HCU Activities since December 1996

A major upheaval in the life of the HCU took place this term with its long-awaited move to new premises in the newly refurbished basements of nos 13 to 15 Banbury Road. This necessarily involved some disruption to services, while equipment was moved, new equipment installed and tested, and offices moved, but staff worked very hard to ensure that the interruption was minimal. The Centre for Humanities Computing re-opened on 24th February, and is already in full use again. Prior to the move, all staff maintained the usual high level of activities, as indicated below.

Centre for Humanities Computing

The CHC has maintained a full training programme since the last meeting of the CCA, with a further two Humanities Training Days (another one is to follow in the Easter Vacation); and a series of six lectures on Computers and English Studies for the English Faculty, four of them taught by Dr Lee, and the others by Mr Burnard and Dr Warwick. The four-week course on Creating, Analysing, and Using Digital Texts is being repeated this term; the one day Workshop on Teaching with the Web (jointly organized by CTI and JTAP) was also repeated this term. Finally, the Centre has organized a number of well-attended lunchtime seminars by distinguished visitors this term: these included Prof. John Unsworth, from the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities, Virginia; Mike Johnson from the Combined Higher Education Software Team; and Professor Melina Alexa from ZuMA, Mannheim.

Dr Lee has continued his work with the Datasets Working Party and the Committee for Automated Library Services. Chris Stephens and Lou Burnard attended the first meeting of the EU-funded "Advanced Computing in the Humanities Network" held in London in December.

Oxford Text Archive

At the end of November 1996, the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) held its third Service Providers' Forum, which was attended by Michael Popham on behalf of the Oxford Text Archive (OTA). This Forum was the first time that all the five AHDS Service Providers had met together, and saw the establishment of dedicated Working Parties to advise on the AHDS's presence on the Web, and the production of a series of "Guides to Good Practice". The OTA is due to produce three such Guides by early 1998.

During this period, Michael Popham was also invited to address an eLib meeting on the future of electronic journals, and to attend the joint MODELS/ROADS Workshop on Resource Discovery at Warwick University, and a JISC concertation day at the NFI. January 1997 saw the public launch of the AHDS at Kings College London, which was attended by an invited audience of over 150 representatives of UK HEIs.

Work on reorganizing and automating the production of the OTA's online catalogue continues, as does planning for the conversion of texts to a single new format. Preliminary discussions have also been held with the English Faculty about the possibility of developing corpora for use in undergraduate teaching.

CTI Centre for Textual Studies

The Centre gave a full day series of presentations to staff from the Faculty of Arts, University of Liverpool at the beginning of December. Michael Fraser also gave an introduction to digital resources for the humanities to the Faculty of Arts at Leeds University. The Centre collaborated with the JTAP Virtual Seminars Project in the organisation of a successful workshop entitled, 'Using Internet Tools to Build a Virtual Classroom'. This workshop attracted participants from a very wide range of backgrounds (not only humanities) and was heavily over-subscribed; it was therefore repeated in February, as noted above. Also in February, the Centre jointly ran a very succesful workshop on computer-assisted strategies for studying textual sources. Work has begun on organization and publicity for a forthcoming Computer-Assisted Film & Drama Studies conference on 17 March (see http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/service/workshop/film.html).

Michael Fraser attended a meeting of the TLTSN Consultative Group in Birmingham and Sarah Porter attended a one-day conference organised by the British Computer Society on innovations in online journal publishing. Staff also attended a demonstration of Chadwyck-Healey's much publicised Literature Online series of databases.

During November and December the Centre's staff were involved in developing and presenting an Oxford course on the creation, analysis and use of digital texts. In addition, staff contributed to two graduate training days and to an afternoon workshop at the Faculty of Theology. Preparations began for Digital Resources for the Humanities 1997 which will be held at St Anne's College, Oxford. Computers & Texts 13 was also published in December with a range of articles and reviews from contributors in the UK and from further afield.

At the beginning of January the Centre held a meeting of its Advisory Committee at which it presented the Centre's Annual Report, budget, evaluation strategy, and workplan for the next six months. The Centre was pleased to receive much positive feedback from the Committee on these items and also useful ideas for future activities.

In January, staff from the Centre attended the public launch of the Arts and Humanities Data Service at King's College London. The Centre is collaborating closely with one of the AHDS service providers, the Oxford Text Archive, and we were able to distribute copies of the latest issue of Computers & Texts which now carries the AHDS/OTA logo. Staff were also involved in the organisation of a regional launch (in Oxford) for Perseus 2.0, an extensive CD-ROM and WWW resource published by Yale University Press for the teaching of ancient Greek civilization) and attended a one day conference on electronic publishing in the humanities hosted by the Centre for English Studies, University of London.

The Centre's many visitors included an academic wishing to create computer-based teaching aids for the study of ancient inscriptions, a representative from the Shakespeare in Performance Project, visiting professors wishing to disseminate information on his computer-based teaching of ancient Greek and also two graduate students who were developing a CD-ROM product for the teaching of excerpts from the Canterbury Tales.

British National Corpus

Work on the SARA software and on the BNC Sampler continued. Dr Warwick continued to support a wide range of user queries and requests about the corpus, attended a Corpus Seminar at the University of Birmingham in November, and gave presentations on using the BNC at CTI Workshops in Oxford and Aston. In addition to her support work for the English Faculty, she has taught on Professor Aitchison's Language and the Media undergraduate course, and has made several introductory presentations for the Faculty's graduate prolegomena. It is hoped to extend her contract for a further two years under the present joint funding arrangement. Lou Burnard gave a talk on the BNC to Professor Romaine's graduate seminar on corpus linguistics and completed revision of the BNC Handbook.

JISC Technology Applications Programme

The J-TAP project has been meeting the milestones for its deliverables as required in its contract. This has involved the setting up of a steering committee, the production (now in beta test) of a first tutorial, the joint organisation of two one-day workshops on 'On-line teaching' (which has led to a popular print and electronic publication - http://info.ox.ac.uk/jtap/reports/teaching/), and attending two focussed club meetings. In addition, the project has succesfully negotiated deals for the digital archiving of numerous images.

Other HCU activities

During January, Lou Burnard visited a number of digital library institutions in the USA; a report is available at http://users.ox.ac.uk/~lou/reports/9701usa.htm. He has also been working closely with Bodleian Library staff in developing a standard format for manuscript description, to form part of a proposed European standardization effort.

LB, 24 February 97