What’s your name?
Where do you work?
Bentham Project, University College London.
Tell us a bit about your background…
I am a historian and wrote my PhD (many years ago) on the British conservative reaction to the French Revolution. I was thereafter appointed as a research assistant at the Bentham Project, UCL, and I have been here ever since! The purpose of the Bentham Project is to produce the new authoritative edition of the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, of which I am now General Editor. Established in 1959, the Project has so far published 33 volumes in the edition: there will be at least 80 volumes when the task is finally completed. Bentham left an amazing archive of around 100,000 folios, most of which has never been published, and most of which has never been transcribed. As well as editing Bentham’s texts, I write interpretative articles and books on Bentham and the utilitarian tradition more generally. When not thinking about Bentham, I like to collect vinyl records, go on train rides, and drink tea.
What is your role in the READ project?
The Bentham Project runs the scholarly crowdsourcing initiative Transcribe Bentham, and hence we have considerable expertise and experience in engaging the public and managing volunteers in the transcription of historical documents. Moreover, as humanities scholars, we are able to offer insights from the users’ perspective into the Transkribus platform. This also links into our main role in the READ project, which is to publicize and explain the Transkribus platform to other scholars, archivists, and the public more generally.
What is top of your to-do list at the moment?
I would like to see the new crowdsourcing platform developed as part of the READ project. This means that volunteer transcribers will be able to transcribe with the assistance of Handwritten Text Recognition technology. When it is available, I hope that the crowdsourcing platform, and the web-interface more generally, will attract more volunteers to, and hence accelerate work on, Transcribe Bentham, which will then be used as a model for other crowdsourcing initiatives.
What do you like best about working on READ?
The Transkribus platform has the potential to revolutionize the way in which scholars undertake research on handwritten documents, just as platforms like ECCO have in relation to printed texts – yet even more dramatically, since the challenge is so much more difficult, but that means that the achievement will be so much greater.
If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
What can you see out of the window of your office?