+ Looking back on 2016…

January is always a time for reflection and at the READ project, we have a lot to reflect on!  We’ve been busy over the past 12 months in our mission to use new technologies to make historical documents more accessible.  We wanted to give a quick recap of our major milestones and our future plans.

Research

Our research teams have been exploring the fields of Handwritten Text Recognition, Layout Analysis, Document Understanding, Writer Identification, Language Models and more.  Some of these technologies are already available in our Transkribus tool and more will be integrated over the coming months.  Towards the end of 2016 we also started to prepare for the launch of our ScriptNet platform, a new collection of research competitions where computer scientists will experiment with huge amounts of data to improve their technologies.

Discussion topics at one of the READ project meetings [Image by Louise Seaward]
Discussion topics at one of the READ project meetings [Image by Louise Seaward]
Services

The Transkribus tool has been maintained and improved across the year.  Over 2000 new users registered for a Transkribus account in 2016 and they are now able to access new features such as full-text search and a table editing tool.  We have also developed How to Guides to help people navigate the platform.

We are working with partners inside and outside of the project to develop bespoke Handwritten Text Recognition models capable of transcribing and searching specific collections of documents.  Our most successful models so far relate to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German and English handwriting.  But we are working with many more languages, styles and time-frames – watch this space!

Demonstrating the Table Editing Tool in Transkribus [Image by Louise Seaward]
Demonstrating the Table Editing Tool in Transkribus [Image by Louise Seaward]
Dissemination

Dissemination is a key part of READ – we want to raise awareness about the technology that we are developing and ensure that it is used by the people who need it.

We have helped to organise four conferences in Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom for collection holders, researchers and computer scientists.  We have also been travelling a lot – delivering 30 Transkribus workshops (at last count!) in different European cities.  In these workshops, we teach people how to use Transkribus and explain the potential of Handwritten Text Recognition.  If you are interested in organising a workshop at your institution, just send us an email!

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READ project members taking a break from their computers at a meeting in Passau, Germany [Image by Louise Seaward]
In terms of our research outputs, we are working to ensure that our project publications are Open Access, our research tools are Open Source via Github and our published research data is being made available in Zenodo.

We have had fun spreading the word about Transkribus on Twitter and will be branching out to YouTube and Facebook this year.

Collaboration

Our network grew steadily across 2016.  Over 30 institutions have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with READ, which brings them into the project network.  To give just a couple of examples, we are working with the Belgrade University Library on training computers to understand Cyrillic text and receiving advice from the Institute for Documentology and Editing on the role of Transkribus in digital scholarly editing.

Cyrillic document from the University Library of Belgrade.
Cyrillic document from the Belgrade University Library.

What’s next?

All this work will continue into 2017 but there will also be some exciting new developments.

The project technologies are beginning to be integrated into new web tools which will be made available via the Transkribus website.  An e-learning module, a platform for crowdsourced transcription and a mobile app for scanning documents are all in the works.  We are also developing our business plan to ensure that we can sustain the services provided by Transkribus far into the future.

Want to find out more?

You can find more detailed summaries of the work that READ has completed in these different areas by taking at look at the latest reports (deliverables) that we have submitted to the European Commission.

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