Welcome to Histore

Welcome to the project blog for Histore – Historians’ Online Research Environments. Histore is run by IHR Digital at the Institute of Historical Research, part of the University of London. The project is funded by JISC.

The central aim of Histore is to help encourage historians to make greater use of online tools in their research, by giving them information to help them choose the most effective tools for particular tasks and enabling them to request relevant additions to their own institutions’ Virtual Research Environments.

The IHR has been monitoring the use made of digital technology by historians since 2003. What we have found is that it is generally lack of awareness of research tools and their benefits that impedes their take-up in the profession, rather than outright hostility.

Histore will have two phases. In the first phase we will publish an audit of what digital tools are currently available, listing their main characteristics and assessing their difficulty level for new users. In the second phase we will select two areas which we feel present the most pressing need for research training and produce two free online research modules introducing these topics.

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2 thoughts on “Welcome to Histore

  1. It would be helpful to summarise the organisation of the project and its high level project plan in a future blog entry.

    Some brief comments on a couple of the areas identified in the “Definitions” entry:

    (1) Cloud computing

    – One key feature to encourage uptake is the ability to take downloads of third-party stored cloud data
    – Work product created in a collaborative virtual research environment can shift quickly from pure research to publication ready, especially in when group sourcing is being used to create content. The copyright implications of cloud computing should not be underestimated. What are the implications of the legal abode of the server or servers for the sharing and modification of text and images?
    – Is server service choice bundled to the software environment being used for collaborative working (e.g. for collaborative editing, or for group sourced content development)? If so, what is the commitment of the service provider to develop advanced features as needs develop for functionality. To take a specific example, can the software support embedded flash, a requirement for the embedding of images and books in a smooth way, as per the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

    (2) Text mining
    – Will the project include reference to initiatives for machine reading of manuscripts?

    – Will the project include reference to algorithm development for data linking. In particular for non-expert “teaching” of an algorithmic search function, for example name matching, place matching, topic matching?

    (3) Visualisation

    – Is visualisation intended to deal primarily with non-spatial, non-GIS visualisation tools?

    • Hi Colin. Thanks for your comments and questions, which I’ll do my best to respond to, as far as I can.
      You’re right that we should put up a more detailed account of the project. We’ll try to post something on this soon.
      It does seem to be the case that humanities researchers are more reluctant to share their data than scientists. We had the idea a few years ago of publishing data from data archives, in an attempt to push historians a bit more in the direction of sharing data, but unfortunately we weren’t able to secure funding for that particular project.
      1) My assumption on the copyright of datasets is that the act of sharing data comes with the declaration that a particular licence is in effect. Have you come across cases of ambiguity?
      The courses that we design are planned to be essentially tool-agnostic, but rather to encourage researchers to make requests of their own institutional VREs. To that extent I suppose these questions for the researcher to negotiate with their institutions – so these are good questions, but perhaps not for me to answer.
      2) To be honest, I didn’t know that machine reading of manuscripts had made any progress. If you could post some links to some initiatives we’d love to look at them.
      We haven’t yet decided on which areas we will create courses for. Some areas may be beyond our in-house knowledge, and there is provision for freelance writing of course materials by experts. I should say, though, that whichever courses we do create, they will be pitched at a beginner level. The aim is to empower researchers with little or no knowledge of digital tools, rather than to provide advanced materials for power users.
      I don’t know if this has addressed your comments – if you have further thoughts it would be great to hear them.

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