+ 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of the READ project) explained the theory and practice of using Transkribus to conduct searches of handwritten historical documents.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!

+ Historic transcription meets digitisation – Transkribus workshop in Jena

On 27 September 2016, the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität (FSU) Jena hosted a workshop on ‘Automatic Text and Structure Recognition as Elementary Technologies for Digital Humanities’. 32 attendees from FSU, as well as nearby archives and libraries followed the invitation from Andreas Christoph and Barbara Aehnlich and met for an intense day in Jena, Germany – filled with plenary lectures and a hands-on Transkribus workshop.

Old meets new - picturesque scene set for the Transkribus day in Jena (Image by Eva Lang)

Old meets new – picturesque scene set for the Transkribus day in Jena (Image by Eva Lang)

The program included talks by Eva Lang (Passau Diocesan Archives) on ‘From church registry books to data bases – Digitization Strategies in libraries and archives’, Günter Mühlberger  (University of Innsbruck and READ project coordinator) on ‘Transkribus. A virtual research platform for automatic text recognition in printed and hand-written documents’, Florian Kleber (Computer Vision Lab, Vienna University of Technology) on ‘No text and hand-writing recognition without layout analysis’ and Raphael Unterweger (Innsbruck University Innovations) on ‘Structured data and document recognition with Rule-Appler and Structify’.

After a short lunch break, the group reconvened for a hands-on workshop, where Günter Mühlberger, assisted by Eva Lang, demonstrated the state-of-the-art of the Transkribus software, now also featuring a table editor and a user-friendly tagging system. After the long day, the participants were enabled to upload their own documents, transcribe their first test project and get a better understanding of the technologies behind hand-written text recognition.

Günter Mühlberger demonstrates the power of Transkribus (Image by Eva Lang)

Günter Mühlberger demonstrates the power of Transkribus (Image by Eva Lang)

+ Digital Scholarly Editing in Switzerland – new READ events in Zürich

Staatsarchiv Zürich (one of the READ partners) and the University of Zürich (part of the READ MOU network) are organising two events in Zürich.

Firstly, a Transkribus workshop will take place at the University of Zürich in October 2016.  Due to high levels of interest, the workshop will be held twice – on 20 and 21 October.  The Transkribus software, as well as other tools being developed by the READ project, will be presented.  Participants will have the chance to work with their own documents and see what Transkribus is capable of regarding transcriptions and editions.

Second, on 10 November 2016, eight speakers will introduce tools used for digital scholarly editing to a public audience at the University of Zürich.  A keynote speech will be delivered by Tobias Grüning from the University of Rostock who will explain how recurrent neural networks are being used in READ for Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR).  There will also be talks about other digital editing tools and projects including ChartEX, histhub, corpus corporume-Manuscripta and TUSTEP.

Both events are open to all.  More details can be found in the full programme.  For more information and to register, please contact Tobias Hodel.

+ READ partners in Passau – update on our latest meeting

Passau Diocesan Archives took on the task of hosting the latest READ project meeting between 20 and 22 September 2016.   Over 30 individuals from the 14 READ project partners met together in the pretty town of Passau in Southern Germany to discuss the current and future progress of our research into the Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) of historical documents.

The first part of our meeting took the form of a public symposium before an audience of German archivists and researchers.  To see what went on, check out this short video from Passau Diocesan Archives where staff from the archive talk about the conference and their participation in READ.  The video is in German but non-speakers can scroll down to find out more about the symposium and the READ project meeting.

As the keynote speaker, Gerhard Fürmetz, director of the Bavarian State Archives used his presentation to show how digitisation has changed the way archives work.

Gerhard Fürmetz, Digitalisierung und die Archive – Herausforderungen, Arbeitsfelder und Perspektiven

Gerhard Fürmetz,

Gerhard Fürmetz [Image by Elena Mühlbauer]

We then heard from Dr Herbert Wurster, director of Passau Diocesan Archives.  His archive has a large digitised collection of handwritten sacramental registers and is working with READ to facilitate the searching of these records for information relating to person names and births, marriages and deaths.

Dr Herbert Wurster, Kirchenbücher als Quelle der Forschung und Herausforderung für die automatisierte Verarbeitung

Dr Herbert Wurster

Dr Herbert Wurster [Image by Elena Mühlbauer]

Next up, the coordinator of the READ project Dr Günter Mühlberger from the Digitisation and Digital Preservation Group (DEA) at the University of Innsbruck presented on READ and the Transkribus transcription platform.  His talk described how archives can access Transkribus and outlined the way in which Handwritten Text Recognition engines produce automatic transcriptions of handwritten material.

Dr Günter Mühlberger, Transkribus. Eine Forschungsumgebung zur Erkennung und Anreicherung historicher Dokumente


Dr Günter Mühlberger [Image by Elena Mühlbauer]

Finally, Dr Florian Kleber from the Computer Vision Lab at Vienna University of Technology demonstrated how the READ project is working with large and varied datasets of transcribed historical material.  Dr Kleber also explained that research competitions play a vital role in enabling computer scientists to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of their tools.

Dr Florian Kleber, Datasets and competitions as a means to increase excellent research

Dr Florian Kleber

Dr Florian Kleber [Image by Elena Mühlbauer]

Once we said goodbye to everyone at the symposium, the READ project meeting could begin.  During the first sessions, each project partner was given the opportunity to share news about their major achievements, possible setbacks and next steps.  We met for dinner to bring our first day to a close and were welcomed to Passau with a short speech from Klaus Metzl, Vicar General, Very Reverend.

Who wants to count the laptops in the room?

There are always a lot of laptops in the room at a READ meeting! [Image by Elena Mühlbauer]

The next day we formed working groups to tackle questions surrounding technical issues, research competitions and dissemination of the project outputs.  Groups deliberated the best means of producing training data for HTR engines and ways to improve the accuracy of keyword searches of handwritten material.  The development of new tools was also discussed, including a Table Recognition tool which will make it easier for Transkribus users to transcribe text in tables.

In the evening we were treated to a walking tour of Passau and a look behind at the scenes at the new building of the Diocesan Archives. It has been built on stilts to shield precious documents from any flooding from the town’s three rivers and the floor has been painted a liturgical shade of purple!

Passau Diocesan Archives [Image by Laurent Bolli]


Sunset in Passau [Image by Laurent Bolli]

We concluded proceedings on our last day with some SWOT analysis – what are the strengths and weaknesses of the READ project?  What might be its opportunities and threats?  After some fruitful discussion, there was just enough time for a group picture before we parted ways!


The READ project [Image by Elena Mühlbauer]

Thank you Passau! If you want to find out more about our meeting, take a look back at our twitter feed.  We look forward to continuing the discussions at our next project meeting in Brussels!

+ Document Engineering, Cultural Heritage, and Digital Humanities – READ at the DocEng2016 symposium

This year’s DocEng symposium was organised by one of the READ partners, the Computer Vision Lab at Vienna University of Technology.  Between 13 and 16 September academic and industrial researchers were welcomed to Vienna where they had the opportunity to hear about the latest research on document engineering and participate in workshops on topics such as Table Modelling and Future Publishing Formats.

One of the keynote lectures was delivered by Dr Günter Mühlberger, the projector coordinator of READ.  Dr Mühlberger’s talk was entitled, ‘Research Infrastructures, or how Document Engineering, Cultural Heritage, and Digital Humanities can go together’.  Dr Mühlberger wrote his PhD thesis on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and has always been interested in integrating digital technologies into the humanities.  His paper described the Transkribus research infrastructure which is being developed by the READ project.  The talk showed an audience of specialised computer scientists that the technologies of Handwritten Text Recognition, Automatic Writer Identification and Keyword Spotting are hugely relevant to the humanities sector because they can improve access to historical records.

Dr Gu

Dr Günter Mühlberger at DocEng 2016

+ Demystifying Digitisation – Registration now open

Demystifying Digitisation: A Hands-On Master Class in Text Digitisation will take place at the University of Antwerp from 29 to 30 September 2016.  Registration is now open for those wanting to learn more about Transkribus and digitisation projects in general.

Organised by the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities-Belgium (DARIAH-BE) and Digital Humanities Flanders (DHuF), the programme will include two intensive workshops – the first on ABBYY OCR software, the second on the Transkribus platform for handwritten text recognition.  There will also be related sessions on digitisation workflows, copyright issues and more.

Participation in the workshop is free of charge but registration is required.

+ The READ network expands – into digital scholarly editing

The READ project now has a new partner which will investigate how Transkribus can be used in digital scholarly editing.

The Institute for Documentology and Scholarly Editing (IDE) is the latest institution to join the READ network as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) partner.  Based in Germany, the IDE is a network of scholars who research the ways in which digital methods can be applied to historical documents.  The IDE has a rich knowledge of digital editions and produces the RIDE journal to review such resources.

The IDE will be testing out the Transkribus platform and providing feedback on how it can support the creation of digital editions using basic TEI standards.

+ Digital Toolbox Conference – Programme now available!

What should be in your Digital Toolbox?  Find out at our upcoming conference at The Linnean Society in London on 10th October 2016.

We are pleased to announce that the full conference programme is now available!

The keynote speech will be delivered by Professor Melissa Terras (UCL).  Other papers will explore some of the benefits and challenges of working with historical, literary and scientific papers in a digital environment.

The conference will also provide an opportunity to learn more about the handwritten text recognition technology available in our Transkribus platform.

There will be a small registration fee of £15 for the event.  This will cover tea/coffee, lunch and a wine reception.  Please find the registration form here:  https://www.linnean.org/meetings-and-events/events/what-should-be-in-your-digital-toolbox

We are looking forward to presenting Transkribus alongside these other innovative projects!

+ Philology in the future!

National Archives Finland will be part of an exciting event, taking place in Oslo in association with the National Library of Finland on 13-14 September 2016.  At the Nordic Network seminar on “Philology in the future” the READ project will be presented, along with other research on data and text analysis.  Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn the basics of Transkribus in a dedicated workshop.  For more information, check the website.