Digital Scholarship Training Programme Transformations: Graham Jevon

Graham Jevon, Cataloguer, Endangered Archives Programme
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'The Digital Scholarship Training Programme has introduced me to new software, opened my eyes to digital opportunities, provided inspiration for me to try improve, and helped me attain new skills'

Graham Jevon: A Digital Transformation Story

The Digital Scholarship Training Programme

Since joining the library in 2018, the Digital Scholarship Training Programme has been integral to the trajectory of both my personal development and the working practices within my team.

The very first training course I attended at the library was the introduction to OpenRefine. The key thing that I took away from this course was not necessarily the skills to use the software, but simply understanding OpenRefine’s functionality and the possibilities the software offered for my team. This inspired me to spend time after the session devising a workflow that enhanced our cataloguing efficiency and accuracy, enabling me to create more detailed and accurate metadata in less time. With OpenRefine I created a semi-automated workflow that required the kind of logical thinking associated with computer programming, but without the need to understand a computer programming language.

Computing for Cultural Heritage

The use of this kind of logical thinking and the introduction to writing computational expressions within OpenRefine sparked an interest in me to learn a computing language such as Python. I started a free online Python introduction, but without much context to the course my attention quickly waned. When the Digital Scholarship Computing for Cultural Heritage course was announced I therefore jumped at the chance to apply. 

I went into the Computing for Cultural Heritage course hoping to learn skills that would enable me to solve cataloguing and administrative problems, skills that would help me process data in spreadsheets more efficiently and accurately. I had one particular problem in mind and I was able to address this problem in the project module of the course. For the project we had to design a software program. I created a program (known as ReG), which automatically generates structured catalogue references for archival collections. I was extremely pleased with the outcome of this project and this piece of software is something that my team now use in our day-to-day activities. An error-prone task that could take hours or days to complete manually in Excel now takes just a few seconds and is always 100% accurate.

This in itself was a great outcome of the course that met my hopes at the outset. But this course did so much more. I came away from the course with a completely new set of data science skills that I could build on and apply in other areas. For example, I recently created another piece of software that helps my team survey any digitisation data that we receive, to help us spot any errors or problems that need fixing.

The British Library Coleridge Research Fellowship

The data science skills were particularly instrumental in enabling me to apply successfully for the British Library’s Coleridge research fellowship. This research fellowship is partly a personal development scheme and it enabled me the opportunity to put my new data science skills into practice in a research environment (rather than simply using them in a cataloguing context). My previous academic research experience was based on traditional analogue methods. But for the Coleridge project I used crowdsourcing to extract data for analysis from two collections of newspapers.

Screenshot of Guardian article titled 'Secrets  of rebel slaves in Barbados will finally be revealed', about Graham Jevon's Zooniverse project 'Agents of Enslavement'

The third and final Computing for Cultural Heritage module focussed on machine learning and I was able to apply these skills directly to the crowdsourcing project Agents of Enslavement. The first crowdsourcing task, for example, asked the public to draw rectangles around four specific types of newspaper advertisement. To help ensure that no adverts were missed and to account for individual errors, each image was classified by five different people. I therefore had to aggregate the results. Thanks to the new data science skills I had learned, I was able to write a Python script that used machine learning algorithms to aggregate 92,000 total rectangles drawn by the public into an aggregated dataset of 25,000 unique newspaper advertisements.

The OpenRefine and Computing for Cultural Heritage course are just two of the many digital scholarship training sessions that I have attended. But they perfectly illustrate the value of the Digital Scholarship Training Programme, which has introduced me to new software, opened my eyes to digital opportunities, provided inspiration for me to try improve, and helped me attain new skills that I have been able to put into practice both for the benefit of myself and my team.

 

 

Key points

  • Graham Jevon has been an active participant in the Digital Scholarship Training Programme
  • Through gaining digital skills he has been able to build software to automate tricky processes
  • Graham is now a Coleridge Fellowship scholar, putting these digital skills to good use!

Find out more on what Graham has been up to on his Staff Profile

Did you know? The Digital Scholarship Training Programme has been running since 2012, and creates opportunities for staff to develop necessary skills and knowledge to support emerging areas of modern scholarship.

Case studies

More Case studies
…“I have gone from not being able to print 'hello' in Python to writing some relatively complex programs and having a much greater understanding of data science and how it is applicable to my work."…

A selection of student projects undertaken as part of a one-year part-time postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), Computing for Cultural Heritage, 2019-2021 trial co-developed by British Library, National Archives and Birkbeck University and funded by the Institute of Coding as part of a £4.8 million University skills drive.

…I have particularly enjoyed developing new knowledge of the Library’s web archiving work.…

Exploring the challenges and opportunities of collecting interactive web-based works.

…Data visualisation tools allowed me to present a new perspective on the EAP projects in Africa…

Data visualisation tools allowed me to present a new perspective on the EAP projects in Africa.

…Working with the British Library has enabled me to get my research out there beyond academia.…

How smartphones are changing storytelling: Alastair Horne, PhD student.

Subjects

Digital scholarship

Undertake innovative research with our digital collections and data

Digital Scholarship Training Programme

Digital Scholarship Staff Training Programme

Developing staff skills to support digital researchers.

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