+ Opening up our Digital Toolbox – conference at Linnean Society in London

We can now say that the READ project has trended on Twitter!  On 10 October 2016, there was much interest in our ‘Digital Toolbox’ conference, which took place at the Linnean Society in London.

The ‘What should be in your Digital Toolbox?’ conference was organised by the Linnean Society (part of the READ MOU network) and the Bentham Project at University College London (one of the READ partners).

The event was designed to showcase the latest digital research in the fields of humanities and natural sciences.  There were presentations from some of the READ partners and we also heard from other researchers around the UK, who discussed the opportunities and challenges of working with digital tools.

The conference was held at the Linnean Society, which is the oldest surviving natural history society in the world.  It was founded in 1788 by the botanist James Edward Smith and is named after the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus.  The Society has held a collection of Linnaeus’ writings since 1829.  Charles Darwin was a fellow of the Society and actually gave his first public lecture on his theory of evolution to a Linnean Society meeting in 1858.  What an impressive place to open up our Digital Toolbox!

Networking in the Linnean Society Library [Image by Louise Seaward]
Networking in the Linnean Society Library [Image by Louise Seaward]
We were lucky enough to hear a keynote lecture from Professor Melissa Terras (UCL Centre for Digital Humanities) on the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing initiative.  Professor Terras described how the phenomenal efforts of volunteer transcribers are contributing to the scholarly edition of the Collected Works of the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham.  She also looked to the future, explaining that volunteer submissions are now being used as training data for Handwritten Text Recognition engines!  For the rest of the morning, we heard from two more of the READ partners. Dr Roger Labahn (University of Rostock) and Dr Günter Mühlberger (University of Innsbruck and coordinator of the READ project) explained the theory and practice of using Transkribus to conduct searches of handwritten historical documents.

The afternoon was dedicated to the latest digital projects in the humanities and natural sciences.  We heard about techniques of text mining, digitisation, optical character recognition, metadata organisation and crowdsourcing. Videos of the presentations will be available soon but in the meantime, you can consult the full conference programme to find out more.

Getting ready for the next presentations in the Linnean Society Meeting Room [Image by Louise Seaward]
Getting ready for the next presentations in the Linnean Society Meeting Room [Image by Louise Seaward]
Over 70 people attended the event, from archivists, curators and librarians, to researchers, project managers and computer experts.  Our attendees helped to get the conference hashtag ‘#digtoolbox‘  trending on Twitter for the London area and lots of connections were made, both in person and online.  The READ project is committed to open access research and open source tools – so we will continue sharing the contents of our Digital Toolbox!

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