New £566,000 collaborative project under DIGGING INTO DATA programme

New £566,000 collaborative project under DIGGING INTO DATA programme

The University of Oxford is the lead partner in an exciting new project funded by the 'Digging into Data' programme of the Trans-Atlantic Platform, which aims to add substantially to our knowledge of the history and provenance of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The project outputs are intended to be sustainable beyond the life of the project as a significant international resource for manuscript research.

"Mapping Manuscript Migrations" is a two-year, £566,000 collaboration between the Oxford e-Research Centre, the Bodleian Libraries and three major international partners: the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, the Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes (Paris) and the Semantic Computing Group at Aalto University, Helsinki. The project builds on a strong framework of existing collaborations between the partner institutions.

Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts are much-studied and much-loved witnesses to the life and culture of pre-modern Europe. Their rarity and beauty place them among the greatest treasures of museums, libraries and galleries today and they also provide crucial evidence for research in disciplines such as textual and literary studies, palaeography, history, cultural heritage and fine arts.

However, as the result of changes in ownership over the centuries, European manuscripts are now spread all over the world in diverse library, museum and gallery collections. Information relating to their often complicated histories is dispersed and fragmented across numerous sources, compelling historians and other researchers to make painstaking and time-consuming searches of printed and online catalogues.

The "Mapping Manuscript Migrations" project will bring together more than 500,000 records from key databases, including the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania and the Medium database from the Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes. For the first time, researchers, curators and the community will be able to explore this vast body of data, visualizing the travels of manuscripts over many centuries and navigating the network of connections between people, institutions and places involved in their history.

The project will be directed by Dr Toby Burrows of the Oxford e-Research Centre, with the Centre's Senior Researcher Dr Kevin Page and Pip Willcox (Centre for Digital Scholarship, Bodleian Libraries) as Co-Investigators. Dr Burrows comments, "This project will bring manuscript studies into the world of 'big data', using innovative approaches to visualize and analyse manuscript history and provenance".

Bodleian Librarian Richard Ovenden adds, "The Bodleian Libraries hold one of the most significant collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the world, and it is our mission to make them accessible for scholarly research and teaching, and to the wider public. This proposal will greatly benefit the Bodleian and our audiences by facilitating new approaches to and discoveries concerning the manuscripts and their provenance and history."

Fourth round of funding for the Oxford e-Research Centre

The Centre has had projects accepted in all four rounds of this highly competitive international competition: in Round 1, Structural Analysis of Large Amounts of Music Information (SALAMI); Round 2, Imagery Lenses For Visualizing Text Corpora; and Round 3, Commonplace Cultures: Mining Shared Passages In The 18th Century Using Sequence Alignment And Visual Analytics.

Professor David De Roure says of the Round Four award, “We are very excited by this project, which builds on our unique interdisciplinary strengths and international collaborations, using innovative techniques for large-scale data analysis. The project is set to have significant impact in a wide range of disciplines including digital humanities, library and museum practice, manuscript and historical studies and Linked Data research”.

About the competition

The ESRC, the AHRC and 14 other international research funders, as part of the Trans-Atlantic Platform for the Social Sciences and Humanities (T-AP), yesterday announced 14 new collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects that investigate research questions in the humanities and social sciences using large-scale computational techniques. These teams will be pursuing research in a number of areas, including musicology, economics, linguistics, political science, and history.

Each of the winning teams is composed of researchers from multiple scholarly and scientific disciplines, working collaboratively to demonstrate how cutting-edge big data techniques can be used to investigate a wide range of research questions across the humanities and social sciences.

The T-AP Digging into Data Challenge is sponsored by research funding organizations from eleven nations, organized under the auspices of “T-AP,” the Trans-Atlantic Platform for the Social Sciences and Humanities. T-AP is an unprecedented collaboration between key humanities and social science funders and facilitators from South America, North America and Europe. T-AP aims to enhance the ability of funders, research organizations and researchers to engage in transnational dialogue and collaboration.

Participating nations and funding organizations include:  Argentina (MINCyT); Brazil (FAPESP); Canada (SSHRCNSERCFRQ); Finland (AKA); France (ANR); Germany (DFG); Mexico (CONACYT); Netherlands (NWO); Portugal (FCT); United Kingdom (AHRCESRC), and United States (NEHNSFIMLS).

The full list of projects may be found on the Round Four page of the Digging into Data website.

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