Category Archives: engagement

Digital Codex Mendoza online

Ernesto Miranda, a former student on the MA in Digital Humanities here at DDH, has just published a digital edition of the Codex Mendoza, a sixteenth-century manuscript that is now one of our most important sources for pre-Hispanic culture in Mexico. The project began life as an assignment for one of his MA modules, ‘Material Culture of the Book’, for which students had to plan how they would digitise a book or set of books. After graduating, Ernesto took his plan to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, University of California Press, and King’s College London, and convinced them all to help him actually do it.

The edition is now freely available both online and as an app on the iTunes store, and has already been featured in the New York Times (among others). It allows you not only to view the pages of this famous and fascinating manuscript, but also to see in situ transcriptions, translations and supplementary material. See, for instance, this page on daily life (drag your mouse over the image to see the translation), or this one with annotations on territorial expansion.

Part of the project press-release is quoted below which gives some more background to the project. But now go, explore and enjoy!

The digital resource was created in collaboration with Bodleiain Library, Oxford, (where it has been held since 1659), King’s College London and University of California Press. It was developed in 2014, under the curatorial direction of Frances Berdan and Baltazar Brito.

The Codex Mendoza was created under the orders of Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza in 1542 to evoke an economic, political, and social panorama of the recently conquered lands. It has 72 illustrated pages glossed in Nahuatl, and 63 correspondent pages with Spanish glosses.

The Digital Codex Mendoza is part of INAH’s effort to highlight the importance of Mexican Codices for national history. This effort began in September, 2014, with the opening of the unprecedented exhibition, Códices de México, Memorias y Saberes, where 44 codices were shown for the first time to the general public. Codices are extremely sensitive documents in terms of preservation, so very few people have access to them. This is why the exhibition and the digital edition of codices held outside Mexico, such as Digital Codex Mendoza, are so important.

This effort is the first of a series that will virtually repatriate essential Mexican documents. It serves as a milestone regarding academic digital editions in Mexico and Latin America. Through this work the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), or National Institute of Anthropology and History, demonstrates the broad-based utility of this type of edition and the need to seek new forms of representation for such complex systems of knowledge. At the same time, the effort furthers the permanent calling of the INAH to study, preserve, and spread awareness of the cultural patrimony of the Mexican people, and create new ways of engagement with cultural heritage.

An Electric Current of the Imagination

I’m very glad to be joining the Department of Digital Humanities and looking forward to contributing to this blog as and when I can. I’ll use this blog for posts relating closely to the Department of Digital Humanities. You’ll be able to find more more wide-ranging blogging on digitalriffs.blogspot.com. It was a great privilege to have the opportunity last night to give an inaugural lecture right at the beginning of my term of office as Head of Department and to try and map out some of the issues I think we need to address both as a Department and as a discipline. I promised to make available the text of my lecture via this blog, so here it is:

‘An Electric Current of the Imagination’: What the Digital Humanities Are and What They Might Become

Lecture by Andrew Prescott, King’s College London, 25 January 2012

[Slide: Birdsong Compliance: http://itchaway.net/poetry_content/birdsong-compliance/Scene_1.html]

It is a great honour for me to become head of this academic department devoted to the study of the digital humanities. When I first saw experiments in the digital imaging of books and manuscripts in the British Library twenty years ago, it was impossible to imagine that they would develop into an intellectual activity on a scale warranting an academic department. The fact that King’s College London has led the way in this process is due to the work of many pioneers, and I cannot start this lecture without acknowledging their achievements and saying what a pleasure it is to join them now as a colleague. Above all, it is essential to honour the contribution of Professor Harold Short who is without doubt the father of the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. Harold has been an outstanding international pioneer of the digital humanities, and I feel honoured and humbled to follow in his footsteps. Continue reading An Electric Current of the Imagination

Museums on the Web 2011

At the end of this year’s Museums on the Web conference at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) we were asked what our “key takeaways” from the day were. The presentations and discussions covered a wide range of interesting topics but I was most impressed with the work going on in the area of public engagement with creating and using digital resources; and the emphasis of the importance of user-centred design processes in enabling this.

365.162: Imperial War Museum

Mark O’Neill from the Government Data Service opened proceedings with a keynote speech highighting the challenges of improving user experience for the use of digital resources; particularly important given the commitment to “digital by default” for government services.

An interesting comparison was suggested: how are museums different from Ikea? Comparing a search across the Ikea website and a museum website (which will remain namless!) for an object, “vase” it was clear which one of these had a more seamless user experience: the commercial website was designed around the needs of users to easily achieve their goals (in this instance find a vase for sale) whilst the museum website lagged somewhat behind, its interface designed around the institution’s own internal language, not welcoming outsiders.

Subsequent speakers gave presentations on participatory projects initiated by their institutions. The Pallant House Gallery‘s  Outside In project provides a platform for artists with disabilities to display their work, uploading images of it via a web interface developed in an iterative manner during workshops with the artists themselves. The next stage is to develop a mobile app which removes further boundaries to involvement: direct upload via mobile involves fewer cognitive steps as images can be selected directly from the device that created them.

Tom Grinsted from the Imperial War Museum and Claire Ross from UCL department of Digital Humanities described an IWM project in development to make use of visitors’ commentaries of museum objects: Social Interpretation — bringing the levels of engagement and interaction that users experience with social media to the museum environment. The project is being run using an agile methodology at all stages: design, development and management to ensure that the outputs are produced iteratively and thoroughly tested with users at every stage. The project aims to develop interfaces to allow visitors to add their commentaries and interpretations via kiosk in the museum and web and mobile outside.

Another exciting participatory project run by the IWM is Lives of the Great War: using public involvement to recreate the stories behind those who served and died in the First World War. It aims to support this by providing direct access to the various information resources, currently dispersed across the web, some behind paywalls. It is also hoped that the data generated will be released under a “CC0” licence (the most permissive Creative Commons licence) and be archived permanently.

Interestingly, the IWM were shown to be pioneers in crowdsourcing: their earliest request for objects and memorabilia from the Great War took part at the war’s end in the form of a leaflet included with ration books!

Issues surrounding crowdsourcing received attention: namely questions of moderation of content and authority. Some basic moderation can be handled technically (e.g. via filters to remove swearing) but the community itself can also be a useful moderation tool (as it is currently on the Guardian website). Data release under Creative Commons licences (particularly “CC0”) can be more problematic in some areas than others, e.g. the performing arts.

Other presentations covered some very interesting areas I haven’t discussed here, including planning and measuring your digital strategy, refining your metadata and demonstrations of some very innovative software; it will be worth checking the MCG website for links to the presentation slides.

Overall I was impressed with the level of innovation — and collaboration —  in the sector; something I’m sure the digital humanities as a closely related area could learn from and share in.