Recent projects have been funded by: the European Research Council, the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, COST, the US National Endowment for the Humanities, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Newby Trust. We are strongly involved in collaborative work with non-academic organisations in the local region – which includes the Lake District – as well as with national and international organisations.
Research & Collaboration
Ongoing Research Projects
The Spanish empire controlled the majority of the Western Hemisphere’s lands and peoples for more than three centuries. Its vast administration in the Americas depended on the work of royal notaries, Indigenous artists, and printers, who produced prodigious amounts of written and printed documents. Despite the extensive documentation, present-day understanding of the Spanish colonial enterprise is fragmentary due to the archive’s intellectual inaccessibility: Scholars and interested audiences must decipher archaic penmanship, obscure writing conventions, and unfamiliar Indigenous imagery to read these historical sources—a task that requires trained eyes. This project seeks to use artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to automatically convert this “unreadable” archive into accessible data.
The project will use digital humanities methods to assemble data related to imaginaries, regimes and economies of water bodies over a 200-year period. Our aim is to create an urgent response to strained and failing strategies of water conversation policy and practise in Coimbatore, South India. The project is a collaboration between Deborah Sutton, T. Shanmugapriya and a number of local environmental activists which aims to establish a sustainable legacy of data for ongoing and subsequent development-led research in the region and beyond.
The Colonisation of America is a fundamental process in the history of the modern world. To date much research has focused on a close reading of a handful of the Relaciones Geográficas, one of the most important sources for the colonial history of America. Using a Big-Data approach, the Digging into Early Colonial Mexico project will apply novel computational methodologies to their analysis, and it will identify, extract, cross-link, and analyse information of vital importance to historical enquiry. In doing so, the project will transform the way historical sources are approached and analysed by modern scholars.
The Chronotopic Cartographies project is about visualising literary place and space, using the digital medium in a way never before attempted to advance spatial understanding and interpretation of literary texts for a range of users. We will interpret texts and images by an iterative structure that connects visual and verbal representations and moves between them. We are interested in adapting gaming engines to explore space and place in canonical literary forms, creating a range of maps and 3D visualisations for different kinds of imaginative terrain and mapping at different scales. Our project will enhance knowledge and understanding of digital tools for the spatial humanities, literary mapping and for spatial approaches to analysis and interpretation of literary works.
The Urban Heritage and the Digital Humanities in India Research Network will use Digital Humanities methodologies to review existing digital projects, generate strategies for the integration and analysis of existing urban heritage materials and for future documentation projects. A key outcome of the network is the creation of an app, safarnama, that will geolocate specific fragments of experience from the lives of refugees in the city in the late 1940s and 1950s. (PI: Deborah Sutton, Lancaster; Co-Investigator: Dr Hilal Ahmed, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.)
The Encyclopaedia of Shakespeare’s Language Project brings a new method of language research – the corpus approach – into the heart of Shakespearean studies. It affords fresh insights into Shakespeare’s use of language at multiple levels – words, phrases, semantic themes, character profiles and more. It reveals what Shakespeare’s language meant to Elizabethans through the analysis of millions of words written by his contemporaries. The project will not only share the rich resources it produces to generate the encyclopaedia, but enable users to deploy them for their own purposes.
Past Research Projects
PI: Deborah Sutton (SPARC)
Deborah Sutton is co-recipient of a Government of India SPARC award, a scheme that supports collaboration between Indian and non-Indian researchers. The project, ‘A Digital Narratology of Technology as Literary Actors and Artefacts’, is led by Professor Nirmala Menon from the Digital Humanities and Publishing Studies Research Group Indian Institute of Technology Indore, and is being supported as an Emerging Area of Impact in Digital Humanities research. The award will allow academic staff and postgraduate students from Lancaster University’s Digital Humanities Hub and IIT Indore to work together towards new innovations in Digital Humanities.
PI: Patricia Murrieta Flores (Pelagios Small Grants)
This project explored the use of digital annotation for analysing historical maps, specifically a corpus of maps produced in 16th century Mexico as part of the Relaciones Geográficas de Nueva España. We delivered a series of Citizen Science mappathons, where 30 scholars were trained in the use of Recogito and annotated a total of twenty maps. Going forward, there is a great deal of potential to expand this dataset and to explore alternative methods of analysis.
PI: Deborah Sutton (Pelagios Small Grants)
This project identified a range of high quality digitised maps of the Indian subcontinent. Six maps were selected for annotation, published between 1714 and 1894 and containing English, Dutch, French translations of Indian toponyms. Exploration of the completed dataset has the potential to trace continuities and discontinuities in the assignment of place-names and to gather clues about the transliteration of place-names.
PI: Raquel Liceras Garrido (History Department, University of Lancaster)
For this project, Raquel Liceras Garrido and Katherine Bellamy created a series of three ESRI StoryMaps, combining interactive texts, images and maps in a series of online interactive learning resources on the history, archaeology and geography of the Postclassic and Colonial period of Central Mexico, beginning in the 14th through to the mid-16th century. These resources look at the History of Mexico, Tracing Toponymy (exploring the nature of historic place-names) and Depicting Geographies (discussing methods of depicting space and place).
PI: Patricia Murrieta Flores (Manx National Heritage)
This project based at Lancaster University is a collaborative effort with Archaeovision, Knowledge Integration, Goii Limited and Manx National Heritage, looking to create for the first time a full digital corpus of 3D images of all 210 medieval crosses of the Isle of Man. This corpus will inform conservation measures, enable research at multiple levels and promote online engagement with the corpus. 3D images of these crosses are available to view online on Sketchfab.
PI: Patricia Murrieta Flores (Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Arts)
This project created the first online interoperable public dataset of English shrine imagery —before, during, and after the Reformation. This also includes important textual research information such as geographic data, detailed descriptions and data on artists, sources and materials related to the shrines. The team is composed of historians, archaeologists, literary scholars and computer scientists. (PI: Patricia Murrieta-Flores; Team: Dr Ruth Nugent, Lancaster; Dr David Harry, University of Chester; Dr Naomi Howell, University of Exeter; Mr Matt Williams, Full-Design).
This research network brings together two distinct fields that previously have had little interaction: Geographical Information Science (GISc) and Qualitative Spatial Representation (QSR). The aim is to explore whether a combination of approaches from the two can provide flexible ways of representing spatial information that are suited for Digital Humanities. The network brings experts from history, literary studies and archaeology together with experts from computer science, artificial intelligence and GISc. (Co-Investigator: Dr John Stell, University of Leeds)
The Geospatial Innovation in the Digital Humanities project applied ground-breaking and exploratory digital methods to study accounts of the English Lake District, developing new understandings. It focused on a 300-year period between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, a time that witnessed successive social, cultural, economic and industrial revolutions which impacted on the landscape and contributed to the area’s heterogeneous identity. To read more about the project, click here.
The Historic Droughts project was a four year £1.5m project funded by the UK Research Councils. It developed cross-disciplinary understandings of past drought episodes that have affected the UK, with a view to developing improved tools for managing droughts in future. Lancaster’s primary role in this was using GIS and corpus linguistics to look at past droughts, assessing public discourse using two types of data: news media and social media. Datasets and publications produced in this project are available here.
CASS is designed to bring a cutting-edge method in the study of language – the corpus approach – to a range of social sciences, providing insight into societal use and manipulation of language in a host of areas: including education, hate crime and communication about health and illness. They are developing new approaches to understanding and addressing phenomena such as hate speech and the stigma associated with mental illness. We work closely with stakeholders from the public sector, industry and charitable organisations.
First-person accounts are central to understanding the Holocaust. This project used video interviews with survivors to analyse the language survivors use in speaking of places, events, movement, relationships, and their perceptions of space and time. It focused on how their social networks were fragmented and reformed, and the spatial characteristics of work places and work relationships experienced by forced laborers in ghettos and labour camps. The project used a hybrid methodology, combining close listening with spatial visualization and corpus and computational linguistics methods.
The postal revolution between 1500-1800 allowed ordinary people to scatter letters across and beyond Europe. This help create the Republic of Letters, a knowledge-based civil society crucial to the era’s intellectual breakthroughs. Ironically, the letters that created this community also dispersed the documents that created it. This project envisaged open-access, open-source, transnational digital infrastructure capable of facilitating the radically multilateral collaboration needed to reassemble this scattered documentation, supporting a new generation of scholarly methods and research questions.
The Streets of Mourning and Community Memory in Lancaster project created a community memory of the 1,055 “Men of Lancaster who gave their lives in the Great War”. This, in turn, allowed us to create an interactive website showing the impact of the War on Lancaster that includes interactive mapping of where the casualties lived and stories of how the War affected local communities. This project was a collaboration between the Department of History, Lancaster University, the Lancaster Military Heritage Group, the Lancaster Civic Society and the Lancaster King’s Own Regiment Museum.
At Lancaster University we have access to 1.2 billion words of writing in English from 1475 to 1700 alone. This project examined the capacity of the corpus approach to the study of language to transform research in the humanities, with a particular focus on history. It built one of the largest integrated historical corpora ever created, using it to conduct an innovative analysis of changing attitudes to poverty and deprivation over time.
This project aimed to create a step-change in how place, space and geography are explored in the Humanities. Building on our technical expertise in Digital Humanities, Corpus Linguistics and Geospatial Analysis, and expertise in the history of the English Lake District, we developed and applied methodologies for analysing unstructured texts—including large corpora of historical books, periodicals and official reports—within GIS. These were applied to sub-projects looking at topics such as Lake District writing and nineteenth century public health.
Mapping the Lakes was a pilot project to test whether Geographic Information Systems could be used to further understandings of the literature of place and space. The project mapped out two textual accounts of journeys through the landscape of the Lake District: Thomas Gray’s tour of the region in the autumn of 1769; and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘circumcursion’ of the area in August 1802. We provided GIS representations of these accounts and suggested ways in which the mapping process opens up spatial thinking about these geo-specific texts.
We already have a wide range of collaborations with organisations outside of academia. These range from work with major national institutions, to international networks, to small local heritage groups.
An example of a national partner is the the British Library, with whom we have worked extensively on using large digital corpora and currently have an ESRC CASE PhD studentship using BL resources to look at 19th century immigration.
One of our a international collaborations is Pelagios, an initiative with academic, charitable and memory institutions partners from over 13 countries. It welcomes further partnerships and interested parties can connect with the Pelagios community at the Pelagios Commons website.
Locally, we have a long-standing collaboration with Lancaster Military Heritage Group that led to the Streets of Mourning website. We have also have a number of partnerships with organisations within the Lake District, and work closely with Lancaster University’s Regional Heritage Centre. We have also worked with the Wordsworth Trust on exhibitions and events, including the ‘By Duddon’s Side’ exhibit.
We are keen to develop further relationships at international, national, regional or local level. These might involve collaborative PhD projects or collaborative funding bids, or more minor activities such as joint exhibitions, meetings or talks. For further information please get in touch.