Humanities Computing Unit

Oxford University Computing Services

HCU Report for CCA, February 2001,


1. Summary

Key events since the last meeting include the proposal to set up a new `Learning Technologies Group' within the Unit, rationale for and discussion of which may be found in previously circulated documents; the inauguration of a new course aimed at the provision of reusable skills; planned expansion of multimedia services; the release of a new edition of the BNC; the incorporation of the TEI.

2. CHC

Since Maeve Paris joined as IT Support Officer, CHC staff have greatly expanded their teaching programme, with a number of new and revised courses which are now underway. Details of these may be found in the previously circulated documents, and on the revised CHC website. It should be noted that some of the staff resources required to support this level of teaching currently have to be purchased externally.

The new equipment for digital video has been heavily used, and it is hoped to expand the CHC's provision of support in this area. CHC staff continue to provide direct support to some faculties.


As noted at the last meeting, the HCDT has been reviewing its strategy over the next three years. A discussion paper has been circulated to the committee, on which feedback would be welcomed.

4. OTA

Karen Wikander, who has been working half-time as an OTA Information Officer and half-time as the Resource Development Officer for the English Faculty since January 1999, unfortunately decided to resign her post in November 2000 (after being off on long term sick leave since May). Karen will be a great lost to the OTA, but the Faculty have expressed a willingness to continue these arrangements with another twelve month appointment, and the post will be advertised very shortly. At the same time we shall also be seeking to recruit an additional Information Officer dedicated to the support of linguistics, following a successful subject coverage review and the awarding of 70k additional funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB).

In Karen's absence, Dr Elizabeth Solopova has been covering some of her OTA-related teaching and writing duties on an ad hoc basis, and as a result our second Guide to Good Practice (Finding and Using Electronic Texts) is now in draft form and undergoing proof-reading prior to being circulated for peer review.

New deposits over the reporting period include an improved version of Genji monogatari (a classic work of Japanese literature), as well as a new English translation of the text and the promise of further translations in up to thirty languages. We have also received the outputs of two AHRB-funded projects, one called History in the Making which focuses on the longest chapter of Flaubert's L'Education Sentimentale and the Paris riots of 1848, and another based on the Dicey and Marshall catalogue of 1764 (of interest to book historians). We also received a database of Kanji etymology, have been offered the latest version of the Dictionary of Old English Corpus in electronic form, and have improved the HTML and plain-text delivery of COCOA marked-up texts.

Following last year's review of the OTA, a new Steering Committee has been established under the chairmanship of Professor David Robey (Reading), and is due to hold its first meeting on 6th March 2001. Furthermore, as part of the OTA's closer involvement with the AHRB, the OTA has been invited to represent the Arts and Humanities Data Service at some recent and forthcoming AHRB symposia in the areas of languages and linguistics (1/12/00), English language and literature (15/2/001), and also philosophy, religious studies, and law (2/3/01). We have also continued to offer a nationwide advisory service to anyone making applications for AHRB or NoF funding to create digital resources, and are currently heavily involved in the technical assessment of applications made under last November's round of the AHRB's major Research Grant scheme.

Staff from the OTA have attended a variety of meetings and conferences, including Preservation 2000 in York, and a JISC event concerning the establishment of the DNER. In addition, we have been heavily involved in a range of teaching and training events, including the HCU's Winter Seminar Series, and a four-part course delivered through OUCS on Creating XML Documents.

5. Humbul Humanities Hub

Alun Edwards joined the Hub in November as our Cataloguing Officer. Amongst other things he has been proactive in talking to members of Oxford's library community. We now have access to the cataloguing tools used by Oxford librarians, and Alun sits on the Electronic Resources Working Group (chaired by Adrian Hale, Bodley). We will also be running a workshop at the Oxford libraries conference in March.

Humbul's Executive Committee has met once in this period. The Committee comprises John Tuck, Liz Chapman, Lou Burnard and Michael Fraser. The Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from Oxford, has met once.

With approval from the Resource Discovery Network, the Humbul Humanities Hub is seeking D.Phil students and others at Oxford University who would be willing to evaluate and catalogue Web resources in selected subject areas for inclusion within Humbul. The preferred subject areas are: modern languages (especially European), English, linguistics, archaeology, history, and theology. We pay #8.50 per completed record for a minimum of ten records. We can provide training and documentation. Further information from Michael Fraser (

Humbul's systems (cataloguing, search/browsing, tracking) are live and working well. Current projects include developing a Z39.50 service, applying a formal classification scheme to records, user profiling/customisation ('My Humbul'), and exploring ways to make it as easy as possible to submit useful web sites to Humbul.

We have been involved in the organisation of a series of national workshops (Arts and Humanities Online) to promote services and databases funded or licensed as part of the Distributed National Electronic Resource. The two remaining workshops will be held in Edinburgh and Manchester (see further We also distributed print copies of Accessing our humanities collections: a subject guide for researchers on behalf of the JISC.

6. Staff Changes

7. Other Projects.

Reorganization and redesign of the HCU web site continues, though at a lower priority. Following a postcard survey, the HCU now has an extensive mailing list of interested parties at British Universities.

ASTER This successful project is due to complete in June; contributing to survey of use of IT in teaching; will be running joint conference with OxTalent in late March.
BNC Production of the much-delayed second (world) edition of the British National Corpus was completed in January. The CD and its software are to be launched in the US at a conference in March; orders are now being taken for the standalone PC-based version of this unique textbase.
CEDARS JISC has agreed to fund a further one-year post to be based in Oxford. A meeting is to be held at the end of February to discuss this with the old and new CEDARS project co-ordinators.
EEBO Discussions with the Libraries and with Michigan continue on the extent and nature of the HCU's involvement with this large-scale text creation project.
MASTER This EU funded project is also due to complete in June; the last few months of the project are to be devoted to a number of technical workshops introducing and demonstrating the project's deliverables to manuscript specialists across Europe. The first of these was held in Milan 25-7 January, and was very succesful; several others are planned. Phelix, the prototype open cataloguing system developed for the project, continues to arouse considerable interest and will be demonstrated in the US at a conference in June.
TEI In December, the Text Encoding Initiative was, finally, incorporated in the State of Virginia as a not-for-profit corporation with executive offices in Bergen Norway. Work on expanding the membership and on maintaining the Consortium website has occupied a large amount of time, as has the provision of TEI consultancy to a number of local and UK-based projects. In this, the HCU has been fortunate in being able to call on the assistance of other OUCS staff, notably Sebastian Rahtz.

[Oxford University | HCU Home Page | Search OUCS Pages | Feedback ]

Last updated: 5 Feb 2001.