Ligatus news

LCD website live

Over the past few weeks Kristen and I have been busy progressing with a number of tasks for the project. Kristen is preparing an update for the consortium. One of these tasks is setting up the project website. It is no secret that I am a big fan of Drupal. The Ligatus website has been running Drupal since (if I remember correctly) version 5. It has been setup as a multi-site running on the same code base. Each of the major Ligatus projects is hosted as a sub-site so for LCD I asked our brilliant web services team (Phil Haines, Gerry Hickman and Myles King) to create a new sub-site and related database accessible here:

The theme used is Skeleton which is relatively simple and attractive but features a number of different regions and also some useful classes from creating button-like links and borders, like:

<div class="button small right"><a class="button green" href="">Programme</a></div>

At some point I would prefer to reduce the text in the front page and increase the font size. This would require a sub-theme, so it might take a bit more time.


One problem I had with the website is locating nice icons to illustrate the different workshops. I searched online, as one does, for nice royalty-free icons but I soon realised that I was spending too much time on the task. So I decided to have a go on my own. I hope that having spent all my career based in fine art and design institutions, I have acquired some sense of taste even inadvertently.

Linked Conservation Data logo

As Kristen and I have been looking into sending the announcement for the project out, some colleagues have asked for visual material to accompany the text. This is a bit difficult given that the project has hardly started and that the consortium will not physically meet until June. So we opted for a project logo.

With limited experience in design and even more limited time we decided on a simple logo which will give the right message for the purposes of the announcement. The two components are:

  • The RDF icon: this page explains that the RDF icon is deprecated in favour of the Semantic Web cube but for many the three connected spheres still signify Linked Data.
  • A photograph of heavily corroded metal which I pick up from over here

I created a couple of masks on GIMP and then overlaid the corrosion photo on the RDF logo but keeping the shiny areas on top. I then used GIMP's Spherize filter to give a bit of volume on the flat image and that created the logo you see on the project page.

We are trying to get MA students from Camberwell College involved so that we get a nicer logo at some point during the project so expect updates soon.

Artivity introduction video online


Last year, with the help of Gareth Johnson and David Cross we prepared a short video showcasing Artivity and explaining its use in under a minute. The video features artwork by Gino Ballantyne. We are publishing this video today to kick start another round of work on Artivity to collect some more data and test the installation process and data exporting capabilities.

The video also features on the front page of the website.

Basic guide for database design

I have recently worked on a one-year pilot for Linked Data at the University of Oxford. During this pilot I kept coming up to database design decisions which made publishing Linked Data difficult. This page includes some points to consider when designing your database:

Basic guide for database design

To assist work for Linked Data, when designing a database, please observe the following:

Summarise data

Do not use a different file for each record. It is easier to process data automatically if the records are all in the same table. If you want to present or print the data on a per-record basis, then consider a template to "read" records from the table and produce nice-looking pages. To build Linked Data the summarised table is by far more useful.

Avoid free-text

Instead of:

Manuscript with shelfmark MS-Iliad carrying text by Homer.

It should be:

Field Data
shelfmark MS-Iliad
author Homer

Why? It is difficult for software to process free text, remove the syntax and identify the entities we are talking about (i.e. MS-Iliad and Homer). It is much easier to identify these if there is no syntax.

Keep information separate

Avoid bundling together different entities. For example instead of a record being:

height: 20, width: 10, thickness: 5

It should be:

Dimension Value
height 20
width 10
thickness 5

Why? In Linked Data, each entity needs to stand on its own. Splitting a bundled field programmatically is difficult as often there are no consistent formulas that fields are bundled up.

Do not merge cells or use line breaks

When using spreadsheets to produce records do not use the merge cells function.

Instead of:

Value Unit
Height 20 cm
Width 10 cm
Thickness Max thickness 8 cm
Min thickness 5 cm

It should be:

Dimension Value Unit
height 20 cm
width 10 cm
min thickness 5 cm
max thickness 8 cm

Similarly do not use linefeeds within cells to indicate multiple records. Use instead a delimeter like | which is much easier to process.

Why? It is much easier to "read" the data if it is all in a canonical table on a row-by-row basis. Merged cells and linefeeds break that canonical structure or confuse the rows.

Use identifiers

Give identifiers to entities contributing to a record. For example, instead of:

Shelfmark Author
MS-Iliad Homer

It should be:

Manuscript ID Shelfmark Author ID Author
1234 MS-Iliad 5678 Homer

Why? Not having an identifier means that the included entity (e.g. Homer) is "hidden" in text and cannot be matched to other occurences across the database. Some institutions choose to produce UUIDs as identifiers for each entity.
Note that if there are multiple authors either a new table would be neccessary or multiple rows of MS-Iliad would be required, each with a different author. This indicates the requirement for a so-called one-to-many relationship across entities which is difficult to replicate on a single spreadsheet.

Use external authorities

Allow space for external identifiers of entities. Instead of:

Author ID Author name
5678 Homer

It should be:

Author ID Author name External Authority External ID
5678 Homer VIAF 224924963
5678 Homer WikiData Q6691

Why? Linked data depend on establishing links with other datasets. This process is known as reconciliation or disambiguation. For example 5678 "Homer" is the same person as the one described in VIAF: It is useful for a database to be able to store external identifiers for entities (even external labels) to enable this linking. There are many authority files and thesauri which publish identifiers for their records. Make sure that when you are building your records you can capture these.

Reference images

Do not insert image files in your records. Only add the location as a reference to where the image can be seen. Preferably this should be a URL but in theory local paths are equally useful.

The Clarkson Slide Archive crowdfunding appeal

We are happy to announce that our crowdfunding appeal had raised over £11,000. The money will be used to employ a project assistant in Oxford next year to continue the work on the Clarkson Slide Archive Project. we would like to thank all of our donors for their extraordinary generosity and let you know that any further donations will always be welcomed!

Please watch this space for more updates.

Early sixteenth-century binding

This is the early sixteenth-century binding from the flooded stacks of the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence that fired Chris Clarkson’s interest in the laced-case limp parchment binding as a conservation structure. The thickness of the goatskin parchment cover, the lacing of all the slips along both joints and a substantial sewing structure on double alum-tawed sewing supports with structural endbands created a structure that survived not only more than four centuries of use but also saturation with water followed by drying.

Nicholas Pickwoad

The Clarkson Slide Archive fundraising

15th-century German binding

Slide 1654

A group of three 15th-century German bindings, each with a full limp cover of parchment used as a pierced support with a fore-edge envelope flap with cord and decorated metal button fastenings. Each has on the spine an external (secondary) pierced support, one of tanned skin and one of either alum-tawed skin or thick parchment with a combination of longstitch and chain stitch sewing, and one with tanned skin with chainstitch sewing only. The tanned skin external supports are decorated with blind tooling and piercing (with a coloured sheet material, probably parchment, under).

Nicholas Pickwoad

Boissonnas and Egypt Conference Invitation | 2 November 2017 | Royal Geographical Society

Boissonnas and Egypt Conference

Royal Geographical Society
1 Kensington Gore
London, SW7 2AR
United Kingdom
2nd November 2017

The conference will present different perspectives on the context of 1920s Egypt in relation to Boissonnas’s work and explore wider debates around photography and cultural geography.

The conference will be followed by a private view of the exhibition from 17.30-19.30.

Tickets for the conference £35/£10 concession (lunch and refreshments included)

Dr Estelle Sohier (Université de Genève)
Dr Ahmed Shams (Durham University)
Dr George Manginis (Benaki Museum)
Ramsay Cameron (Independent Filmmaker)
Dr Kathleen Brunner (Independent Scholar)
Professor Oriana Baddeley (University of the Arts London)


10.00 Arrival, tea & coffee
10.15 Welcome and introduction by Professor Oriana Baddeley
10.30 Dr George Manginis, 'Into Cheltenham' - On the Way to Mount Sinai
11.15 Dr Ahmed Shams, A Swiss Photographic Voyage
12.00 Screening of a re-construction of Fred Boissonnas’s Lecture V (originally delivered at the Salle de L’Athenee, Geneva, on Tuesday 19th November,1935) describing his visit to Saint Catherine’s Monastery. Introduced by the film’s producer, Ramsay Cameron.
12.45 Panel discussion - Chair Prof. Oriana Baddeley
13.15 Lunch break
14.15 Dr Estelle Sohier, L'Egypte by Fred Boissonnas (1932): a Photographic Monument for the Egyptian Nation
15.00 Dr Kathy Brunner, Boissonnas' Return to Egypt, the Unfinished Sinai Project
15.45 Tea & coffee
16.15 Professor Oriana Baddeley, Boissonnas, Modernity and the Aesthetics of the Wilderness
17.00 Panel discussion - Chair Ewelina Warner
17.30 Private view of Boissonnas in Egypt exhibition


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