DocExplore is an EU INTERREG IVa project investigating the computer-based access and analysis of historical manuscripts. The project commenced on the 1st April 2009.
The aims of the project can be summarised as empowering citizens on both sides of the Channel to engage with, explore and study their cultural heritage, as embodied in written and printed documents, in meaningful, informative, accessible and entertaining ways, through the provision of transparent computer-based interactive tools. We therefore envisage developing a generic document analysis framework which provides a basic operational infrastructure and interactive toolkit.
The framework, as illustrated below, for exploring historical documents will address three strata of usage:
- Observation tasks (e.g. in interacting with exhibits)
- Informal information assembly, manipulation and coordination (e.g. searching documents, comparing texts, etc)
- High-level formal textual research (automated reading tools, advanced annotations, etc)
The project uses the expertise of academic research groups based at the Universities of Kent and Rouen alongside the support the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and the Bibliothèque Municipale de Rouen.
DocExplore is structured in two phases. DocExplore 1 is the initial one-year scoping phase which has met, and indeed has exceeded, all of the stated objectives. DocExplore 2 will research, design and implement a full system based on the outcomes.
- We have conducted a detailed and comprehensive requirements consultation study on both sides of the channel with two broad groups of end-users: on the one hand, members of the general public (representing ordinary citizens with an interest in their shared culture), and, on the other hand, specialist document scholars, academics, archive users and staff…
- We have produced formal Functional and Technical Specification documents defining the design of a flexible, adaptable and robust framework for the exploration of a wide range of historical documents.
- We have implemented (as demonstrator software) a range of tools to deliver the functionality identified in the formal specification. This software confirms proof-of-concept for a number of our original key ideas and will form the basis for further development work within DocExplore 2.
- In addition to academic and press dissemination of project objectives and specifications, we have held two very successful public system demonstrations with our project collaborators (Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Bibliothèque Municipale de Rouen). These displays have exposed the basic system concepts to a wide range of potential end users and have confirmed the success of the specification and demonstrator implementation. They have also enabled us to capture important usage feedback which will directly inform design strategies in DocExplore 2.