop for this sort of data. The whole idea of this is to find, access and be able to use geospatial data.

GoDoc grew out of an awareness we had for the need for a Geospatial Metadata Editor Tool, something to facilitate data sharing, data management, data sharing. The process is as simplified as possible to make it easy for the user to create metadata for their work. You select the country your data is for, can select the geographic extent, and offer a number of fields (16 of which are mandatory) to describe the data, many of these fields are drop down boxes so they are particularly easy to complete. And the editor allows export of the metadata in INSPIRE, GEMMA, and a number of other standards compliant formats. When your record has been created it can be shared publicly or privately – you can create records shared with a peer group, an institution, a research group, etc. We can set up these private nodes because we are well aware that many people will only want to share data with some.

ShareGeo Open, which grew out of  a previous project called Grade, which allows the sharing datasets. We need to get more data sets contributed but even with a relatively small collection we see high usage here. You can search the datasets by a geographic bounding box and then when you identify the useful data you can download and use it. Similarly it is easy to share your own spatial datasets through ShareGeo. There is also an ArcGIS plugin to allow you to publish to the ShareGeo portal from within the GIS software.

Unlock ( – Jo Walsh

Unlock is another aspect of the academic geospatial infrastructure we have been building up over the years.

Unlock allows you to access gazeteer information and georeferencing tools all through RESTFUL APIs. You may know Unlock by it’s previous incarnation of GeoCrossWalk. The service is now all based on open source data and that is opening some really interesting possibility.

A team called Project Bamboo contacted us, commented on how much they liked Unlock Text based on our geo parser, which EDINA have been developing for years with the Language Technology Group at the University of Edinburgh, But they had some suggestions and criticism about the interface and API. We have made lots of developments to address those concerns to make Unlock more usable and useful.

The GAP/Pelagios work, focusing on research in the Digital Humanities around classics and archeology. Our text parser is very good but you do get some false positives, some issues, around 15% errors. Pelagios had heard about our work with Bamboo and asked to work with us – this sort of work with outside projects is helping us really improve that accuracy rate.

Similarly we have been working with a project on Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, the researcher behind this asked us how to be Unlocked. Much of what Unlock does you can do through other tools, or you can begin to do through just adding some geospatial field to your database. And then begin to compare that data to other data.

One of our recent projects, CHALICE, has been looking at the English Placenames Survey. We did a pilot project with post-OCR text, mining place names, dates, etc. And this work was enough to convince JISC to fund a full project, DEEP, to build a rich gazeteer of 1000 years of English Place Names. The text mining is part of the digitisation process here which allows OCR errors etc. to be corrected quickly.

Thematic Mapper ( – James Crone, EDINA

A lot of government and public sector bodies produce area-based datasets. When you are looking at this sort of data you want to be able to quickly view and interrogate that data. Thematic Mapper is a way to create Choropleth map online with any of these data sets.

The example I’ll use here is with data on fuel poverty – this data is available from the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The DECC provide regional data as an exel file. The application we have built required that you convert this spreadsheet to a CSV file (quite simple within excel vis Save As… menus).

The next step is to access Thematic Mapper, currently this is through the UK Borders website. You select the file you wish to upload, the application will validate that file to ensure no issues that could cause problems later on. When you are happy you have to specify the geography those variables are mapped for. Then you select which attributes you want to map. When you have done that you get a screen allowing you to classify data, to edit colour coding etc.

This is a simple way to take a CSV and create a Choropleth map. The user can also manually classify the map, to create a print version of the map, and you can download the shapefile. One issue when you normally download shapefile is how to replicate the symbology offline. So we use a standard XML based system that allows this. You can use the same symbology online and offline. Anyone can view that map and learn from the XML what that shapefile mean.

This is currently available for Boundary-Line data (used by unitary authorities, etc) but we hope to soon enable this for any of the UK Borders boundary data sets.

James Reid is now summing up – this session was about showing that we offer a wider variety of services than Digimap and we would encourage you to explore these and the wider academic spatial data infrastructure we’ve been building up.

Future Developments 2.5D – Andrew Seales

I am going to be talking today about 2.5D height mapping, which is a new feature planned for Digimap Roam. But what is it? Well it is the combination of a height map and a topographic map. It has a 3D look and feel but isn’t true 3D.

You would be able to use height data to create these views. The technology here is HTML5 Canvas, WebGL (for Chrome, Firefox, Safari) – this is a really nice choice but not available for Internet Explorer, and JavaScript 9 for Internet Explorer.

So the idea here is that you would find a particular area to visit, you would click a button at the bottom left and this would open up a 360 degree view with the ability to rotate, move, etc. that model – for instance viewing Edinburgh Castle say. And you can do this with geological data as well as rastor maps. And if we look at Ben Nevis we can see a lovely complex contour map of the area. Similarly the geology here helps you visualise and explore the area in a very engaging way.

Once you have selected your favourite view of that model you can click a link at the bottom of the window you can save the view as a normal image that you can use in documents, save on your desktop, etc.

These images work as very acceptable but relatively low resolution renders – this has been a choice between quality and speed. At the quality we will be providing we can render these views quickly on the web which makes it very easy to use and explore data.

So, that’s the idea of what we will be adding to Roam over th enext few months


Q1) What is the compatibility for OpenGL and Opera?
A1) I think Opera does support it. Chrome and Firefox allow this by default, in Safari you specifically have to switch that on.

Q2) Is this available to reuse with other datasets?

A2) It uses WCS for the height map and WMS for some of the other data. We probably wouldn’t allow arbitrary data sets to be loaded in but could allow some custom datasets.

User Feedback – Tom Armitage

Yes, I am going to talk about surveys. In winter 2011 we ran a user survey and had over 8000 responses. This has been hugely useful even with a few incomplete/spoiled returns. I will be talking about some of this data but you can have a much further look at the data on the EDINA website here:

We have taken the data and split it into the old Intute subject areas and this has helped us realise how huge the usage of our services is amongst students and researchers in architects. But the general theme here has been that usage of Digimap takes place across a wider range of subject ares though science and technology subjects are our biggest user group.

Survey respondents did feel that Digimap saved them time, that they would recommend it but they had mixed views on how easy to use the service is.

  • Issues reported included dissatisfaction with waiting for maps – we looked into this and have made some changes that would be more forgiving of smaller bandwidth by shrinking JavaScript and Compressing images.
  • Printing was also of concern, particularly around previews and legends. Our solution here is going to be through a new interface with a testing and development process similar to that outlined by Addy for the Data Download developments.
  • Complex Interfaces were also a concern – the problem being around MasterMap Download and Carto, we are solving this through the new data download, Roam+ and USeD.
  • Registration was seen to be complicated and slow, we are working to ensure that this is more streamlined, particularly for those who have already registered with one element of Digimap.

We have used other feedback from the survey to help us build up our priorities for the future around Print interface enhancements – new functionality, 2Up and formats; a wider variety of download formats – long term we will probably be looking at some sort of translation process at the point of the user requesting data; Mapping and GIS Support – we think the new home page helps here and we are building up a one stop resource area; New datasets  – we are continually looking to add to Digimap so do keep an eye out for datasets being added.

We can take a while to address all user concerns, this is because we serve an incredibly broad range of people from across academia. We have had 2.8 million logins and generated 50 million screen maps since launching in 2000. But there is more we can do here, we are listening to you, and you don’t have to wait for us to put out a survey – we are always happy to hear from you!

You can email us, tweet us, find us on Facebook, comment here on the blog, find us on YouTube – and let us know if you ever want to see anything specific featured in these spaces!


Q1) I need better usage stats to justify my subscriptions in my institution, can you provide these?
A1) If you request them we can provide you with statistics, only to departmental level. If you email us we can try to match your requirements. There is some information that we cannot share for data protection reasons but a reasonable amount and type of statistics we can provide, or plan to provide in the future.

One thing we did do as part of the survey process we did work out the value of the data downloaded in the last academic year for each individual institution. That comes with lots of caveats but we will be emailing your institution’s estimate to you, as site reps, soon so that you can get a sense of how well used Digimap is by your students and staff. Across all institutions we estimate that around £24.8 million worth of data has been downloaded in the 2010/11 academic year.

Closing Remarks – Conor Smyth, EDINA

I think the presentations today have really shown that this is a very dynamic area, things change really quickly. We have previously run these events every two years but perhaps in future we should be doing these annually as the pace of change has been increasing and how important and central user engagement is to that process. The USeD project in particular is a good example of how we’ve changed service delivery and enhancement. And Ben’s presentation focused on the importance of fun in education!

I must thank my colleagues in EDINA, particularly my colleagues from User Support for arranging today. I wanted to thank our keynote speaker Professor Dave Martin for a really interesting presentation on this rapidly changing geospatial world. And finally thank you to all of our speakers, exhibitors and to you, our participants today for coming along and sharing your experience and discussions.

And with that we are finishing up at the GeoForum. If you have any comments, questions, requests or corrections related to today’s blog post do leave your comments here. We hope you have found the liveblogging useful and would love to hear your feedback on any of the projects and developments discussed today. You can also expect to hear more about some of those forthcoming Digimap developments here on the blog over the coming months.

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LIFE-SHARE Digital Collaboration Colloquium (#lifeshare)

On 29th March 2011 Nicola, from the Addressing History team, gave a short “Pecha Kucha� presentation on AddressingHistory at the LIFE-SHARE Digital Collaboration Colloquium in Sheffield. LIFE-SHARE has been a project looking at digitisation and digital preservation of historical materials across three universities (Leeds, Sheffield and York) and the event focused on sharing experiences and ideas about the ways in which digital materials can be made available and shared with wider communities.

You can view Nicola’s presentation – which won the best Pecha Kucha prize! – on Slideshare or here:

Nicola had hoped to liveblog the day but for various technical reasons had to save her notes for later hence this very belated write up.

The day opened with a welcome from Jacky Hodgson, head of special collections at Sheffield. Then Bo Middleton, Lifeshare project director gave us our mission for the day: each of the six or so tables we were gathered around needed to formulate one good Round Table question.

Digitisation, collaboration and WHELF – Peter Keelan (WHELF / Cardiff University)

Peter is Head of Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) at Cardiff University.

One of Peter’s colleagues David Learmount from Bangor can’t make it along today but he has fed into this presentation.

WHELF is the Welsh Higher Education Libraries Forum and it combines Higher Education Chief Librarians, the National Library of Wales (NLW) Librarian, and a part-time development officer. The forum meets 4 times a year though there are various subgroups for projects. The group was originally founded in the 1980s and has existed in various forms since.

WHELF’s mission is to:

  • Influence policy makers – there have been lots of policy decision makers on the doorstop since devolution which makes a big difference.
  • Implement collaborative services.
  • Work with other sectors.
  • Raise profile of Higher Education (HE) libraries work.
  • Enable training, communication and support roles.

WHELF Projects (some current, some now complete):

  • Information Literacy Wales – this is a major project which the National Assembley’s Museums Archives and Libraries Wales (CyMAL) has substantially funded.
  • E-book deals – although this is about to end and unfortunately it has not been cost effective in terms of what libraries found they were getting from suppliers.
  • E-resource procurement – generally this is at the level of the National Library of Wales which purchases materials to be made available to all of Wales. The policy of NLW is that if you live in Wales (and/or have a Welsh address) then you are a member of their library. You just need to login to access e-resources as well as their own digitised resources.
  • Better student access – for instance WHELF has enabled a common borrowing policy in West Wales so that students at a series of smaller institutions have access to all local collections not just those of their own institution.
  • Welsh Repositories Network (work completed as part of the JISC repositories preservation programme).
  • E-thesis harveting service (NLW) – if that continues then e-thesis submission will be mandatory with the NLW harvesting the theses from the HE organisations’ own copy.

The WHELF Digitisation Strategy is about:

  • Creating Content.
  • Supporting knowledge and expertise.
  • Supporting the take-up for learning or research.
  • Raise the profile of the institution’s researchers .
  • All through collaboration, partnership and alliances. WHELF is a leader in the coperation and collaboration space and seen that way by the National Assembley and ministers.

WHELF/NLW – digitisation has been led by NLW as they are best resourced to do this. Materials have included:

  • Welsh 20th C journals – digitised 400k pages of welsh journals across all subject areas – in welsh and in english. Had to tackle major copyright issues (not all overcome). Some did object to materials being available on the web (some are blanked out) but a very useful resource.
  • Welsh 19th C Newspapers – heavily funded by Welsh Assembly Government with some funding from NLW
  • Welsh 18th-19th Ballads – Cardiff has been doing a smaller project with JISC funded – about 1500 pages of ballads digitised across NLW and Cardiff University. And the NLW learnt much from this process of working together with another organisation.

NLW aims to digitise the whole Wales print corpus. This will contribute to the “People’s Collectionâ€� and feeds into the National Assembly for Wales agenda. Despite this work coming under the authority of both the Culture and Heritage Minister and the Education Minister there is real agreement around the education, heritage and cultural tourism areas.


Digitisation in Wales

  • NLW – early starters, major player, own digital website, Culturenet Cymru (Arms Length body in Aberystwyth, People’s Collection.
  • NMW – own website, Peoples Collections, Partners eg. BBC (digitising art works across UK)
  • RCAHMW – own website, Peoples Collection
  • Welsh Archived – People Collection (piece meal)
  • Local Authorities – limited local initiatives
  • Media etc – various projects
  • NAFCW (CYMCAL) – initiated People Collections Wales

Peoples Collections Wales is history from the grassroots up rather than an academically driven initiative (though some academics involved).  A very interesting development. Bilingual interface and funded by Assembley. Staff of 8. Uses pretty cutting edge digitisation methods (including commercial software involvement) and community contributions (crowd sourcing – eg one academic collected memories of the first world war and digitised artefacts; anyone can add comments or metadata). The site is being pushed heavily because of it’s fit with the broader Education, Heritage and cultural tourism agendas. TV ads are running for this website with a very sophisticated advert highlighting different use cases (including mobile).

Not WHELF but input from NLW, RCAHMW, NMW, academics, communities, individuals etc. Two years start-up funding. Three more years guaranteed. Twitter Facebook and phone apps are/being added. Complex sophisticated – sustainable? (hard to know as can only see 3 years ahead)

Back to WHELF

  • NLW – plans to digitise
  • NMW – similar
  • County Archives – Peoples Collections
  • University Libraries – most of our institutions are not very large so what we do we do through WHELF to get things undertaken.

Digital work – e.g. Cardiff

  • E-theses into ORCA (mandatory)
  • e-prints (REF) into ORCA (supported by deposit tools for academic staff)
  • Academic schools have their own projects running
  • Digital Humanities research centres being discussed – Cardiff and Bristal are talking about this.
  • Recent Bristol Seminar
  • Digital Preservation task groups – just kicked off to look at long term futrues of digitised materials

Digital Work – SCOLAR (last decade or so)

  • In wales only Cardiff has done digitisation on a regular basis for so long.
  • 2002 project for School of Welsh
  • Commercial digital repository – brought of the shelf, predecessor of Digitool (now replaced and being migrated to it)
  • Maintained for 9 years, now trans to Digitool
  • 100k hits for one welsh project (Ann Griffiths Collection)
  • Five other digitised collections to be added and released shortly
  • Scholar – nicher teacher/research agenda
  • Recent profile investment TTP (Turn the Pages) – digitised about 15 works to promote the rare books collections – these are accessed via large touchscreens for venue and for travelling with.

So looking at stats for Ann Griffiths hits – a big spike thanks to TV coverage of her work. About 100k hits average for this collection and we expect similar for other projects.

SCOLAR – Cymru

  • WHELF Special Collections Group (Peter sits on David Learmount chairs)
  • Charged with progressing digital agenda
  • Only Cardiff (SCOLAR) doing systemativ digitisation presently
  • Bangor, Swansea, etc, one-off works
  • Examining Digitool for Welsh HE (first need to launch in Cardiff – over next 6 months or so)
  • Links to WHELF’s digital strategy.

Benefits of Digitool Cymru

  • sharing expertise (abased work already done)
  • creating content
  • partners raise critical mass of material
  • partners lower overall costs
  • raised profile. So better take-up for teaching/research
  • meets untouched niche academic needs – reaches the parts other beers… non welsh related digitisation: Greek manuscripts, Pharmacology history, etc.) – doesn’t fit remit for assembley or NLW but does fit into HE remit

Issues for the future

  • managerment of shared resource
  • funding of share resource
  • input mechanisms for data uploading
  • longer term sustainability of shared resource
  • Major mergs within Univeristy of Wales presently (being promoted by Welsh Education Minister), so libraries too. Idea is to make bigger more impactful universities and that will impact libraries. Two have recently merged and libraries and computing merged so that libraries now run by IT admin manager which has an impact too.
  • Digital Humanities link to research support
  • to avoid being left behind what others are doing.


Q1) Is WHELF a legal entity? What happens re: funding and lead institutions?

A1) Not a legal entity. We have Memorandums of Understanding for projects and it hasn’t been a problem at all to date.

Q2) Standardisation of metadata or ingest across instititions?

A2) When Cardiff started digitising we followed what NLW were doing. We’ve stuck with basic Dublin Core but NLW have forged ahead so we need to look again and make sure we stay in synch

Q3) Digitool – does it provide search for resources? Can it link to others’ catalogues?

A3) Not at that stage yet but we hope it ties up in that way. All but one institution in Wales uses the same Library catalogue suipplier so we don’t experience problems with cross searching etc.

Q4) How would Digitool Cymru be cross searchable with NLW and Peoples Collections?

A4) It wouldn’t. It would fill that niche. But it would feed into NLW’s collection of print copies (by passing on copies) and we would also feed in a small group of materials to the People’s Collection.

Q5) Must be downsides too?

A5) From a Cardiff perspective, other institutions look from other locations down into Cardiff. There is a phrase that goes around Anywhere But Cardiff – people want to ensure they have a stake too. National Assembly, NLW and CYMAL is all in Cardiff. There is a tension but not a major problem.

Virtual and Actual: collaborative digitisation at the Victoria and Albert Museum – Doug Dodds (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Doug begins: “This is going to be quite a visual presentation but do ask technical questions if you like!”

The V&A is the UK’s national museum of art and design with a collection of around 2.7 million objects. There are 4 main sites:

  • Victoria & Albert Museum at South Kensington
  • Museum of Childhood at Nethnal Green
  • Blythe House, Olympia
  • V&A Website

Curatorial Departments include Asia, fashion etc.

The Word and Image Department, where Doug is based, is very wide-ranging. The National Art Library is the biggest specialist collection of art books in the country (perhaps except British Library), Printings, Drawings, Paintings and Photographs Collections (¾ million items), Archive of Art and Design, records of the museum itself and three reading rooms.

Cue: National Art library, Prints and Drawings Study Room (was renovated when British architecture drawings joined the collection), 20th Century gallery is actually in one of the library spaces. Artists books in the National Art Library – these are described in AACR2 and MARC21 even though they include globes, impenetrable books etc.

V&A has three documentation systems as well as a a Digital Asset Management System – provided by the same supplier as LMS. Currently 2 different systems but will be one – VADAR+ [some information on VADAR can be found in this Ithaca report on image licensing at the V&A]

The V&A Website is about to change to a very different look and feel. The current one is more information management, the new one [now in place] is more magazine-like.

One of our big challenges is how to combine different collections into one place – the William Morris Collection say may be archives, books and collections materials.

Few years ago involved in Beyond the Silos of the LAMS: OCLC Report in 2008. Identified many areas that should be working together and talking to each other. Brought about a huge difference in the collections and how they are displayed to the project with cataloguing and digitisation work to follow.

A few years ago we were quite conservative. 20-30k records. Very contained, we only published when up to a perfect standard,. A number of people felt this no longer worked in the modern world and that we should make collections and images as available as possible. We want people to use our images in classes, in Wikipedia articles, whatever. We did it with an eye on the rights side but we went out a lot further than many others had at that time. So we put the 1.2 million records up a year or two ago. Suddenly lots of records – many have little there but they are available. As you’d expect you can search the collection in various ways. A search for Sheffield found lots of Sheffield silver work and you get back images as well as records – ordered by quality so those with images and detail appear first. When you click on the record you get more info, can download a fairly good image to download – this is where we really went out on a limb. You can use them in Academic publications (as long as less than 4.5k copies). There is small print but do look.

In addition we published the API for the way the catalogue searches our server. Also works on the iPhone really well.

We also deliberately made the images available to Google so they appeared in Google Image Search. Also experimenting with other ways to look at the data – FABRIC Project Prototype – ways to search with colour, texture or shape based on image content. Highly experimental.

The Factory Project.

  • Started Dec 2007
  • Systematic digitisation and documentation of prints, drawings, paintinsg and photographs
  • Using High resolution digital camera and large scale scanner
  • Key in any data that enhances records etc.

Production lines

  • audit
  • conservation and storage
  • photography
  • cataloguing

Photography and cataloguing are separate but get tied together –you  don’t have to wait on the one to start the other.

We have been transferring earlier published catalogue entries and updating these as needed. The older PDP Catalogue entries are being handled by four or 5 staff who key in these card entries.

This work lets us exploit our infrastructure and content. The Public Catalogue Foundation create printed catalogues and are collecting information on all of the oil paintings in public collections. We provided basic images and descriptions. Records could then be further enhanced. There is also a Your Paintings (PCF/BBC) project across the UK to enhance records, and to search for unrecorded oil paintings.

There has also been a National Inventory Research Project with project partners including the University of Glasgow. This is new fundamental research on top of existing records – some outcomes included good quality digital records and even re-attribution of the artist behind a painting.

British Printed Images to 1700 (British Museum and UCL) project is also worth noting. The V&A and British Museum provided images, for example early prints from Richard Barlow – our books included the original design for the printed image –so that you can compare the print and the original drawing.

We also work on various printed catalogues etc. based on online catalogues. All records online are updated to reflect these printed collections.

We do focus on collections of broad interest – so Recording Britain Watercolours looks at the UK after the second world war and landscapes at risk of changing.

We are currently working on National Photographic Record. Sir Benjamin Stone operated at the beginning of the 20th century took pictures, particularly of York or nearby, and these are being collected together. Anyone is welcome to use these images although a link back is appreciated of course.

Computer Art and Technocultures was a major AHRC-funded history of digital design, art, graphic design. People think this is a new field. Started about 50 years ago and we had accumulated early exampkes of this work. So we have a collection of computer art. The AHRC funding with Birkbeck we were able to go through systematically improving records, enhancing data nad creating potted history of the medium. Most of these images are now included in Search the Collections again. We didn’t know much about some of our objects, we didn’t know the artist in some cases. We put them online nad asked people to contact them with more info and we’ve had artists etc. contact us since and very pleased to provide more information.

Hope to build on this project in the future in a similar way.

Factory Achievements to date

  • 2010/11 to date – items audited – 6146 – total to date – 46,102 etc. Have atarfets for catalogue records and images – we are exceeding our targets at the moment.
  • See number of records on “Search the collections” site some years ago. Huge difference between 2009 to 2011. Huge policy change behind that of course but a huge jump.
  • Website:
  • Collections Pages:


Q1) What kind of resources are involved in this work?

A1) Started small and built up. Started with volunteers, with 1 cataloguer a part time photographer. Now 6 catalogueers and 2 full time photographers. Tend to get funding for specific sets of materials

Q2) Is there a stand alone digitisation strategy? Or does this work form part of a larger group?

A2) We have a digitisation plan but aso sit on a group which coordinates plans across the museum – led by curational teams.

Q3) Any ideas about what users are doing with collections online/ What users are interested in and what they do?

A3) We get lots of stats off the website generally. Haven’t done a lot in detail with that yet. But we do try and track the images and see where they end up, look for links back to the V&A. They pop up in all sorts of good places actually.

Q4) How do you trace the images?

A4) One of the things you do is site searching for links. Without that it’s harder.

Q5) How do you determine what to digitise with that quantity of items?

A5) I am keen on just doing it systematically – doing every box in a room. But in the real world you have to do particular collections, particular sets of materials etc. So that Recording Britain image I showed for instance – clearly we do items where there is a known interest.

Update from Alastair Dunning, JISC on Digitisation funding etc.

This is a brief alert to a call for large projects. Also for CC and OER type projects. It will be 250k-750k, for around 18 months. Eligibility will definitely include England, not sure where else. The call will come out in mid april, submissions mid June. Get planning now!

There will be a town meetings coming, keep an eye on the JISC-DIGITAL-CONTENT mailing list for more information.

Pecha Kucha Sessions

These sessions are very tricky to summarise as they are fast, often a bit randomly structured, and usually very visual! Hopefully the notes we grabbed will give you a sense of the projects who took part. 

University of Southampton Knitting Collection

We have knitting collections – cue toy rabbits from collections. Collaborating with lots of different groups, lots of different people. Patterns and knitted jugs. 19th Centurey knitting – see lace collar knitted from 19th century manuals. We have lots of collections on wartime manuals and knitting patterns. We hope to work with RunCoCO on community project – maybe conference in 2014 on World War Knitting.

Been working with VADS on a project with Look Here! We are not at the stage of digitising lots of materials. Cue the famous poodle. The poodle has been to the Woman’s Hour studio. Even in her organisation there is a split about should you take knitting seriously or not. Bit of a revival of knitting, a now popular activity which is still going so the digitisation project is trying to help get more knitting resources out to those groups, not just academic conferences.

Now looking at thematic patterns – sports patterns for the Olympics. Can be very hard to find information on the patterns – designers etc. Will apply to Jaeger for permission to digitise as we have a lot of their patterns.

Crowdsourcing ideas – people can put in own pictures and patterns. But needs to be focused – I don’t want to take over from Ravelry, just want to have focused projects.

Hope to digitise images as well as collections

Have huge collection of knits from patterns – not historical items – that we show and handle with students etc.

Cue awesome Mary Quant pattern – when we apply for copyright on this there are multiple people to check with. Had lots of donations recently and we now have to have an area for collections that have been donated from 70s, 80s, 90s. We collect every year. So we are approaching having a national knitting collection.

Cue some gloves knitted in Shetland added to the hand knitted collection

Men & Cardigans book based on collection. Cue image of community of knitters.

Playbills – Helen Westmancoat etc.

Project began 2007 when we gained funding for a digital repository. Have Theatre Royal archive so saw this as a means to gather playbills from across the city – some painted on walls, some in private hands.

Got scanning done on basic scanner at city of york, raised publicity and it was hoped that would lead to the community contributing more materials. See: Yorkshire Playbills website.

ArchiveWave is repository software that can be searched and viewed – you can access the description and metadata as well as image. Fascinating variety of information on these playbills – and for instance first lion king production. Great for family history researchers because of the names and the costs also.

During wartime you can see that they playbill printed both sides to save paper. Also cost and types of play varies. 20th Century part of the collection contains much less information – by now you have programmed and so on so detail not needed.

Lydia Stafford is a student under York St John’s “Students as Researchersâ€� project. Currently scanning playbills and adding metadata about names on this work. Her aim is to expand the archive by adding to the collection, particularly for genealogists. Also assessing the archive as research and education resource.

Future direction for project partners – applying for funding, possibly Heritage Lottery funding.

Green Eyed Monster – play of 1830 – playbill on screen – includes printers as well as show details.

AIMS: Born-Digital Archives

The project wants to create a model/framework for other digital archives to use and follow. Partners are Uni of Virginia, Uni of Hull, Stanford and Yale. Traditional manuscripts – message and medium are inseparable. This is very different to born digital materials – both are separate and threatened with obsolescence. And in this case the copy we have are duplicates and the original are usually in use. We all use FedoraCommons which is one of the reasons we are working together. Software is a big issue – versions bring incompatibilities. Out of 65 computers in our building only 2 read a floppy disc. We don’t want to become a hardware museum.

Challenges – how do we preserve, convert, catalogue and manage born digital materials.

Depositors – working with Stephen Gallagher, novelist and screenwriter. His work is only on paper when printed for actors. We have to know about his hardware and software. We also have hybrid collections – we print some and provide access to digital version in parallel for some formats.

Social Media – huge amounts of data created and we can’t/don’t collect it all.

Working with 3 transatlantic partners has been a learning process. Some problems – 3 American partners have good conversation when Hull is in the evening, hard to join in. Have a secure sharing space (UvaCOLLAB) but we found Google Docs was more effective as you can edit documents and chat in parallel.

Conversations have been critical – we have a Skype call once a week. Huge difference in knowing each other and in progressing the project.

Conclusions – libraies are changing and we must act now to deal with that.

See the AIMS website for more details.

Digitisation in the Public Eye – John Rylands University Library (Manchester), CHICC Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care.

We have medium format digital cameras and cradles, portable kit (so you can do all the taxidermy you like). Worked with Chethams library, Brotherton library, Manchester Metropolitan, Manchester museum, etc.

Digitised Chaucers Canterbury Tales at Petworth House, Sussex. Set up (and publicly viewable) to take images of the book then processed on laptop, a second laptop showed a presentation on the project for people to come in and see.

Had Digitisation Day at John Rylands Library – used a facsimile of a German manuscript that demonstrated techniques. Had lots of visitors with questions, advice for caring for items, and promote th service to the public.

Tatton Park, Knutsford – similar idea to Petworth. Historic house that people tour. At Tatton they took out furniture and boarded up so that they had lots of space to work. Digitised pages and then put them on an iPad so people could instantly look.

Got press coverage from the BBC, went out on the internet on blogs etc. When the Chaucer materials went online it crashed the system – from a few hundreds to 27k. A lot of the hits came from a US website.

Good idea. Some costs involved – slower digitisation process and needs more staff, and the objects are somewhat less secure/safe but we monitored the onjects carefully. It really opened up awareness of the materials at the venues – many of the houses are known but their libraries perhaps not. Introduced new technology to these events etc.

When we started doing the days people were wondering why this would be interesting but people do like to see behind the scenes. The items are usually locked away. Projectors etc. really help raise awareness of the objects. Gave lots of advice on care for books, negatives etc. Lots of interest from the BBC – were on the radio one of the mornings we were there, was on local BBC news at night. Brought more people out. Used Twitter a lot and our blog had loads of interest. Building audiences for the future through these channels.

What’s interesting is that the audio visual technology they brought into venues aren’t already in use – things like the iPad etc. were really engaging especially with younger visitors and perhaps give ideas for future use of that tech in those spaces in the future.

What’s next – want to work digital days to social media. Talking about making facsimiles for exhibits in some of the spaces.


Q1) The business modelling aspect you mentioned – where did you get to?

A1) An intern from Manchester Business School came and did work and surveys with partners – about process of digitisation and having the library going out and about as a business. More information on this will be one of our outputs on the website.

Library seeks partner, must have GSOH… White Rose Libraries and the future of digitisation – Beccy Shipman, Ned Potter and Matthew Herring (LIFE-SHARE Project)

This presentation is based on material covered in this blog post by the LIFE-SHARE team.

We wanted to look at examples, best practice, frameworks, models.  And decided on the Collaboration Continuum from the Beyond the Silos of the LAMS report [PDF]:

The Collaboration Continuum. Quoted here from Collaboration Contexts: Framing Local, Group and Global Solutions by Gunter Waibel.

So the key thing was to make this part of the normal process of working, that there is a great White Rose way to do digitisation etc.

We are: Beccy, Project Manager, and Matthew and Ned, both Project Officers.

Relationships – your eyes meet across a SCONUL Meeting!  Get to know each other very informally. We’ll go through the continuum and what we’ve done and learnt.

Lifeshare project came into context of the White Rose consortium which already existed and was already a relationship and connection between libraries. There are already shared services – White Rose Research Online and eTheses. Already some joint projects, a project on collaborative collection management which took place with the BL.

You can email, which is great. Telephone is immediate but not always perfect. If you just go in for a one-off workshop on collaboration you can say what you like. If you have another meeting booked you actually have to have realistic aims and come through on them.

To get to the next stage you need

Co-operation – dating, no strings attached. Informal working on an activity with tangible benefits. Can be a bit unrequited or one-sided. Quite informal but you help each other out and have sharing going on. You have already been meeting regularly by this point – there is an established exchange of experience. For LIFE-SHARE we had regular meetings with White Rose and also with JISC. We also had regular exchange of experience events – copyright, repositories, digital course readings, digitising archive materials from Special Collections. And we have case studies with various organisations at this level. We have also had training arranged on a consortial basis at this level – allowing us to bring trainers up to Yorkshire with only one set of costs for the whole consortium. Creating open environment and communication will flourish. Earlier we heard that Silos of LAMS involvement had instigated better internal cooperation even though that was an external event, we found that too with these informal settings.

Co-ordination – time to book the removals (what does a lesbian do on the second date…). Move beyond the ad hoc stage, starting to share calendars, committees, slightly more formal – softer infrastructure is there at this stage. So we investigated in digitisation suites – we invested in particular areas in particular libraries. At Sheffield did audio visual, York did large things like maps. Coordinating these purchases means 3 sets of kit cover all types of materials but that relies on trust between partners. Also digital course readings led to working group set up. Last thing is bid writing. The lifeshare bid itself was at this level. Out of this project came a bid After-Life – not successful but set up a precedent for future bids. This is formalisation of the collaborative process. Needs investment in staff time, not just about grabbng piecemeal time at this level. Senior Management approval needed at this level. You need the tools that support shared working – Google docs, wikis etc. all come in here.

Collaboration – getting hitched. Hard to find an appropriate picture for 3 partners though! Working in a shared creation process – something different, wasn’t there before, couldn’t be done alone. A real jump from the previous stages which is why so few groups get to this stage of the contiuum. Real need for new ways to working and how you do your work together. We were asked by White Rose directors at how the libraries can work together at these levels. Were asked about sharing digitisation training – too small an area really. We suggested instead a shared training service – they had perhaps already been thinking about this. Also thinking about a shared digitisation service – beyond each institution having particular expertise and into a state of one work flow and set of processes. Very difficult thing to achieve. If you look at LIFE_Share website you’ll see some models of how this can be achieved. One of the things in that original paper is that hardly anyone gets this far as it’s hard to get there. It’s easy to be trustworthy, but it’s harder to trust your partners to be completely open about your resources. A key part of this stage is to be better about what you are doing. Something innnovative, something that wouldn’t be

Convergence – much closer to collaboration than collaboration was to the stage before. It’s having a baby or buying a puppy – you aren’t a partner you are part of the family now. Collaboration is fully embedded and you are focused on the task in hand. And part of infrastructure of how you deliver those services. Share digitisation service and a possible model for the future of White Rose Libraries, along with some blue sky thinking is where we are heading for. You have to do all the previous stages to get there – you don’t rush into a baby or a puppy! You are so cooperative that you don’t even know what you are doing

It’s amazing what you can achieve if no-ones getting the credit for anything – Gary Speed, Welsh Football coach

Our presenters not that this is a good quote though perhaps a bad example given the state of Welsh foodball! And then they finish with a LIFE-SHARE inspired singles ad!

See also:


Q1) What is beyond convergence?

A1) Well that original diagram has investment, risk, benefit on it. Perhaps after convergence risk converges and benefits still rise. I think trust should be on that diagram too.

Q2) Anything on size and nature of institutions involved? Does being bigger or smaller make a difference?

A2) Sometimes there is an advantage to being different, sometimes a disadvantage. We are all research libraries and we had this long established consortial bond. Each library would like to think their materials are unique. We have core elements that are the same though. We are academic organisations, we have students. I don’t think of us being unbalanced but maybe I have rose-tinted spectacles. We do always want to benefit our own institutions in the end.

Q3) picking up on trust. When Peter talked about Wales he talked about sustainability. Some areas of White Rose and Life-Share – if you have converged digitisation service and it falls apart you could rebuild. But some other activities, particularly digital preservation, you can’t start again from scratch if you need to. How do you cope with change?

A3 – Bo) We have a memorandum of understanding and we have a ratification every year for our repository service – that process itemises what would be done if something does go wrong. Seen as 3 way ownership of the data, and we have an agreeement fo what happens if any of us wants out.

A3 – Another member of the project team) Digital preservation is too big a task not to cooperate. If we don’t do it together it just won’t get done.

One of our external partners in Life-Share was the British Library. As an outcome of that we had some funding for another project – there is a flyer for the Aqua project in your bag for that!

Q4) Is there a geographical limit to the effectiveness of a consortium? Is being physically close important?

A4 – Beccy) It is relatively easy for us to all meet up – 45 min train journey only – so that closeness was really imporant for us.

A4 – Bo) The relationship metaphor is imporatnt. You need something in common. We are near each other but others may have a particular subject interest or similar that makes the difference.

Q5) How important in having the right people? What is the risk associated there as well?

A5) Library directors have changed through this project so there is momentum that can be kept up. But I know that the White Rose directors looked at the contiuum they asked us to look at the top end of the continuum. They are brought in already. Not the case already. We need to think about how we move people from that early contact and informal sharing stage to those later stages. We have directors on board but we need to ensure everyone on th eground gets it too – that’s part of the White Rose Staff Development.

Q6) Embedded in projects, now want it embedded in every thought. The next stage is moving from where we are to where collaboration is a normal natural process

A6 – Bo) we should do a collaboration continuum roadshow at each of the three universities.

Roundtable discussion

Alastair Dunning of JISC chaired these discussions with input from the panel:

  • Doug Dodds (Victoria & Albert Museum)
  • Jodie Double (University of Leeds)
  • Martin Lewis (University of Sheffield)
  • Peter Keelan  (WHELF / Cardiff University)

Introductions all around.

Question: How does the idea of having collaborative work like this work with individual priorities and distinctive in our proposal. How do you retain identity and priorities when working in collaboration?

Peter: Not thrown up any serious issues of competition / conflict for us. We do work well together and in our context most projects or topics only relate to one institution strongly. Individual priorities don’t go. Collaboration is just part of that.

Martin: Distinctiveness isn’t challenged by cooperation. If priorities were conflicting than it might be more of an issue

Doug: We don’t generally find ourselves competing with people, we usually are looking for complimentary skills of experiences.

Alastair: Much of the White Rose stuff is behind the scenes so may not alter public perceptions anyway.

Question: In terms of feasbility studies for digitisation projects or products – how can you tell there is interest or a market for that at the outset?

Jodie: Don’t build then assume. Best to start with where interest is already being triggered. But you can start to do some items and your community comes to you. When looking at millions and millions of objects you need to digitise stuff that’s in need by the community, or a research unit. Etc.

Doug: we conciously create images etc. knowing that people using online collections may know nothing about the wider context, they may never visit the building, they have a very different relationship.

Peter: we canvas opinion ahead of all digitisation at Cardiff – every time we do that we get half a dozen ideas related directly to core research or teaching aims. One example – a project we digitised 10 years ago – we had a call from the BBC asking if they could use a higher res version for Countryfile so we re-digitised, charged £10, and it’s on their website with a link back.

Martin: we all want to see return on investment in research, learning or teaching. We need to have evidance that digitisation supports one of those areas.

Doug: difficult though as some of the aduiences using archival content may be small but the material may be obscure and unique, you might be the only place to find that. I am keen to focus on what is unique to us, that no-one else will be able to digitise.

Alastair – in terms of JISC we have funded the Strategic Content Alliance and we publish case studies on how to do audience analysis – we have one from the BBC around iPlayer for example. Another JISC example is the Scott Polar Ice Caps images – 20k images and in their bid they listed all the groups within the university that would be interested – anthropology, geography, fashion, etc. Made specific relationship between content and courses it would be embedded in. That way of thinking about breaking down the audience is really important. Need to identify really fine grained communities.

Question: How do you make sure with staff in your institution that collaboration isn’t seen as doing things on the cheap or giving them more to do?

Martin: well there is a sense that it is a benefit of collaboration that we do cut costs. If you look at ePrints online for White Rose there is no question that we create one better resource than could have been provided as multiple separate resources. Sometimes it’s about doing stuff cheaper, sometimes about doing things better together online.

Jodie: When things do work well things want to keep growing. Can’t do business as usual, you have to make changes.

Peter: From a special collections point of view if you are being successful and it is relatively inexpensive but you may be streched for staff you have your case for adding more resources using that as evidance for need and benefit of doing things.

Alastair: Must be difficult to demonstrate benefits at outset – can be recognised later on though.

Doug: V&A have a commercial arm and they were very concerned about us losing that income stream. All the profits from that service pretty much just covered cost of checking emails, giving permissions etc. Beurocracy was expensive. But potentially you can still get income stream – commercial use is a focus but non commercial use is self-managing now. You have to be aware of consequences further along the food chain.

Jodie: If institutions really open to collaboration. People at bottom level can all work through common sense tasks togather. And then apologise later if needed.

Martin – Hate to criticise the collaboration continuum but it’s non linear. At a state near collaboration/convergence level you need to business plan. Mostly we have been at the informal stage. Needing more staff to take up a level then you need to have good business case. It is a difficult thing and it varies.

Comment on commercial aspect: The National Fairground Archive has generated great income stream.

Question: We envied your existing relationship. We wondered how you can create an entirely new relationship and quickly have a strong collaborative bid?

Jodie: It’s not one easy solution. A good conversation might lead to a working partnership a few eyears later.

Doug: Don’t happen overnight. Have lots of partnerships in the UK and abroad. V&A staff spend a lot of time talking to institutions, some of us have academic links to institutions around the country, we already know some of the people we’d want to work with.

Peter: We’ve been building relationships with Bristol later around a centre fir Digital Humanities research centre. On the wider issue one of the staff at NLS are reassessing all alliances and links to see which ones are of real benefit in the short and the long term in the current financial climate. You may need long term relationships and some shot gun weddings.

Martin: There are risks in Multiple Collaboration Syndrome – sharing interests with various overlapping groups and consortiums. Choosing collaborations are relaly important and you have to stay focused.

Alastair: For that specific question on JISC digitisation monies. You will know researchers, institutions etc. yOu will have connections in place even if they aren’t formal relationships. You can also ask out about possible collaboration and people coming forward.

Jodie: have to advertise in the right place to – would be great to have a collection audit to draw upon when funding comes around.

Alastair: JISC funded a project called DiSCmap that aimed to list the UK’s special collections.

Question: We’ve learned about what to learn form positive experiences, how do we learn from mistakes – are there ptfalls to avoid?

Alastair: Having too many partners can be a problem – what do you want out of the partnership and what do they want? You need to be clear what you want throughout.

Jodie: I’ve been in partnerships where someone leaves at the last minute. Or where one partner does most of the work, but the other holds most of the funds. Particularly tricky when budgets get tight.

Peter: You also have to make sure all partners deliver. This comes down to trust and how you manage that relationship.

Questioner: Having the person you know you can work with at an institution can be the distinction between a functioning partnership and one that that doesn’t. Even one enthusiastic person can make all the difference even if not senior staff.

Bo: Problems in Lifeshare project came down to the fact that senior staff can be brought in but not every member of staff can be assured to be convinced of the value to them.

Comment: Leeds and York teams are small, Sheffield is very large. Her staff at Sheffield are concerned that if cuts come they would be at risk – sort of issues on the ground that undermine trust in partner working. It is concerning especially in the current climate.

Comment: One of the concerns is that defining what you are trying to do. Your ideas tend to evolve as the project develops and goes along. Very easy to become derailed – one of our case studies moved from a practical project to a much more theoretical project. That definition can be a difficult point. If you have a good relationship you can manage that process much more easily. Can go back to first principles and look at interests in the institution.

Question: With more and more partnership working will there be a standard for digital imaging?

Jodie: There already are for some communities but would hope these would be more unified and international.

Peter: Probably not quite. It’s horses for courses – some students want thumbnails in a powerpoint file, others want a major high res Tiff (e.g. BBC).

Doug: We create the biggest quality file we can do at the time – then you can make available other useful lower res formats. But standards of tech go up so you are always trying to avoid redoing the digitisation as much as possible

Alastair: Some digital projects combining content still have their own institutional needs. Can get high level agreements but maybe not enforce the format.

Jodie: Becomes about guidelines then – especially for community generated content.

Alastair: Things will evolve.

Peter: Maybe we will have to redo all 2D in 3D in the future

Doug: We aren’t the first generation to do this stuff of course, we just change specs.

Martin: The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. For people dipping toe in the problem of standards is that they can become a reason for not doing things.

Alastair: Important to support and convert data and metadata – everone can use their own stuff but you can find your way through all of it (like Google).

Question: Does this sort of working benefit smaller libraries and institutions, can you bring them into partnerships? How do you work with smaller partners like museums?

Peter: think small institutions in Wales are so keen on WHELF as smaller institutions benefit more greatly, though larger institutions are seen as leading for taking part in these projects.

Martin: could say that it’s not our problem. We concentrate on our own collections, perhaps the last thing we need worry about is the small institutions. But we as a partnership become a service provider so perhaps the thought is whether you become a commercial service. But in absence of national funding for digitisation perhaps expert centres around the country start providing service to other small institutions for cost or near cost perhaps

Doug: we do small scale digitisation for partners where we want access to content – for instance for items that build the history of the V&A itself. Don’t do it on a commercial basis. We have a good relationship with RIBA. We have some very specialist equipment housed with us and they can use it.

Jodie: can see that as we build business cases – internal digitisation can be done but external digitisation may also be useful. Maybe bartering of expertise or similar could be traded for use of equipment / digitisation skills.

Question: Don’t suppose there is anything new in collaboration but what is unique or new about collaboration around digital activities?

Alastair: New challenges but also new technologies for communications. Maybe some new twists though.

Peter:  Need capacity to start. Smaller institutions aren’t in the game, you have to have capacity to be in the game.

Alastair: Other aspect is that you can have global collaboration – and if universities are looking at securing or increasing international students that is more important.

Question: How do we evaluate and measure relationships and present that? And how do we provide ourselves with a business case for more digitisation? How do we form that?

Peter: WHELF – where would we be without collaboration – easy to measure by where we would be without collaboration – a much worse situation.

Martin: Difficult area. Contingent valuation approach can be a useful way to measure what we’d want. I’d pay 50k for a repository say, it’s worth having there and we get a better service that way. That sort of approach is how we deal with other partners like the NHS. But we need some sort of value to compare scenarios.

Alastair: How about the Manchester example?

Comment from Manchester staff: We haven’t seen the business case yet but different staffing proposals (and we already have the kit).

Alastair: JISC’s point of view is about thinking about digitisation and how it fits within your organisation. How does it fit in the workflow of teaching and research staff. How does it benefit the university? Metrics for that are increadibly difficult.

Martin: To disagree with myself – actually it’s all very well to measure stuff but sometimes benefits are very long term indeed. The Fairground Archive – when we started to digitise that it wasn’t automatically clear what the benefits would be but 10 or 15 years later it’s proved to be a pretty crucial resource.

Comment from Manchester staff: It has evolved. Business models have changed over time. Building a structure that will benefit broadly.

At this point Brian Clifford, University of Leeds took over as chair since Alastair Dunning had to leave early.

Question – The primary source being digitsed, secondary research being carried out on that data. Then talk about curating digital content – a lot of social media is ephemeral how do we collect and tie that to the original sources.

Peter: People’s collection wise I don’t know. They are doing something which is part of current agenda, funding is there, demand is there, issue is known but not a known solution

Doug: We are using crowdsourcing at the moment, some more public than others. One was to do with cropping images. Someone in our online museum section suggested crowdsourcing cropping of images – flagged as crowdsourced and not overwritten. Similarly people could add notes and thoughts to our own objects. Don’t want that data to be cluttered – so you have to manage that appropriately.

Jodie: Have a few collections we want to crowdsource so looking out at other examples.

Comment from Manchester staff: Thinking about using flickr for some crowdsourcing.

Comment: Looking at Transcribe Bentham there are 8 regulars out of hundreds of users. Realigning expectations of crowdsourcing. Not just output but community built.

Comment: Other useful examples here include the work the National Library of Australia have done with digitised newspapers and the work the National Library of Scotland have done via Flickr.

Comment from Manchester Staff: Who will moderate this material?

Comment from representative from the National Fairground Archives: We’ve done some mocked up surveys on fairground bulletin boards on habits. Less care taken over digital images. When 35mm was in use you are careful anout taking pics, but now people will throw tons of materials online but how do you curate that material? Need to look at it now. We don’t really have “quality” listed in our collections policy – how do we add or deal with that? I follow threads on discussion forums. If this was unleashed on our online space there would be lots of moderation. Need to differentiate between good quality information and everything else. We have diaries from the 1950s but in the future that inormation will be on blogs and messageboards.

Comment: Would’t disagree but strategically we have to engage with this material. What struck me about Peter’s presentation on WHELF what struck me was that the govnerment are happy to put money in that sense of Welshness. Strategically as curators of information we have to engage with identity as that matters to people. Many of us are from HE perspective. Other part of that is that future material for future history is arriving. How we do it – no clear answers.

Comment: Napier University have been using mystery objects of the day for unknown items in their printing archive. The Library of Congress is preserving, there is commercial tracking of comments for product mentions and that will also surface useful techniques.

Peter: That’s leaving it to commerce!

Comment: No the LC work is important, the NLS Flickr work reuses user data. Twapperkeeper has been locked out of accessing and archiving tweets for download (as it once did). Commercial monitoring can help us find the right methodology here.

And with that last set of discussions the day ended with Martin’s thank you’s to all speakers and panellists. He also wanted to thank the LIFE-SHARE team as they are now at the end of the project. The  Legacy of materials and good practice advice is all on the website: