Digitisation projects in the GLAM sector

Here are some thoughts on the recent British Library Labs symposium.

Discovered in 1953 by Kathleen Kenyon, the 7,000-year-old Jericho Skull was a sensational find. The skull is shaped, melded and decorated to support the intricacy of the human face and early attempts to learn more about it were fruitless because of the limitations of the technology to try and peak inside. However, 60 years after its discovery the skull went under a micro-CT scan to create virtual models without damaging the skull. For the first time the human cranium was visualised and they were even able to see the jaw, molars and the thousand year old thumbprint pressed into it.

So much information was discovered because of this type of scanning and in 2016 the British Library created a digital 3D model of the Jericho Skull and create a virtual portrait of the Neolithic man inside the skull, with the help of RN-DS Partnership and forensic facial reconstruction experts. Daniel Pett, currently Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum, was a keynote speaker at the British Library Labs symposium in early November 2018 which the City University Library and Information Science students attended. Pett spoke about his amazing work with 3D modelling at the British and Fitzwilliam museum and it was the Jericho Skull which really homed in on some of the interesting ways the GLAM sector is using technology to enhance and discover more about their collections. Without micro-CT scanning and 3D modelling software, and the dedication of the teams working on projects like MicroPasts, we may have never discovered the intricacies of some the artefacts housed in the British Museum.

Photogrammetry and 3D modelling make history that much more accessible and the online catalogues make for an exciting progression in digital collection management and curation in the GLAM sector. The opportunity to incorporate objects and artefacts into classrooms is also promising. The days of strictly textbook learning are long gone as schools engage with emerging technologies to develop their students.  Museums and galleries that get on board with this tech can create engaging learning tools that encourage observation and questioning skills (Science Museum, 2017) and provide accessible materials which in turn help to close the economic gap for those who cannot physically get to museums and galleries. The social inclusion that the LIS profession promotes is made possible with tech that provides access to materials close to the form they were intended, an interactive virtual 3D model is arguably the next best thing to visiting the artefact or object (Li Liew, 2012) and at least provides a more appealing experience than a flat 2D depiction. The promotion of digital libraries is intended to complement and extend beyond the physical constraints of the library space (Li Liew, 2012), naturally institutes in the GLAM sector are finding new and exciting ways to make accessible and promote their collections, 3D modelling is just one cool way they are doing this.

Chowdhury, G. G. and Foo, S. (2012) Digital libraries and information access research perspectives.

‘Cultural Heritage Spotlight: Q&A with Daniel Pett from the British Museum (Part 1)’ (2017) Sketchfab Blog, 16 January. Available at: https://blog.sketchfab.com/cultural-heritage-spotlight-qa-daniel-pett-british-museum-part1/  (Accessed: 24 November 2018).

Face of 9,500-Year-Old Man Revealed for First Time (2017) National Geographic News. Available at: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/jericho-skull-neolithic-facial-reconstruction-archaeology-british-museum/  (Accessed: 24 November 2018).

McKenzie, E. (2017) 3D object scans as a museum learning resource, Science Museum Group Digital Lab. Available at: https://lab.sciencemuseum.org.uk/3d-object-scans-as-a-museum-learning-resource-part-1-9e1e51b67581  (Accessed: 29 November 2018).

RN-DS Partnership – Practitioners in photocomparison, archaeological facial reconstruction and medical/medico-legal artwork (no date). Available at: https://www.rn-ds-partnership.com/ (Accessed: 24 November 2018).


The British Library is currently engaged in an ongoing digitisation project, in conjunction with many other cultural institutions such as the British Museum and the National Archives. The digitisation of library, gallery and museum collections serves a range of purposes. One of these is that it enables more and more people to see and experience the collections.

Some collections are too fragile to be on permanent display and simultaneously many institutions lack the resources to stage regular touring exhibitions meaning that the vast majority of all artefacts held by galleries, libraries and museums only exist as catalogue entries, invisible for the most part to almost everyone. Another benefit is that digitisation provides an additional form of preservation, protecting the existence of the object in the event of damage to the physical manifestation.

Digitisation also enables objects and histories to be combined in innovative and experiential ways, for example by bringing together audio and visual strands in ways that can be more widely disseminated and more easily shared.

The British Library Labs Symposium included a number of awards for projects which make innovative use of digital technologies, particularly the Artistic Award which ‘recognises an artistic or creative endeavour that has used the Library’s digital collection to inspire, amaze and provoke.’

One such was the Nomad Project, a collaborative, mixed-reality experience produced by Abira Hussein in conjunction with Mnemoscene, a company specialising in the creation of ‘meaningful immersive experiences’.

For the Nomad Project, the creators brought together sound recordings from the British Library’s John Low Collection, photographs from the Powell-Cotton Collection and objects from the British Museum.

The sound recordings and photographs were combined with 3D digital images of the artefacts in order to create an immersive, real time, interactive exhibit which could be experienced via a Microsoft Hololens, a Virtual Reality headset developed by Mnemoscene.

Participants have also been invited to workshops where they have been asked to bring their own stories and artefacts for inclusion. In these ways, the project is developing its own digital collection and digital history.

The Nomad Project is a striking example of how digital technologies can enable curators to engage with their audiences in new and effective ways.

https://nomad-project.co.uk  (Accessed: 28/11/2018)

https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/John-Low-East-Africa (Accessed: 29/11/2018)

https://objectjourneys.britishmuseum.org/somali-object-journeys-at-the-british-museum-an-introduction-to-the-project/ (Accessed: 28/11/2018)

http://www.quexpark.co.uk/museum/the-history-of-powell-cotton-museum.html (Accessed: 01/12/2018)

http://mnemoscene.io (Accessed: 29/11/2018)

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/commercial-oppurtunities/digitisation-services/why-digities/ (Accessed: 28/11/2018)

















Navigating the ‘exaflood’

In 2010 Luciano Floridi remarked that we are coming into the ‘age of the zettabyte’ (Floridi, 2010) as we would have created 1,000 exabytes of digital data. It’s difficult to imagine the scale of this digital information so like most visual learners I turned to pictures to help me out. Cisco created this mammoth infographic to present what the internet would look like in 2015 and it’s astonishing however, it is 2018 and according to Cisco’s information traffic projection we are well into the zettabyte era.

So, with all this information being created what does it mean for LIS?

Well, in week 4 of the Library & Information Science Foundation module we again discussed what a document is (I find myself coming back to this question more than I ever imagined) and the concept of documents vs documentation. As we attempt to define what documents are and our approach to classifying and cataloguing them we turn to document literacy. We must understand how to deal with different types of documents as document forms evolve. How on earth do we deal with tweets; Facebook notifications; ebooks; blog posts; pictures; videos; immersive documents? Since Instagram’s conception there have been an estimated 40 billion photos and videos shared on the social media application (Lister 2018), are all these documents? If they are how could we possibly index and link them on the web?

In this day and age information seeking starts with our 4-6-inch phones, our tablets, computers and laptops. Like Paul Otlet’s Mundaneum there is a central knowledge repository in the web, but like Otlet madly trying to index the world’s documents, we as Information professionals must consider how this ‘exaflood’ of information will be linked together in a meaningful way.
Just over 10 years ago Tim Berners-Less published the Semantic Road Map, a living document that explains the need for a linked web of data that is both machine readable and for human consumption. The concept is simple but highly effective the Wikipedia-like linked pages as a concept is intriguing and the hope is it would lead us to more meaningful results. However, with exabytes of data already on the web how does one go about linking this data?

Tim Berners-Lee describes the ‘expectations of behaviour’ whilst linking data on the web, using URI’s to name things, using HTTP URIs so said things can be looked up, provide useful information using RDF and SPARQL standards and providing links so other information can be discovered (Berners-Lee, 2009). These expectations or ‘rules’ are integral to developing the semantic web and these links are the basis for the web of data. With data on the semantic web providing meaningful links to other related data, navigation for the end users will take on a form already well known with the hypertext web with the added relational data that provides meaningful links. Tim Berners-Lee’s semantic web is one proposed solution for the exaflood of information on the web and how we can deal with it.

33 Mind-Boggling Instagram Stats & Facts for 2018 (no date). Available at: https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/04/20/instagram-statistics  (Accessed: 15 October 2018).

Burkeman, O. (2009) ‘Forty years of the internet: how the world changed for ever’, The Guardian, 23 October. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2009/oct/23/internet-40-history-arpanet (Accessed: 10 October 2018).

Floridi, L. (2010) Information: a very short introduction. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press (Very short introductions, 225).

ibelong2 (no date) What is the Exaflood? Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVnH5D-lWrA (Accessed: 14 October 2018).

Linked Data – Design Issues (no date). Available at: https://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData.html (Accessed: 22 October 2018).

Luini, A. (1556) Rising in Noah’s ark. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aurelio-Luini-Rising-in-the-Ark.jpg (Accessed: 8 November 2018).

Semantic Web roadmap (no date). Available at: https://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/Semantic.html (Accessed: 20 October 2018).

Swanson, B. (2007) ‘The Coming Exaflood’, Wall Street Journal, 20 January. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB116925820512582318 (Accessed: 14 October 2018).

What Is a Document? | Document Academy (no date). Available at: http://documentacademy.org/?what-is-a-document (Accessed: 15 October 2018).

Whatever Happened to the Semantic Web? (no date). Available at: https://twobithistory.org/2018/05/27/semantic-web.html (Accessed: 15 October 2018).

LIS: trying to see the bigger picture


I see my first few weeks studying Information Science much like my first experience of virtual reality. I was gifted a cardboard box VR headset with very low expectations, I loaded  a 4K underwater VR experience from YouTube and was, quite frankly, stunned. I walked around my bedroom trying to get to the edges of the video but the feeling of being utterly surrounded by this projected seascape was dizzying. I wanted to get a complete ‘picture’ of the video but VR does the opposite, there are no edges per say  just these strange 360° world. In this same way I am trying to get hold of the bigger picture of LIS.

In the second lecture of the term Lyn showed us the rock art and clay tablets of the ancient world with (to me, the untrained eye) a bunch of symbols and pictures on them. We discussed the definition of documents and never in my life did I imagine that a seemingly simple question could have such a multiplicity of answers, opinions and debate. I reflected on what I would define as a document and documentation and seeing the rock art displayed on the screen in front of me I wanted to say yes, they were documents. 43,500 BCE persons unknown decided to document the protowriting (new word for me) we see on the images of the rock art displayed.

This early form of documentation is the only way we can now in the present get a glimpse of reality of that particular time. The internet is described as ‘a mechanism for information dissemination […] without regard for geographic location’ (Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, Stephen Wolff, 1997). There is something to be said for the significance of how a snapshot of a time thousands of years ago is affecting a South London girl sitting in a classroom on St John’s Street in late 2018. Without technology and information sharing I would not have any concept of this ancient world, so it is Week 2 and I am trying to grasp the bigger picture of Library and Information Science. In a short time, I have all but moved past the idea that Information Science can have one universal definition. Technology, ethics and culture are but a few notions that muddy the one definition notion and give way for a multiplicity of factors that need to be considered when you look at LIS.

Since the dawn of the internet and social media, the information sharing culture has exploded we can post, edit, comment and share information instantly and in general without restrictions using social media. Whether formal or informal we create documents every minute which shape our reality in the same way persons unknown created documents on the walls of caves so many thousands of years ago. Technology and social media specifically alter our reality, we edit our digital self and disseminate it how we please. Not only can we edit our digital self but everyone we connect with alters it in some way too, whether deliberately or not. In week 1 and 2 we looked at the history of the internet and it’s now hard to separate LIS from it. Each part of the information communication chain is continuing to change and tech is always pushing the boundaries further, for example the idea of VR libraries is particularly exciting to me!

So, it’s nearly week 3 and the questions I find myself pondering are:

  • What is the role of the Information Scientist and how has/does it change over time?
  • What exactly are documents and how are they defined?
  • How does ethics play a role in relation to technology?
  • How will LIS react to the disruption and innovation of tech to come?

With all those questions and more bouncing around in my mind, for the moment I am just trying to grasp the bigger picture and as I try to focus on one part of the enormous ever changing landscape of LIS I am drawn to another aspect I hadn’t considered yet.



Bawden, D and Robinson Lyn, 2012. Introduction to Information Science. London: Facet Publishing.

Chowdhury, G.G and Chowdhury S, 2007. Organising information from shelf to the web. London: Facet Publishing

Krotoski, A 2018. The Digital Human: Jigsaw [podcast, online]. BBC. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bkqv3z [Accessed on 30 October 2018].

Leiner, B.M, Vinton G. Cerf, Clark D.D, Kahn, R.E, Kleinrock, L, Lynch D.C, Postel, J, Larry G. R and Wolff, S, 1997. Brief History of the Internet [online]. Internet Society. Available from: https://www.internetsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ISOC-History-of-the-Internet_1997.pdf [Accessed on 05 October 2018].

Love it or hate it – networking in our profession

In my experience the term networking produces distinct reactions from people. Mainly: a great opportunity to enjoy some wine, nibbles and liaise with other professionals in your industry or the pit-stomach anxiety reaction at the thought of spending the night chit-chatting with strangers. Personally, I feel the former, since starting my professional career I’ve come to realise how important networking is. It is integral in the Information profession as well, a core component of information as a practice is information and knowledge sharing. They only way to do this is by communicating with our colleagues and our end users. Long gone are the days when librarians can hide in the dark corners of the library sans contact with other people, along with the changing role of librarians the idea of networking is changing also (Steve Haber, 2011).

I spent 27 September 2018 with colleagues from my firm in the National Portrait Gallery for vendor drinks (bad photos I took on the way out below). Aside from the wonderful artwork, which I enjoyed far more than the first time around on my primary school trip, it was a chance to network with other Information professionals and business teams. Before the event I spoke to some of my colleagues about networking and how we use it. As expected some of my colleagues back arched and wide eyed explained the anxiety that comes with schmoozing strangers in a professional manner and those who openly and actively look forward to making conversation and sharing ideas with people. Thus, I wanted to delve just a little deeper into how the Information profession treats networking and if there was any evidence to suggest Information professionals on average are pro or con networking.

Typically professions like sales and marketing are viewed as being successful and aggressive networkers, going around a room with the velocity and precision of a great white shark. So how does the Information profession fair?

CILIP’s Mike Jones and Jo Wood conducted a survey in February 2018 asking respondents (across all library professions) to rate their confidence in a variety of situations. During a two-week period, in which the survey was active, 238 people responded and here are some of the results.

In relation to the idea of networking:

41.6 per cent of respondents rated their comfort at 1 or 2, while just 26.9 per cent rated it 4 or 5. 

When asked to describe their feelings towards networking:

By far the most prominent word was “awkward”, followed by “nervous” and “anxious”. (Mike Jones, Jo Wood, 2018)

It should be noted that when respondents were asked to rate their experience at networking events, the figures showed on a scale of 1-5 the average was 3.29. So not all the data indicated negative responses and experiences in relation to networking. However, from the figures collected in this survey there is some evidence to show that some Information professionals do feel a sense of discomfort about the idea of networking. It can be said once at the event figures were increasingly positive but it is that initial period before the event that anxiety is increased.

Networking events and conferences may not necessarily be all about the content and something can be said for the importance of just meeting people and sharing ideas (Yvonne Hultman Özek, 2009). As within most professions despite impressive technological advances and the growing wealth of resources that aid working practices and environments, people are still the greatest resource. Meeting people and sharing ideas is how we progress and develop and the same can be said in the Information profession, the most valuable ideas I have got have been through talking to people in the field and beyond. Networking is unavoidable and some relate information to communication between people thus information is deeply rooted in communication (Bawden and Robinson, 2012). The need to network in my perspective is a scary notion and so it should be because those opportunities are untapped knowledge and experience pools that we should be using and if for nothing else, go for the free food and drinks. Make friends don’t alienate people.



Bawden, D and Robinson, L, 2012. Introduction to Information Science. London: Facet Publishing

Chowdhury, Rishi, 2011. The Importance of Networking [online]. United Kingdom: Business Insider, 2011. Available from: https://www.businessinsider.com/the-importance-of-networking-2011-5?IR=T [Accessed 30 September 2018].

Haber, Steve, 2011. The Changing Role of Libraries in the Digital Age [online]. Huffington Post, 2011. Available from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-haber/the-changing-role-of-libr_b_803722.html?guccounter=1 [Accessed 30 September 2018]

Hultman Ozek, Y, 2009. Rejuvenation and Networking Motivates Librarians to Attend Conferences, Evidence Summary. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 4(4). Available from https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/6293/5867 [Accessed 29 September 2018

Wood, J and Jones M, 2018. Conference 2018: making the most of networking opportunities [online]. London: CILIP, 2018. Available from: https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/Conference18network [Accessed 29 September 2018].

A first time for everything

A first time for everything, embarking on an Information Science Master’s degree has led me to WordPress and led me to blogging. Upon starting my latest university course, the last thing I expected, the first thing I would do is, start a blog. However, new endeavours and a great group of fellow students has encouraged me to be bold and get blogging. So I shall start short and sweet with a little bit about myself.

I started my career fairly recently after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts reading English at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2016. Since then I have had two ‘adult jobs’ my current job as an Information Assistant at Linklaters and the other working as a Briefings Officer at the City of London Police. Strange choices for someone who did an English degree but life is strange.

My biggest influences are the people and places in London. I have lived in London my whole life and have no plans to move as yet. Hailing from Croydon, moving to New Cross was no big feat but what a strange and quirky little place it is! The city is awesome and inspires me daily, the mix of dirty, grimy (typical London) infrastructure and the wonderful, kooky people are so endearing. Don’t be fooled, if you want out of the concrete jungle to go look at some green stuff you will find it London, my own South Norwood park is a epic expanse of greenery with a gorgeous lake. I currently live in Wandsworth and only west of my beloved Croydon what a place that is! Putney park especially.

Aside from my die hard love of London, poetry is a new and exciting passion of mine so please check out my latest posts on Instagram. I have experimenting with the haiku form lately and love messing around with metaphor poetry so if you are a fellow poetry lover do get in contact!

So, some of the loves aside, this leads me to why I am blogging. Libraries and Information, knowledge and information keeping as a practice will stand the test of time without a doubt. The basic human need to know and understand is universal and connects us all together. My love of libraries started in the sandpit of Rotherhithe library at the age of 6, the sheer amount of knowledge contained within those walls was impressive to me and I have stuck closely by the library environment ever since.  I will hope to explore some of the theories and practice of the science of information on this blog.