A fellow reflects on the Fellows 2016 inaugural meeting: Fish in a jar, that sauropod, speed blogging and new collaborations.

By Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller, Institute Fellow and Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Oxford.

The first week in February 2016 was a busy one for me. The previous week had been centred around the inspirational Going Digital with Humanities Research at the University of Manchester. Now it was time to arrange the diary and head off to the Natural History Museum in London for the Software Sustainability Institute's Fellows inaugural meeting. Excellent, I love this venue, I almost - almost - became a paleontologist just because of the sauropod that dominates the main hall.

For the meeting we were tasked with coming along with a short presentation on what we had planned for the Fellowship. I pitched Digital Humanities Oxford Summer School, and in particular the Linked Data for Digital Humanities workshop.

The registration isn’t open yet, but those curious to have a bit of a taster might want to check out last year’s timetable. After my presentation, I received feedback from the other members of institute and the other fellows and it was invaluable. This included the possibility of using the Institute as an additional route for disseminating information about the workshop, and possibly reaching new audiences; suggestions as to what might make the workshop more relevant to other Institute fellows who work on Digital Humanities projects; and that there are shared interests finding tools and methods for assessing learning that happens outside of the scope of formalised testing.

Over lunch, we had the wonderful opportunity of accessing behind the scenes storage at the Museum, as an alumni of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester (MSc in 2009), I have a particular fondness for the storage set up of museums and cultural heritage institutions. This certainly didn’t disappoint. We even saw Darwin’s once-lost tortoise :)

My favourite thing though was a bunch of fish in a jar. This is because it links directly back to a recent research meeting, where we discussed various approaches for the bridging of museum data from various discrete databases. One of the early stages of a review found that many (probably all) museums contain large numbers of known objects and entries which have no distinct identifier, the fish in a jar are a perfect example of that. The jar itself has an accession number, but the individual specimens inside it don’t.

When is a jar of fish more than a jar of fish? When it is the representation of that moment when all the different aspects of your interests, personal and professional come together. Just one example of how the Institute Fellowship is supporting my career and interests.

After lunch we were divided into small groups to discuss a research software related topic and speed-blog our conclusion. Our group decided to discuss the selection criteria for picking a collaborative tool or environment when working on an interdisciplinary project. 

The most valuable thing for me about the Institute inaugural event was the chance to meet the other Fellows in person, and to start identifying myself as a part of this community. Hearing about other people’s plans helped us identify some commonalities in our approaches and areas of interest: Melodee Beals and I have both had papers accepted to the Global Digital Humanities conference (DH2016) in Poland in July 2016 - this inspired us to get together with another Institute fellow, James Baker, and my Institute mentor, Prof. David De Roure, to put in a bid for a workshop on Institute-related issues, namely the capture of workflows in the Digital Humanities. And so from the first meeting onwards, the Institute Fellowship has resulted in collaborations and events, which would have never manifested without it!

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