UCL Centre for Digital Humanities


POSTPONED - Using Machine Learning to Automatically Transcribe British Library Collections

04 March 2020, 5:30 pm–7:30 pm

UCLDH seminar pixel art

Unfortunately this talk has had to be postponed due to industrial action.

This event is free.

Event Information

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G31, ground floor
Foster Court
Malet Place
United Kingdom

The British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom, is estimated to hold between 170 to 200 million items, making it the largest library in the world by number of items catalogued. While many of these are sound and music recordings, videos, prints, drawings and other formats, most of the Library’s items are texts – whether printed books, handwritten manuscripts, journals, newspapers and more.

The Library’s key aim is to “make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment.” Access can be physical or digital, and now we can make use of emerging digital technologies to make our collections even more accessible. Machine Learning and Pattern Recognition can help us convert images of text into machine-readable text. While Optical Character Recognition (OCR) has been around for a while, there are some ground-breaking developments in Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) in recent years. 

This talk will introduce OCR and HTR, and discuss their importance in the context of library collections. It will also pose some of the challenges to automate text recognition in different collection types and different languages – especially handwritten materials and non-Western languages – and how we try to tackle those challenges.

All are welcome and there will be drinks and discussion after the presentations. Attendance is free but we kindly ask that you register for the event. 

This event is organised by UCLDH, which is part of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

About the Speaker

Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert

Digital Curator for Asian and African Collections at British Library

Adi’s current role includes promoting the use of British Library’s digital collections and data, offering support for anyone wishing to use them, especially those aspiring to undertake computational and data-driven research. Her work involves sharing knowledge and expertise, training and advising staff throughout the Library in digital scholarship, and regularly encouraging the implementation and integration of digital collections and digital tools into curatorial functions, whether project-based or business as usual. She maintains connection to the global ecosystem of scholars, labs and institutions operating in the digital scholarship domain, keeping up with developing trends in this dynamic research landscape.

More about Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert