The Data Visualisation Revolution – From Plotting Distance to Digital Humanities

Data visualistion example - graphs on laptop

│By Emily Priest, Digital Marketing Masters student at the University of Portsmouth│

At first glance, data visualisation and Digital Humanities can seem complex and technical, but both offer significant possibilities to students, researchers and business professionals (the latter is also significant to students, as many are interested in increasing their future employability!) Whilst you may not feel particularly familiar with these terms, the data revolution is already here! So, buckle up and join me as we take a ride through the history and current applications of data visualisation and Digital Humanities!

Simplistically, data visualisation is the use of graphics and images to present data sets. Common examples include pie charts, word clouds and line graphs. Over the years, these visualisation techniques have become increasingly common – and increasingly complex. Whilst they have contributed to the emerging discipline of Digital Humanities, the term Digital Humanities refers to more than simply visualising data. Keeping Humanities at its heart, Digital Humanities leverages data visualisation to expand and deepen the traditional analysis that takes place within these disciplines.

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“Whoever Expected Prophets to Agree?” – Predicting the Future One Hundred Years Ago

: New aeroplane designs shown off at the 1920 International Aircraft Exhibition in Paris

│by Matthew Trenholm, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

In my last blog, I chose to focus on one Gale archive, Nineteenth Century Collections Online, but this time I wanted to demonstrate the full power of the Gale Primary Sources platform by looking at one topic across many archives simultaneously. The topic I have chosen is “the future” and what people a century ago believed it would look like. “The future” is an idea that is still endlessly debated, from dire warnings to wonderful promises; there is always something to discuss and the same was true a century ago. So, let’s jump into the archives and take a look at what the prophets of 1920 were saying!

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A Peep into Finnish War History with Gale Primary Sources

Montage of newspaper articles about Finland War History

│by Lotta Vuorio, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

The current circumstances caused by the global pandemic have highlighted the importance of digital primary sources. In Helsinki, the university library has (in large part) physically shut its doors, but luckily there is a great deal of primary source material available in, for example, the digital collections of the National Library of Finland, and the Helsinki University Library also offers students and staff numerous digital collections which include several Gale Primary Sources archives. Gale Primary Sources is a treasure trove where one can find sources for various types of research.

One might initially think Gale Primary Sources is most suitable for research focusing on Great Britain or America, since the collections seem mostly focused on those areas. However, I wanted to find out if the platform could also be helpful when studying Finnish history! What I found, in short, was a highly interesting peephole into Finnish War History before the Second World War. I have not specialised in Finnish nor War History in my own research, but I was curious to examine coverage of Finland, and Helsinki especially. So, let’s see the results of my brief exploration!

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The Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic – Who Was Bruce Ismay?

Titanic (photo of drawing)

│by Chloe Villalon, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway│

Often students such as myself have a broad idea of the topic they’re interested in, but they’re not sure which angle to take. In these cases it might be helpful to talk to a friend, professor or peer who may provide interesting insight or suggestions. Gale Primary Sources is also a great platform to find both ideas and articles – you can turn to it when you’re still looking for a topic or when you have a defined notion of what you’re looking for and want to dig deeper. In this blog post I will show you how you can use different tools to go from having a vague topic, to developing an angle, to writing a narrative or argument.

Read moreThe Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic – Who Was Bruce Ismay?

The Wrath of Mountains: Explaining Volcanic Eruptions from the Late Eighteenth Century to the Modern Day

“The Straits of Sunda: Terrible Volcanic Eruption.” Illustrated London News, 8 Sept. 1883, p. 229. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003

By Amelie Bonney, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford

On December 9, 2019, the deadly volcanic eruption of Mount Whakaari in New Zealand sparked new discussions over risk assessment in volcanic regions. While sudden volcanic eruptions make it difficult for scientists to assess risks in such areas, the belief that eruptions can be predicted thanks to science also leads to increasingly hazardous activities such as tourism in dangerous volcanic regions. How and why have humans become so intrepid when it comes to volcanoes?

The Gale Primary Sources archives provide not only newspaper articles but also a range of valuable monographs and visual sources, ranging from drawings to photographs, which allow us to investigate how our understanding and perception of volcanic eruptions has changed over the last few centuries. The sources demonstrate that the scientific community’s investigations led to the emergence of new understandings of dangerous volcanic eruptions from the late eighteenth century onwards. Paradoxically, scientific explanations of volcanic eruptions created a heightened sense of danger but also led to an increase in risk-taking behaviour.

Read moreThe Wrath of Mountains: Explaining Volcanic Eruptions from the Late Eighteenth Century to the Modern Day

“Even the Sacramental Cup Was Not Exempt from Adulteration” – The Hazards of Drinking an Old Bottle of Claret

│By Amelie Bonney, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

Have you recently enjoyed a special, vintage bottle of wine to celebrate the New Year with your family or friends? You might be surprised to learn that such celebrations might have been quite dangerous during the nineteenth century. Expecting the crimson-coloured beverage to enrapture their senses and coat their tongue in luscious flavours of dried blackberry, leather and tobacco, wine aficionados were often far from suspecting that this elixir could easily turn out to be a cheap, dyed, falsified drink, or worse – deadly poison. In an age where strict regulations exist to control food and beverage adulteration, such hazardous dyes are no longer used, but delving into Gale’s Historic Newspapers allows us to better understand how such dangerous adulteration was allowed to occur during the nineteenth century.

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From Archives to Arguments – a Project Course at the University of Helsinki makes use of the Gale Digital Scholar Lab

│ By Rebekka Väisänen, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki │

The English Philology corridor at the University of Helsinki has an area which we call the Aquarium, a glass-walled space that is often used for smaller faculty events, informal gatherings, and course “end offs” (the last meeting at the end of a course). On the 17th of April, I arrived there to see the poster presentations for the “Archives to Arguments” course, a module in which students use the Gale British Library Newspapers and other archives to do linguistic research into democratization

Read moreFrom Archives to Arguments – a Project Course at the University of Helsinki makes use of the Gale Digital Scholar Lab

What is a monster? Tracking the evolution and reception of monstrosity in literature from the nineteenth century to modern day

│ By Tania Chakraborti, Gale Ambassador at Durham University │

The idea of what is monstrous has perhaps metamorphosed somewhat since the nineteenth century. Nowadays audiences root for the vampire (Netflix’s The Originals) sympathise with the werewolf (Twilight) or even cheer on the Devil (Netflix’s Lucifer). But in the time of Shelley, Verne and Stoker, monstrosity was far more complex (and far less American high school-orientated!)

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Gale Digital Humanities Day at the British Library

| By Chris Houghton, Head of Digital Scholarship, International Gale Primary Sources |

Thursday 2nd May was a landmark day for Gale which served to illustrate how our relationship with the international academic community has changed over the last decade. After months of hard work, we were delighted to present the inaugural Gale Digital Humanities Day, held at the wonderful British Library. The day featured a packed schedule of talks delivered by academics and librarians from Japan, the US, Australia, the Netherlands and the UK. The audience of around a hundred academics, librarians and students – many of whom had also travelled from outside the UK – enjoyed talks discussing the latest research and teaching innovations in Digital Humanities.

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Soviet agricultural experiments, hibernation, the bomb, and other curious facts behind Science Fiction stories

By Anna Sikora, Gale Ambassador at NUI Galway
Anna Sikora is a tutor, part-time teacher, and final year PhD student in the Discipline of English, National University of Galway, Ireland. She is examining the works of John Wyndham, author of over 60 short stories and 12 novels, including the famous The Day of The Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). Anna is interested to see when and why science fiction authors began to show an awareness of environmental issues, and how this was demonstrated in their work. She is adopting some of the concepts of environmental criticism (ecocriticism) to ask how environmental concerns are articulated in fiction, and whether literature can, and should, influence our daily environmental choices or the ways in which we interact with the environment.

The Science Fiction American-Canadian author Judith Merril (1923–1997) wrote her short story “That Only a Mother” (1948) about widespread infantile mutations after reading an article dispelling the rumours of infanticide in Japan after the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings. Later, in an interview, Merril recalls how this short newspaper piece caused her mind to race, and her initial reaction was “Oh my God. […] There are mutations by the millions and people are killing the babies” (What If? A Film about Judith Merril). Merril’s reaction is fascinating as it shows how authors transform everyday reality into literary fiction, and not necessarily just science fiction. The double lesson we immediately draw (or at least should draw!) here as students, critics, tutors and lecturers of literature is this: yes, literary stories are often inspired by real events or people; and no, literary text are not historical documents.

Read moreSoviet agricultural experiments, hibernation, the bomb, and other curious facts behind Science Fiction stories