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Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections


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18 November 2016

International Games Day: Steampunk, Murder Mystery and Game-Poetry

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, you can follow her on twitter @miss_wisdom.

Tomorrow is International Games Day at Your Library (Saturday 19th November) and in addition to WordPlay; a free one-day festival at the British Library in London about writerly games, digital narrative and interactive fiction. There will also be board games and other digital games in the Eliot room in the Knowledge Centre between 11:00 and 16:00, these are free and you don't need to book, just turn up.

In the Eliot room there will be:

Amazing games that were created at The National Archive's Steampunk Game Jam. Including the jam's winning entry The Great Airship Rescue, where an aircraft created to locate Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition has been sabotaged by protestors and the player is tasked with fixing various ailing machinery to keep the aircraft aloft. You can read more about the Steampunk Game Jam games in their blog post.

Previous Off the Map finalist Gary Kings will be demonstrating his new game Disorient On The Murder Express; this is a short, humorous and experimental murder mystery game in which you are tasked with deducing the details of a convoluted murder that took place on an isolated train, and making a show of presenting the evidence and accusing the culpable parties. The game was born from a Game Jam hosted by GamesDev Wales in association with the Agatha Christie estate. Gary will also be giving visitors a sneak preview of his new game 2000:1: A Space Felony.

Disorient On The Murder Express Play-through

There will also be Game-Poetry games from PRINT / SCREEN. National Videogame Arcade writer-in-residence Abigail Parry and PhD poetry-games researcher Jon Stone present a smorgasbord of experiments mixing games with poetry. Generate your own love poem by shooting hearts in space, descend through the levels of Prospero’s drowned library, escape a textual labyrinth and play the finalists of this year’s Off The Map competition.  


15 November 2016

WordPlay Festival for International Games Day

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, you can follow her on twitter @miss_wisdom.

The 2016 International Games Day at Your Library takes place on Saturday 19th November and this year the British Library is working with the Hand Eye Society and Press Fire to Win to host WordPlay; a free one-day festival at the British Library in London about writerly games, digital narrative and interactive fiction. The event includes talks, workshops, board games, a juried IF games showcase and we'd love you to come along! Our facebook event page is here, there is a full schedule here and I've also included the times of talks and workshops further down in this blog post if you scroll down.

The WordPlay interactive fiction games showcase will be located in the main library building on floor one outside the Rare Books & Music Reading Room and  the Humanities One Reading Room. Please drop by between 10:00 and 16:00 to read and play these digital games.

Board games will be located in Eliot room in the Knowledge Centre, again drop by between 11:00 and 16:00. We've picked a selection of games that we hope will appeal to adults and children over three:

  • Animal Upon Animal
  • Bananagrams
  • Biblios
  • Bucket King
  • Carcassonne
  • Dobble
  • Ice Cool
  • Pandemic
  • Qwirkle
  • Rhino Hero
  • Scrabble
  • Ticket To Ride Europe
  • Zombie Dice

 For more information on these games check out our GeekList at BoardGameGeek

Games 2016
Board Games Available To Play on 19/11/2016


 WordPlay Talks  will be held in the Bronte room in the Knowledge Centre, you don't need to book in advance - just turn up to the sessions you are interested in, below is the schedule:

11:15 - 11:30: Welcome

11:30 - 12:15: The City is your Playground: Games Played in Public with Holly Gramazio, Tom Williams, Hannah Nicklin, Mink Ette

As a designer, pervasive games allow you to use the greatest set of all — the real world — already pre-populated by unpaid extras! A variety of public game creators discuss the particular affordances and considerations they have to keep in mind when designing outside-of-the box narrative experiences.

12:45 - 13:10: Not Losing the Point with A Normal Lost Phone by Rafael Martinez-Jausoro

One of the people behind A Normal Lost Phone explains how they found a balance between a social impact message and engaging gameplay by using narrative and an original point of view.

13:10 - 13:35: Standard Structures in Choice-Based Games by Hannah Powell-Smith

While choice-based games are simpler in form to systems-based games, there is a considerable variety of structure that impacts player experience. Learn and be inspired by examples of the Branch-and-Bottleneck, the Time Cave, and the Gauntlet!

14:00 - 14:45: Crafting Interactive Fiction Tools with Richard Bartle, Jon Ingold, Juhana Leinonen, Emily Short

What motivates people to make interactive fiction tools, and what encourages people to use them?

15:15 - 16:00: Practical Considerations of Writerly Games with Olivia Wood, Haley Uyrus, Adrian Hon, Rob Sherman

Because creating interactive fiction is challenging, with no straightforward path, we’ve assembled a panel of seasoned writerly games types to discuss some nitty gritty issues: funding possibilities, useful production tools and methods, and how to connect with an audience.

16:15 - 17:15: Worldbuilding with Words with Hannah Powell-Smith, Nate Crowley, Helen Carmichael, Jon Green

Creators of interactive fiction, prose-forward games, Twitter microfictions and gamebooks discuss the challenges and joys of using words to evoke historical eras and weird universes.

WordPlay Workshops will be held in the Dickens room in the Knowledge Centre, please do book a place for these.

11:30 - 12:30, Texture workshop, Jim Munroe

13:00 - 15:00, Twine Workshop, Rob Sherman.

15:00 - 17:00, Inform 7 Workshop, Emily Short

PRE-REGISTER HERE for the workshops on Twine, Texture, and Inform. Please note that you must bring your own laptop for the workshops.

WordPlay London



14 November 2016

British Library Labs Symposium 2016 - Competition and Award runners up

The 4th annual British Library Labs Symposium was held on 7th November 2016, and the event was a great success in celebrating and showcasing Digital Scholarship and highlighting the work of BL Labs and their collaborators. The exciting day included the announcement of the winners of the BL Labs Competition and BL Labs Awards, as well as of the runners up who are presented in this blog post. Posts written by all of the winners and runners up about their work are also scheduled for the next few weeks - watch this space!

BL Labs Competition finalist for 2016
Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library announced that the runner up of the two finalists of the BL Labs Competition for 2016 was...

Black Abolitionist Performances and their Presence in Britain
By Hannah-Rose Murray (PhD student at the University of Nottingham)

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, welcoming Hannah-Rose Murray on to the stage.

The project focuses on African American lives, experiences and lectures in Britain between 1830–1895. By assessing black abolitionist speeches in the British Library’s nineteenth-century newspaper collection and using the British Library’s Flickr Commons 1 million collection. to illustrate, the project has illuminated their performances and how their lectures reached nearly every corner of Britain. For the first time, the location of these meetings has been mapped and the number and scale of the lectures given by black abolitionists in Britain has been evaluated, allowing their hidden voices to be heard and building a more complete picture of Victorian London for us. Hannah-Rose has recently posted an update about her work and the project findings can also be found on her website:

RoseHannah-Rose Murray is a second year PhD student with the Department of American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham. Her AHRC/M3C-funded PhD focuses on the legacy of formerly enslaved African Americans on British society and the different ways they fought British racism. Hannah-Rose received a first class Masters degree in Public History from Royal Holloway University and has a BA History degree from University College London (UCL). In Nottingham, Hannah-Rose works closely with the Centre for Research in Race and Rights and is one of the postgraduate directors of the Rights and Justice Research Priority Area, which includes the largest number of scholars (700) in the world working on rights and justice.

BL Labs Awards runners up for 2016

Research Award runner up
Allan Sudlow, Head of Research Development at the British Library announced that the runner up of the Research Award was...

Nineteenth-century Newspaper Analytics
By Paul Fyfe (Associate Professor of English, North Carolina State University) and Qian Ge (PhD Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, North Carolina State University)

Nineteenth-Century Newspaper Analytics

The project represents an innovative partnership between researchers in English literature, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and data analytics in pursuit of a seemingly simple research question: How can computer vision and image processing techniques be adapted for large-scale interpretation of historical illustrations? The project is developing methods in image analytics to study a corpus of illustrated nineteenth-century British newspapers from the British Library’s collection, including The Graphic, The Illustrated Police News, and the Penny Illustrated Paper. 

Paul Fyfe and Qian Ge gave a recorded acceptance speech at the Symposium as they were unable to attend in person.

It aims to suggest ways of adapting image processing techniques to other historical media while also pursuing scholarship on nineteenth-century visual culture and the illustrated press. The project also exposes the formidable technical challenges presented by historical illustrations and suggests ways to refine computer vision algorithms and analytics workflows for such difficult data. The website includes sample workflows as well as speculations about how large-scale image analytics might yield insights into the cultural past, plus much more: 

Commercial Award runner up
Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences at the British Library announced that the runner up of the Commercial Award was...

Poetic Places
By Sarah Cole (TIME/IMAGE organisation and Creative Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the British Library)

Bl_labs_symposium_2016_172Sarah Cole, presenting Poetic Places PoeticPoetic Places

Poetic Places is a free app for iOS and Android devices which was launched in March 2016. It brings poetic depictions of places into the everyday world, helping users to encounter poems in the locations described by the literature, accompanied by contextualising historical narratives and relevant audiovisual materials. These materials are primarily drawn from open archive collections, including the British Library Flickr collection. Utilising geolocation services and push notifications, Poetic Places can (whilst running in the background on the device) let users know when they stumble across a place depicted in verse and art, encouraging serendipitous discovery. Alternatively, they can browse the poems and places via map and list interfaces as a source of inspiration without travelling. Poetic Places aspires to give a renewed sense of place, to bring together writings and paintings and sounds to mean more than they do alone, and to bring literature into people’s everyday life in unexpected moments.

Artistic Award runner up
Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning at the British Library announced that the runner up of the Artistic Award was... 

Bl_labs_symposium_2016_190Kristina Hofmann and Claudia Rosa Lukas

Fashion Utopia
By Kris Hofmann (Animation Director) and Claudia Rosa Lukas (Curator)

Fashion Utopia

The project involved the creation of an 80 second animation and five vines which accompanied the Austrian contribution to the International Fashion Showcase London, organised annually by the British Council and the British Fashion Council. Fashion Utopia garnered creative inspiration from the treasure trove of images from the British Library Flickr Commons collection and more than 500 images were used to create a moving collage that was, in a second step, juxtaposed with stop-frame animated items of fashion and accessories.

Teaching / Learning Award runner up
Ria Bartlett, Lead Producer: Onsite Learning at the British Library announced that the runner up of the Teaching / Learning Award was...

The PhD Abstracts Collections in FLAX: Academic English with the Open Access Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS) at the British Library

By Shaoqun Wu (FLAX Research & Development and Lecturer in Computer Science), Alannah Fitzgerald (FLAX Open Education Research and PhD Candidate), Ian H. Witten (FLAX Project Lead and Professor of Computer Science) and Chris Mansfield (English Language and Academic Writing Tutor)

The PhD Abstracts Collections in FLAX

The project presents an educational research study into the development and evaluation of domain-specific language corpora derived from PhD abstracts with the Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS) at the British Library. The collections, which are openly available from this study, were built using the interactive FLAX (Flexible Language Acquisition open-source software for uptake in English for Specific Academic Purposes programmes (ESAP) at Queen Mary University of London. The project involved the harvesting of metadata, including the abstracts of 400,000 doctoral theses from UK universities, from the EThOS Toolkit at the British Library. These digital PhD abstract text collections were then automatically analysed, enriched, and transformed into a resource that second-language and novice research writers can browse and query in order to extend their ability to understand the language used in specific domains, and to help them develop their abstract writing. It is anticipated that the practical contribution of the FLAX tools and the EThOS PhD Abstract collections will benefit second-language and novice research writers in understanding the language used to achieve the persuasive and promotional aspects of the written research abstract genre. It is also anticipated that users of the collections will be able to develop their arguments more fluently and precisely through the practice of research abstract writing to project a persuasive voice as is used in specific research disciplines.

Alannah Fitzgerald and Chris Mansfield receiving the Runner Up Teaching and Learning Award on behalf of the FLAX team.

British Library Labs Staff Award runner up
Phil Spence, Chief Operating Officer at the British Library announced that the runner up of the British Library Labs Staff Award as...

SHINE 2.0 - A Historical Search Engine

Led by Andy Jackson (Web Archiving Technical Lead at the British Library) and Gil Hoggarth (Senior Web Archiving Engineer at the British Library)


SHINE is a state-of-the-art demonstrator for the potential of Web Archives to transform research. The current implementation of SHINE exposes metadata from the Internet Archive's UK domain web archives for the years 1996- 2013. This data was licensed for use by the British Library by agreement with JISC. SHINE represents a high level of innovation in access and analysis of web archives, allowing sophisticated searching of a very large and loosely-structured dataset and showing many of the characteristics of "Big Social Data". Users can fine-tune results to look for file-types, results from specific domains, languages used and geo-location data (post-code look-up). The interface was developed by Web Archive technical development alongside the AHRC-funded Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities project. An important concept in its design and development was that it would be researcher-led and SHINE was developed iteratively with research case studies relating to use of UK web archives.

Andy Jackson, Receiving the Runner up Staff Award on behalf of the SHINE team

The lead institution for SHINE was the University of London, with Professor Jane Winters as principle investigator, and former British Library staff members Peter Webster and Helen Hockx were also instrumental in developing the project and maintaining researcher engagement through the project.