Use of British Library Digital Content and Data

The British Library's digital collections and data have been used in a diverse range of innovative projects, as exemplified through a number of collaborative projects involving BL Labs and also the work showcased in the BL Labs Awards.

Collaborative Projects

Research projects

Lost Visions: Retrieving the Visual Element of Printed Books from the 19th Century @Lost_Visions

Centre of Intertextual Research, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University (AHRC funded)
BL Labs was a data provider and offered help and support for the project.

Palimpsest: An Edinburgh Literary Cityscape
School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh (AHRC funded)
BL Labs was a data provider and offered help and support for the project.

Digital Music Lab (DML): Analysing Big Music Data
City University of London, Queen Mary University of London & University College London (AHRC funded)
BL Labs is a funded project partner, facilitating access to British Library digital recordings.

People/Events/Places (PEP)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Nottingham & Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute (AHRC funded)
BL Labs provided 1200 records from a digitised book collection about Latin American Studies to be ingested into the Digital Humanities Press platform developed by one of the project partners, the Digital Innovation Labs (University of North Carolina) and the University of Nottingham.

Data Tales: Narrating the Infinitive Archive
Sarah Wingate Gray and Kate Lomax of Artefacto, The British Library, University of Nottingham & Loughborough University (AHRC funded)
BL Labs was a project partner.

SEASR Tools for the Analysis and Visualization of Large Image and Video Collections for the Humanities
University of California at San Diego (Mellon funded)
BL Labs provided 1 million images from a digitised book collection to the project for the production of visualisations.

Digital Innovation Lab
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Mellon funded)
BL Labs provided 1200 records in the Spanish Language for the Digital Humanities Press platform developed by Digital Innovation Lab.

Metadata Games in collaboration with the British Library
Tiltfactor, based at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA (National Endowment for the Humanities funded)
BL Labs worked with Tiltfactor to re-purpose mobile metadata games for the development of the British Library games, using the Flickr 1 million collection.

Artistic / Creative projects

British Library's Flickr 1 million collection and Mario Klingemann, Code Artist
Mario Klingemann @quasimondo, an artistic winner of the Labs Awards, has produced a range of work using the Flickr 1 million images. Mario has used a hybrid approach mixing automatic classification with manual confirmation to identify and tag tens of thousands of the images – ranging from maps and portraits to flora and fauna – and he has also created a series of artworks using the images.

Crossroads of Curiosity at the British Library, by David Normal, Visual Artist
David Normal @davidnormal has a special interest in 19th century illustration and he used images from the British Library's Flickr 1 million collection as inspiration for his large artwork installation Crossroads of Curiosity, originally created for the Burning Man Festival, Nevada. Crossroads was temporarily installed in the British Library piazza in the summer of 2015.

BL Labs Awards project entries

Research projects

  • Scissors and Paste, by M. H. Beals. The project utilises the 1800-1900 digitised British Library Newspapers, collection to explore the possibilities of mining large-scale newspaper databases for reprinted and repurposed news content.
  • Nineteenth-century Newspaper Analytics, by Paul Fyfe and Qian Ge.The project addresses the research question: How can computer vision and image processing techniques be adapted for large-scale interpretation of historical illustrations? It involves the development of methods in image analytics to study a corpus of illustrated nineteenth-century British newspapers from the British Library’s collection.
  • Combining Text Analysis and Geographic Information Systems to Investigate the Representation of Disease in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers, by the Spatial Humanities research group at Lancaster University. The project analysed the British Library's digitised London based newspaper The Era through innovative and varied selections of qualitative and quantitative methods in order to determine how, when and where the Victorian era discussed diseases.
  • Palimpsest: Telling Edinburgh's Stories with Maps, by the Palimpsest research team at the University of Edinburgh. The Palimpsest project produced a tool which was able to discover and make available a broad spectrum of books (including a collection of digitised 19th century books from the British Library) and forgotten gems about Edinburgh through various interfaces including a map.
  • Indexing the BL 1 million and Mapping the Maps, led by James Heald. The project involved the collaboration of volunteers and researchers to produce an index of 1 million 'Mechanical Curator collection' images on Wikimedia Commons from the British Library one million Flickr Commons images. This gave rise to the discovery of 50,000 maps within the collection, partially identified through a map-tag-a-thon which are now being geo-referenced.
  • Digital Music Lab (DML), by Tillman Weyde, Stephen Cottrell, Jason Dykes, Nicolas Gold, Simon Dixon, Emmanouil Benetos, Mark Plumbley. Research project enabling new forms of research on music audio collections of the British Library. By providing computational analyses on a collection level and by creating an interactive graphical web interface the DML enables for the first time: the computational analysis of music audio collections at the BL, large scale analysis for recognising patterns and trends within and across collections, and remote access to analysis systems without copyright infringement.
  • Digital Music Lab (DML)- other components, by Samer Abdallah. The information and computation management component of DML has the job or organising and keeping track of the recordings, their metadata, and the details of any computations done on them. It is also a web server that allows the information to be explored in a web browser, using sound and graphics to make the content more accessible.
  • Etheridge Project by Charalambos Dendrinos, Annaclara Cataldi Palau, Michail Konstantinou-Rizos, Scot McKendrick, Konstantinos Palaiologos, Vasos Pasiourtides, Philip Taylor, Robert Turner, Christopher Wright. The project involves the electronic edition of the autograph Greek Encomium on King Henry VIII addressed to Queen Elizabeth I composed by Dr George Etheridge, former Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, on the occasion of the Queen’s visit to Oxford in 1566. The edition of this hitherto unpublished short rhetorical text, composed in verse and preserved solely in the British Library Royal MS 16 C X, sheds further light on the life and personality of the author as well as the general reception and development of Greek studies in Tudor England, highlighting Henry’s cultural politics through the establishment of Regius Professorships at Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Git-Lit, by Jonathan Reeve. The project parses, version controls and posts Git repositories for British Library digitised texts (ALTO XML documents), allowing for open collaborative editing of texts, in order to crowdsource the correction of OCR errors and encourage the creation of new, decentralised scholarly editions.
  • MML (minimal markup language) editor, by Desmond Schmidt.The MML editor aids the transcription of online editions of historical documents.It uses customisations of the simple Markdown language, which is already familiar to most Web users who have used wikis.
  • Explore the Stacks, by Mark Hall. The project aims to provide alternative access methods to open up the British Library's collections to the general public, offering a browsing experience that does not require previous knowledge of the content of a collection.
  • Samtla (Search and Mining Tools for Linguistic Analysis), by Mark Levene, Dr Dell Zhang, Dr Dan Levene, Mr Martyn Harris. Samtla is a web-based domain-specific research environment for digital humanities as a response to a lack of tools for in-depth research of historic texts and for opening up archives to enable public access.
  • Sift Pics, by Vahur Puik and Lauri Elias. Sift.pics is a crowdsourcing application for exploring and adding basic binary classifications to historic photographs and images.

Teaching / Learning projects

  • Library Carpentry, founded by James Baker and involving the international Library Carpentry team. Library Carpentry is software skills training aimed at the needs and requirements of library professionals. It is made by librarians, for librarians.
  • The PhD Abstracts Collections in FLAX: Academic English with the Open Access Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS) at the British Library, by the FLAX research team. The project presents an educational research study into the development and evaluation of domain-specific language corpora derived from PhD abstracts with the Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS) at the British Library.

Artistic and creative projects

  • Hey There, Young Sailor, written and directed by Ling Low with visual art by Lyn Ong. The project combines live action with animation, hand-drawn artwork and found archive images to tell a love story set at sea and is partially inspired by the British Library’s one million Flickr Commons images.
  • Fashion Utopia, by Kris Hofmann (Animation Director) and Claudia Rosa Lukas (Curator). The project involved the creation of an animation and five vines which accompanied the Austrian contribution to the International Fashion Showcase London 2016, and garnered creative inspiration from the treasure trove of images from the British Library’s one million Flickr Commons images.
  • The Order of Things, by Mario Klingemann. The project involved the use of semi-automated image classification and machine learning techniques in order to add meaningful tags to the British Library’s one million Flickr Commons images and creating thematic collections as well as new works of art.
  • Nix, by Jackson Rolls-Gray, Sebastian Filby and Faye Allen. The Nix game developed by team Gothulus Rift was the winner of the Off the Map: Gothic Competition in 2014 which used a 'Gothic' inspired collection of digital assets from the British Library.
  • Crossroads of Curiosity, by artist David Normal. Crossroads of Curiosity is a suite of murals that extends the notion of a “cabinet of curiosity” outward from the rectilinear arrangement of objects in glass cases to encompass the world in a series of dramatic tableaux featuring provocative juxtapositions of vastly different times, places, and peoples.Crossroads was temporarily installed in the British Library piazza in 2015.
  • Moments, by Joe Bell. Animation bringing a small collection of the Flickr Commons images images to life.
  • Mixing the Library, by Dan Norton. Experimental project applying the model of information interaction seen in the activities of a Disc Jockey (DJ) to digital collections of all kinds.
  • Tag Attack, by Antonio Jesús Sánchez Padial. One of the games developed for the British Library Crowdsourcing Game Jam which explores how such games can be used to encourage participation in crowdsourcing projects, such as tagging images in the British Library's Flickr collection. Tag Attack presents a way for designing enjoyable gamifications of tagging, that are able to evaluate the accuracy of players in their crowdsourcing while giving them an evaluation of their performance, allowing them to improve and compete, increasing their engagement in the crowdsourcing project.
  • Art Treachery, by Janus Druz. One of the games developed for the British Library Crowdsourcing Game Jam which explores how such games can be used to encourage participation in crowdsourcing projects, such as tagging images in the British Library's Flickr collection. In Art Treachery, the player is given the mission to find a image that fits two criteria. One of the criteria is a tag (which can not be reliably verified by the game) and the other a randomly generated year (which is assigned by the game, hence can be reliably verified).
  • Beneath The Crimson Moon, by Sam Beale, Zack Finley, Gary Kings, Rob Pearce, Mitch Leatherdale and Ash Lake. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story Masque of the Red Death, Beneath The Crimson Moon is an exploration puzzle game in which the player must find objects that can be destroyed. When destroyed, the materials gathered, can then be used to navigate obstacles by re-building other objects such as bridges or ladders.
  • Two Sparrows, by Estelle Jobson. Emotive collage containing cultural references, bittersweet humour and a digital reproduction of a page from the Gutenberg Bible (Book of Matthew, chapter 10).

Commercial and entrepreneurial projects

  • Curating Digital Collections to Go Mobile, by Mitchell Davis. The project involved a collaboration between BiblioLabs and the British Library in the development of BiblioBoard, an award-winning e-Content delivery platform, and online curatorial and multimedia publishing tools to support it. T
  • Poetic Places, by Sarah Cole. Poetic Places is a free app for iOS and Android devices which brings poetic depictions of places into the everyday world, helping users to encounter poems in the locations described by the literature, accompanied by contextualising historical narratives and relevant audiovisual materials.
  • Redesigning Alice: Etsy and the British Library joint project, by Dina Malkova. The project produced a range of bow ties and other gift products inspired by the incredible illustrations from a digitised British Library original manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground by Lewis Carroll and sold them through the Etsy platform and in the Alice Pop up shop at the British Library in London.
  • British Library “Library Wall” by Sara Wingate-Gray and Kate Lomax of Artefacto. The project involved the creation of an installation/poster resembling a bookcase, which has a curated collection of texts from the British Library's 19th century books collection that can be accessed through pointing “smart” mobile devices at the 'Wall'.
  • Curatorial 2.0 by Kate Lomax and Sara Wingate-Gray of Artefacto. Curatorial 2.0 is an open-source, collaborative, social platform which enables users to easily access, curate, annotate and share online via a range of social media platforms their own collections of the British Library's digital content.
  • Dream Image Archive, by Silvija Aurylaite. A playful online project exploring the collection of illustrations from Rare Books and Prints, which are most on demand in design communities. It uses keywords for rare illustrated sources that are suggested by creative professionals.