The Old Books New

Science Lab: An Overview

Laura Mitchell
Julia King
Alexandra Bolintineanu
Table of Contents

• What is the Old Books New Science
• The Lab’s Projects
• Book of Fame
• Digital Tools for Manuscript Study
• IIIF and Omeka
• Credits
What is the OBNS Lab?
• We are a collective of faculty, post-docs, grad
students, and alt-ac employees interested in digital
scholarship, digital text editing, computational
approaches to humanities research, and new media
• We hold weekly lab meetings on Fridays where we
gather informally to discuss our problems and
successes, learn new skills, and report on the
progress of our various projects.
• Weekly discussions will sometimes have a particular
focus or will feature presentations on e.g., comps,
digital tools like Neatline or Omeka, interviews, etc.
The Lab’s Projects
• Members of the OBNS lab are involved with
a wide variety of scholarly projects
• Book of Fame: Alex is leading the
development with a group of
undergraduate and graduate students of
an edutainment video game built around
the issues and questions raised by the
transition of archival research into the
digital environment. ( )
• Players reconstruct a new Canterbury Tale,
written by Margaret Atwood for Geoffrey
Chaucer, but scattered across digital
The game’s eagle repositories by a vengeful John Gower…
The Lab’s Projects
• Alex Gillespie is PI on several interconnected
projects under the purview of the OBNS lab:
– Matthew Parker’s Scribes for Printed Books
•Mellon-funded Project
•This online catalogue
allows users to search and
browse descriptions of
printed books from the
Parker collection, with
marginal annotations by
Matthew Parker and his
•Viewing annotations in
their manuscript context
allows us to reconstruct
how early modern readers
read medieval texts.
The Lab’s Projects
– Digital Tools for Manuscript Study, of which
there are two use-cases:
1. John Stow’s Books
• Much like the Parker’s Scribes
project, John Stow’s Books allows
users to search and browse
descriptions of the manuscripts
and early printed books the
Elizabethan antiquary owned and
• We argue Stow’s books are
worthy of concentrated study, for
what they can tell us about his
fascinating career and as a basis
for some new ways of thinking
about early modern England.
The Lab’s Projects
• 2. Collating the Canterbury Tales
– In partnership with Dot Porter and the Schoenburg Institute
for Manuscript Studies at University of Pennsylvania
– Creation of visual representations of manuscript collations
with the VisColl collation visualization tool (https:// )
– Will create new collations for the 54 surviving manuscripts
of the Canterbury Tales
IIIF and Omeka
• The Digital Tools for Manuscript Study Project addresses two
key needs of manuscript scholars: annotation and collation.
• To do so, we have chosen to develop plugins for the popular
Omeka platform. We integrate VisColl and Omeka,
emerging, lightweight tools with traction in our community
of practice, with the International Image Interoperability
Framework (IIIF), which de-silos image stores, facilitating
cross-institutional research and scholarly communication.
What is the IIIF?
• Framework/standard for serving or viewing
images and portions of images reliably,
uniformly, across multiple repositories.
• Scholars working with manuscript images
would be able to work across multiple
image repositories (e.g. British Library,
Bodleian, e-codices, Princeton University
Library, Stanford University) and pull
images into the viewer/annotator software
of their choice… without the indignity of
screen shots
What can IIIF do?
• IIIF allows for the recreation of lost libraries and
the re-uniting of manuscripts in a digital space.
Otto Ege MS 1
from images
from five
University of
University of
North Carolina,
and University
of South Screenshot of IIIF Ege case-study: http://
What can IIIF do?
• Use Mirador’s annotations feature to add
transcriptions and notes on top of objects.
IIIF: How does it work?
• Built on Defined APIs (Application
Program Interface)
– Three core APIs
• Image API
– Retrieves the image and allows user to select the area of
the image, resize, rotate it, and change the colour
• Presentation API
– Presents the item with its metadata so users know its
originating institution, image title, page number, etc.
• Search API (newly released)
– Search within an object, such as the text of a book or
– One beta API
• Authentication API
– To support logins and differential access to resources
IIIF: How does it work?
• Plug ‘n’ Play Software
– The IIIF community encourages and supports the
development of image serving and viewing software that
is easy to install and use, such as Mirador, ContentDM,
digilib, Diva.js
– IIIF APIs can be easily employed on existing servers and
compatible image viewer software
– Find IIIF-compliant software (and more!) at Awesome IIIF:
• Much of the information on IIIF was adapted from an IIIF Intro
for Digital Manuscript Studies Workshop Powerpoint created by
Tom Cramer, Chief Technology Strategist, Stanford University
Libraries, December 2015
• Information about IIIF and APIs was also accessed from
MCN 2014: IIIF: A Community Framework for Cultural Heritage I
mage Delivery and
Reuse, a presentation by Benjamin Albritton, Stanford
• Information on Omeka was adapted from a presentation by
Alexandra Bolintineanu, Assistant Professor, University of
• Additional information on IIIF and Omeka was provided by
Alexandra Bolintineanu
• Information about Omeka can be found at
• Further information about IIIF can be found at

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