And for to see, and eek for to be seie.


We are asking this very question at my company this week after I read this article from Ad Age. The author lays out a scenario where mobile users prefer mobile apps to websites, and native apps are already past the need for a QR tag to reference a piece of Internet data. Of course, this brings up the point I have made previously regarding the need for an app in your mobile strategy.

QR Codes were once attached to just about everything — in some forms of media, they still are. Are we really saying this helpful piece of technology is already dead?

This has been an issue I have been investing some time this week. In some industries where mobile apps aren’t a viable part of a strategy, these codes can still help drive customers to pieces of inventory easier.

The rebuttal mentioned is augmented reality, which I think is hilarious  Mobile devices aren’t even close to ready to handle that kind of traffic in large volume. In retail businesses where inventory is moved around the property regularly (clothing, automobiles and grocery stores for example), this is just not logistically possible. 

Invisible ink sounds interesting, although the technology to print it is probably just as behind the curve as augmented-reality tagging. There is already affordable, and sometimes free, software to put QR Codes in business owner’s hands.

Be careful when you read doomsday articles such as this. I love the work being published in Ad Age, and agree with a lot of the points B.L. Ochman offers on QR technology. Maybe she needs to go after her editor for that headline.

The Laws of Hywel Dda: Conservation & Digitisation of the Boston Manuscript | Keri Thomas

Lot 23 in the Western Manuscripts & Miniatures auction at Sotheby’s in London during the summer of 2012 was something quite rare. Described as a decorated manuscript on vellum, with ninety-nine leaves paginated in an eighteenth-century hand: with missing leaves, discolouration of pages and a binding attached some time during the 19th century, it appeared to be an unassuming item , “almost certainly written by a professional scribe for a Medieval Welsh lawyer, perhaps in Brecon, South Wales.” [Sotheby’s, Provenance] At some point during its lifespan the manuscript crossed the Atlantic Ocean and ended up in America, possibly in the company of Welsh colonists. Ultimately the manuscript became the property of the Massachusetts Historical Society, based in Boston; from there, it returned to the UK for auction. Sotheby’s noted in its e-catalogue that: 

“Manuscripts in Medieval Welsh are of near-legendary rarity. The first text in Welsh is the note commonly entitled Surexit, added c.800 to the St. Chad Gospels, closely followed by a single fragmentary tenth-century leaf with a computistical text (Cambridge University Library Add. MS 4543). Then there is nothing until the mid-thirteenth century. In fact, for the whole Middle Ages only 250 books or fragments of Welsh origin survive, of which only 80 contain any words of Welsh (Medieval Welsh Manuscripts, pp.3, 40 and 57-64)”.   

Hywel Dda, or Hywel the Good, was King of Wales circa 880-950, beginning his reign as ruler of Deheubarth in South-West Wales, and expanding his control to encompass almost all of the Welsh kingdoms [Sotheby’s e-catalogue, 2012]. A ruthless state builder, amongst Hywel’s achievements was the creation of the first Welsh coinage in over a thousand years, and the consolidation of the Law of Wales [Davies, A History of Wales, p.84, 2007].

The Laws of Wales came to be “a powerful symbol of…unity and identity, as powerful indeed as [the] language” [Davies, 2007, pp.85-86] and were constructed partly from ancient Brehon law (a form of Celtic justice system shared with Ireland), focusing on restitution for crimes rather than capital punishment [Sotheby’s e-catalogue, 2012]. Hywel’s laws were not “created de novo; [they were] the systemisation of the legal customs which had developed in Wales over the centuries…folk law rather than state law” [Davies, pp.85-86]. They took an enlightened standpoint on the treatment of women, particularly in respect to divorce and the division of property [Sotheby’s e-catalogue, 2012] and were not “concerned with the enforcement of criminal law through the apparatus of the state…[and] contained elements of mercy, common sense and respect…which would be lacking in the Law of England until very recently.” [Davies, pp.85-86]

Read More

In this video, Bill Endres of the University of Kentucky talks about potentials for 3D in manuscript studies. He has scanned Lichfield Cathedral’s St. Chad Gospels, an 8th-century illuminated manuscript. For images of the complete manuscript, visit ‪
This video was made for the 2012 Digital Transformation Moot in London, sponsored by the Art and Humanities Research Council.

“Hello, I’m Bill Endres from the University of Kentucky. I want to demonstrate some potentials for 3D in the study of manuscripts. A challenge of digital versions of manuscripts is to offer scholars and viewers an encounter as dynamic as having the manuscript in their presence, one that can match on some level experiences like play of light on cracked pigments, or the feel of a pages stiffness as it resists being turned; experiences that lend themselves to knowing. At the same time, a digital version can never be the same as a physical artefact. Segolene Tarte calls digital versions ‘avatars’: they exist in a different reality, with different rules and potentials. They can offer unique and profound experiences of a manuscript.

One way to present a digital version of a manuscript in 3D is through video. Video flyovers offer a dynamic interaction by taking advantage of 3D techniques and the way that the eye sees. Motion or changing stimuli are necessary for clarity of sight. To see a 2D image clearly, the eye must make jitter movements to keep its photoreceptors active. This is not the case with a moving 3D image. These 3D flyovers are pages from the St. Chad Gospels, an illuminated manuscript made around 730CE that I imaged with the kind permission of the Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral. 3D flyovers offer a more intimate experience than 2D images, giving viewers a feeling of the manuscript’s dynamic nature; perhaps even inspiring awe, as desired by the medieval artist who illuminated the St. Chad Gospels. More importantly for researchers, 3D reveals significant information about a pages contours and condition, along with the layout of its text, its decorative flow and artistic flourishes. 

 A 3D image combines a mesh file, representing a page’s contours, with a texture file providing the appearance of a page’s surface. With 3D images, I can change their texture files; that is, the image that covers the mesh. For the St. Chad Gospels I took a set of at least 12 different spectral bands for each page, ranging from near ultraviolet to infrared. I can generate a multispectral visualization by stacking all the images in a set and calculating values across the stack for each pixel. These calculated values can be mathematically represented, and a colour map applied to highlight salient features.

The density of data in 3D meshes offers opportunities to generate further information. One of particular usefulness for manuscripts is taking accurate measurements. Holes, flaking pigments, and features of letters and decoration can be measured for conservation and scholarly purposes. A convenient format for 3D renderings is Adobe’s PDF. Adobe Reader includes a measurement tool.

I am currently working with our Director of Research Computation and Application Development, Noel Adler, to deliver 3D images of the St. Chad Gospels over the Web. With the release of Web GL, a Javascript API for rendering interactive 3D images, this has become viable.

John Berger tells us that the relationship between what we see, and what we know, is never settled. Use of 3D presents new potentials for seeing, and therefore new potentials for knowing. 3D can supply practical data like measurements, facilitate interaction and tap into native ways of seeing. It opens an intriguing future, an inspiring one; one worthy of the digital humanities.”

More than Meets the Eye: Going 3D with an Early Medieval Manuscript | Bill Endres, University of Kentucky

Whilst doing some basic housekeeping of files and blog posts today I stumbled across the notes I took attending the Digital Humanities Congress in Sheffield last September, which I’d like to post here today.  

I recall finding it awkward having to leave rooms, often whilst the lecture was still in progress, to get myself to the next session, but once I’d gotten over the problems of navigating around each lecture room I managed to attend Professor Bill Endres' wonderful talk on the use of 3D imaging when dealing with manuscripts, in particular the St Chad Gospels (an 8th century illuminated manuscript and one of the oldest and most important illuminated manuscripts in England). It also has a wonderful link to Wales, in that at some point during its history the Gospel found itself in the hands of a Welshman named Gelhi - who had traded his best horse for it! - and in fact in its margins contains the earliest examples of written Old Welsh. 

Professor Endres was interested particularly in “the ways that uses of visuals affect our epistemologies" - the relationship between what we see, and what we know. In his talk at Sheffield he suggested that the justification for the use of 3D imaging was to to return the manuscript to its original state, and thus enhance our knowledge of the item and to generate new information about it. He described how our vision is construction from a combination of 2D and 3D, and that if we see an upper portion of text our mind fills in the bottom. We fill in the gaps ourselves. Therefore, posited Professor Endres, would using 3D change our ways of seeing? Would we then create knowledge in slightly different ways?

3D, he said, was not simply there to assist in our understanding of the 2D image. It allows us, for example, to create infrared images as well as a normal image, which helps in showing bleed throughs on manuscript pages. Once the 3D is there different textures can be applied (by stacking multi-spectral bands), and thus the 3D image can show every lump and bump in the page - creating a dynamic experience for the user without the user having to access the original document. 

Professor Endres then went on to discuss the nuts and bolts of the project generally - that it began in 2010, and that the 3D required a lot of plug-ins and applications. They began the project using Web GL but the timescale “wasn’t working”, and so he attempted to use Adobe for 3D which, he said, “worked quite well”. 

They took 22 images of a page, quickly, and once they had the files they could use Adobe, “but it only work[ed] on a PC”, so that was obviously a limitation. However, the benefits of using 3D were multiple: the ability to measure defects on the manuscript page, for example, like areas of flaking paint. 

Professor Endres said that from a preservation perspective, the work in 3D was “valuable…but from a scholarly perspective, who knows?”

During the Q&A session afterwards, Endres addressed the potential pitfalls of using 3D imaging. The images “still have a computer generated look”. They had been forced to use a flat frame to get rid of shadowing on the page, “and because a manuscript is so dynamic and that’s lost somewhat in the image”. Melissa Terras, who was also in attendance, brought up the issues of truth and representation: the importance of maintaining a “digital truth on a pixel basis”, so that the user can go back to the original if necessary, but also navigating the basic fear a user might have of trusting what the computer image is telling you is correct.

I’m very interested, from my own research perspective, in how we can communicate the intellectual content of a manuscript, and how we can do so in a way which engages, and certainly the use of 3D imaging appears to be one method of doing that. But what of these issues of truth, and the practical problems of the user not being quite able to escape from the computer generated shine of a 3D image? Whilst some of these issues are technical and will no doubt be solved over time, the other is not so easy to shake off: whilst an enthusiastic amateur might be content to access a 3D image of a manuscript, would a scholar be happy to take what the 3D image is telling them at face value, and base their research upon it? This distrust is something which is not so easily solvable. 

The link to the Lichfield University’s web page for the St Chad Gospels can be found here


Please let me know if it’s ever unclear to you where my posts come from - a large portion of what I post is taken from other sources and whilst I do endeavour to cite where necessary, I do sometimes omit to do so. If you catch me out, feel free to let me know and I’ll amend the post. :)


Any 2 Web Pages Are No More Than 19 Clicks Apart, According to Hungarian Physicist

This is a fascinating idea - akin to the pop culture idea of “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”! Professor Barabási posits that “the tools of network science can help us understand the Web’s structure, development and weaknesses. The Web is an information network, in which the nodes are documents (at the time of writing over one trillion of them) connected by links. Other well-known network structures include the Internet, a physical network where the nodes are routers and the links are physical connections, and organisations, where the nodes are people and the links represent communications.” [Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society]


Any 2 Web Pages Are No More Than 19 Clicks Apart, According to Hungarian Physicist

This is a fascinating idea - akin to the pop culture idea of “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”! Professor Barabási posits that “the tools of network science can help us understand the Web’s structure, development and weaknesses. The Web is an information network, in which the nodes are documents (at the time of writing over one trillion of them) connected by links. Other well-known network structures include the Internet, a physical network where the nodes are routers and the links are physical connections, and organisations, where the nodes are people and the links represent communications.” [Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society]


3Doodler, 3D Printer Pen Lets You Draw Plastic Objects
Sustaining our Digital Future: The National Library of Wales Case Study | Andrew Green

The interview below, conducted by JISC, was part of the National Library of Wales' participation in a recent Ithaka S+R/SCA Report entitled: “Sustaining our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content”. Andrew Green, Head Librarian at the National Library of Wales, discussed how the Library has developed its digital content and services, and outlines the techniques used by the Library. The YouTube link to this video can be here:

I transcribed this interview because the way the Library is dealing with its collections and continuing its work with digitisation is of course relevant to my own research - the methodologies employed by the Library in the digitisation of its collections and the subsequent preservation of the resulting digital archive ties in with my own interests on how to create an effective digital resource and how our digital artefacts, once created, can avoid technical obsolescence. 

With many thanks to JISC for their initial interview!


I’m Andrew Green, I’m the Librarian at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, which is at once a library (we’re a legal deposit library, a national archive for Wales de facto)…we’re also a national art gallery for Wales, and we hold the Sound & Screen Archive for Wales, so all of those in one.

We were interested in becoming a case study in this project, partly because of our record as a digital institution: for many years we’ve wrestled with the questions of digital sustainability. We thought we probably had some things which higher education could learn from, and we also thought we might be able to learn from the process as well.

There are two main challenges that we’ve faced: one is pure preservation, how to keep digital material in a way that makes it accessible in the future, literally, just in terms of bits and bytes, and the other type of problem we’ve faced is how to keep projects, or the production of past projects, alive for future users; how to update them, to enhance them, to continue their relevance to people in the future, and that’s an even bigger problem.

In the Library we’ve developed a pretty stable, robust system for capturing digital content and keeping it, in such a way that it’s both safe and also accessible, and we’re reasonably happy (not that anybody can be totally happy with the safety of digital material). We’ve also tried in various ways to make sure that projects which we’ve done in the past don’t just, as it were, sit on the shelf and just become frozen in time. So we’ve done our best to update and to enhance, and to develop material, partly by treating those projects as part of a much wider programme of digital content, so for example with print we have an overall programme called The Theatre of Memory, which tries to link together individual projects, all of them united by the ambition of creating an equivalent to the printed Library of Wales. So what we do there is try to encompass and envelop previous projects into current ones, to try to, for example, to update the public interface so that the product of older projects doesn’t look tired and dated, and irrelevant.

We do take quite a centralised attitude towards digital content, and have done for the best part of fifteen years. So, for example, we have a digital unit within the Library which looks after all of our digitisation projects; we have a carder of staff who are skilled and can move from project to project, bringing their expertise with them. We have a constant stream of core funding as well, so we use our core funding to maintain a base for digital creation and maintenance of digital projects, while at the same time trying to attract money from outside the institution. That is a continuity of approach to how you look after digital material.

But I won’t promise that it’s an easy process, because, just as in higher education, it’s very very tempting to go from one project to a new project, leaving as it were the old one behind. That’s always the tendency, and if you’re not careful the product of the old project simply lies there. So what we try to do, especially now as we realise that we need to pay more attention to the impact of digital content and how it’s used by actual users, we’re beginning to look back on some of the old projects and thinking, “Well, we haven’t looked after this one very well, we need to update and develop it and maintain it”.

We thought the Report would give us some clues about what are the different factors which militate against continuity of digital collections and sustainability in general, and I think the Report gives a real, rich picture of how those factors interact to make it quite difficult in some cases for individual collections not so much to survive, but to flourish. So it’s very interesting, for example, to look at how careers of principle investigators and others are responsible for creating those projects, how their careers actually don’t make it easy for them to linger with those projects they’ve finished. They need to move on to the next one, and to the next one, and to leave behind what they’ve done, well that doesn’t make for continuity.

The Report also makes clear though, on the positive side, where those projects might rest within the university, and have a better chance of survival and flourishing. It points particularly I think to libraries, and the place of the library of a university in providing a permanent home and a permanent setting. Resourcing of course is always going to be a difficulty, and at a time when universities are under pressure it is not easy even to make sure that there are staff available within the library or another central institution who have the specific responsibility of maintaining and co-ordinating and developing digital collections…it’s easier said than done, but the Report I think does point to the role of central institutions like the library, and that’s a really positive thing. The library is, after all, a very natural home for what is, after all, published material.

In a way it’s very easy for a national institution like the National Library, which is already concentrating on this area as a major strand of its activity. In a way we bypass some of the difficult questions which higher education institutions have, like where do digital collections physically belong, whose job it is to look after them and to develop them, and where are they going to be embedded, just who’s going to be responsible within the institution.

For us, that is a relatively easy question, and we can see particularly in the case of smaller academic institutions those questions are very difficult, if not impossible, to answer, and we’re in an interesting position in Wales at the moment where some of the responsibilities within the higher education institutions are beginning to touch on the question of the role of the National Library in relation to them: in other words, does it make sense for the National Library to take over some of the responsibilities in relation to sustainability of some digital resources, which at the moment are technically the responsibility of the higher education institution. So there is an interesting dialogue I think which we are about to have about whether the National Library actually makes a more sensible and more centralised, more central repository, not just in the physical sense, but a repository of skills and of development on behalf of individual higher education institutions

I don’t think I was surprised by the Report, it confirmed what I’d thought, that the preservation of the bits and bytes is one thing, but much more important in a way is the cultural elements of sustainability, and how you actually maintain a digital content in the round; that’s much more difficult thing to do, so I think the Report brought out very well the complexity of the difficulties of doing that, as well as hinting at some of the answers.

I think what the National Library of Wales will take from the Report is it will reinforce what we already suspect to be the case, that we’re not giving sufficient attention to what happens to our digital content. Now that’s just another way of saying that we’re not paying attention to our users of digital content, and I think this report really ought to be linked to the report Simon Tanner did very recently on the impact of digital content. Because if we’re honest, we don’t know enough about how content is used, for what purposes, how much our users think about our content and what they would like to have in future. On all of those questions we are woefully inadequate. And I think another thing, a more practical thing even than that we’ll take away from the Report is the importance really of getting the user interface right, and again if we’re really honest with ourselves we put so much more energy, we put so many more resources, into the sheer creation of digital content, and we don’t put enough emphasis on how that content’s going to be used, and how it’s going to appear, and how users are going to interact with it. I think those are the chief lessons for us, and they’re not easy lessons to learn for a body that traditionally has just thrown material, knowledge, out there and expected people to come and use it, and the Library doesn’t interfere with that process, as it were. So there are lots of lessons for us there.

I think the National Library has benefitted from a number of decisions which we, strategic decisions which we took a long time ago; one was to seriously concentrate on digitisation and digital material as a regular part of our work, and not an add-on or a nice to have. Similarly, we’ve always treated our projects as parts of programmes even though we’ve been as opportunistic as anyone else in trying to find resources for individual projects. We’ve tried to treat those projects as part of a coherent programme, and that’s at least given us some chance to make sure that all the projects don’t get forgotten about.

The other major thing I’d recommend is that if you can, if you’re able to do this, it does help enormously if you can build up and then maintain a core of resources: staffing resources, space, equipment, which you can then move from project to project, transferring the knowledge that you’ve gained from one to the other. That gives you an enormous advantage.

Finally, I’d say it helps to have a series of strategies which underpin your programmes, for example a strategy on copyright and licensing of the material which you’re creating. If you have a common approach to that, again you’ve got a good chance of maintaining continuity across time. “

RTI Imaging of Cuneiform Tablets | Centre for Heritage Imaging & Collection Care


This post was originally from the CHICC (Centre for Heritage Imaging & Care Collection) Manchester’s blog, a link to which can be found here

"RTI, or Reflectance Transformation Imaging, is a computational photographic method that captures a subject’s surface shape and colour and enables the interactive re-lighting of the subject from any direction.

The Library’s remarkable collection of over one thousand cuneiform clay tablets is currently being digitised by a team from Oxford University, using advanced imaging technology.

Written in Sumerian and Akkadian, the collection contains by far the oldest material in our Special Collections, with many items being over four thousand years old.  Most of the tablets come from the temples of Drehem and Umma in present-day Iraq and date from the Ur III dynasty (22nd-21st centuries BCE), but there are also First Babylonian Dynasty fragments (20th-17th centuries BCE) and later Babylonian and Assyrian pieces. Among the most significant are a fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a rare tablet showing the floor plan of a Sumerian temple.”

I’m familiar with the idea of RTI imaging, and in fact was able to have a go at it first-hand during my week at Oxford University (taking part in their Digital Humanities Summer School) under the impressive gaze of Segolene Tarte (some of the documentation she suggested during that session is included in the “Workshops” section of the Summer School website - click here for a link).

I struggled quite a bit with the technical elements of that workshop, but there is no doubt that RTI imaging brings something new and exciting to the research table, and is therefore worth my perseverance. 


Eide, Øyvind, University of Oslo, Unit for Digital Documentation, Norway,


How can a reading of a textual description of a landscape be expressed as a map? Maps form a medium different from verbal texts, and the differences have…