+ Transkribus crosses the Atlantic – report from DH 2017 in Montreal

The READ project made one of its first forays across the Atlantic last week to attend the Digital Humanities 2017 conference in Canada.  The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations welcomed hundreds of researchers to McGill University in Montreal for an intensive week of workshops, presentations and panels on the question of using digital tools to further humanities research.

View of Montreal from Mont Royal

Louise Seaward (Bentham Project, University College London) and Maria Kallio (National Archives of Finland) represented READ at the conference, delivering a workshop to demonstrate how individuals and institutions can use our Transkribus platform to train a Handwritten Text Recognition model to process a collection of historical documents.  The 17 attendees were mainly drawn from American Universities and libraries, although we also had participants from Hong Kong and Japan with interesting questions about the automatic recognition of Asian scripts (it’s challenging, but possible!).  There was lots of interest in the technology and we hope to have kicked off some exciting new collaborations.

A long paper by Sofia Ares Oliveira, Frederic Kaplan, Isabella di Lenardo (DH Lab, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) also showcased some of the READ project technology.  The Venice Time Machine project is working with machine vision to process a huge collection of cadaster records, hoping to reconstruct over 1000 years of Venetian history.  We were also cheered to see other research in Handwritten Text Recognition represented at the conference in presentations from Uppsala University, the University of Oxford and the University of Antwerp.

Montreal old town

We would like to thank the organizers of DH 2017 for a thought-provoking and fruitful week.  We hope to return for the next conference in Mexico to present a long paper on the workflow of Handwritten Text Recognition for humanities researchers.

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