Back to All Events

British Library Labs symposium

  • The British Library Conference Centre Auditorium London NW1 2DB (map)

The Symposium showcases innovative projects which use the British Library's digital content and provides a platform for development, networking and debate in the Digital Scholarship field. 

Dr Adam Farquhar will launch the 4th annual British Library Labs Symposium, followed by a keynote from Professor Melissa Terras, Director of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, will present awards to the British Library Labs Competition (2016) finalists, who will also give presentations on their winning projects. After lunch, the winners of Shakespeare Off the Map will be announced. This will be followed by presentations from the winners of the British Library Labs Awards. The Awards recognise projects that have actively used the British Library's digital content in four key areas: Research, Commercial, Artistic and Teaching / Learning. A British Library Labs Staff Award will also be presented this year, in recognition of an individual or team who have played a key role in innovative work with the British Library’s digital collections. The Symposium's endnote will be followed by a networking reception which will conclude the event.  

Date and Time
Monday 7th November 2016, 09:30 - 17:30*
*Registration is at 09:30, the event starts at 10:00 prompt. The closing reception will begin at 16:15.


The British Library, Conference Centre, Auditorium, London NW1 2DB, United Kingdom.
(Please collect your badge and head upstairs to the first floor and follow the signs to the Auditorium)

Please refer to the following map detailing how to get to the event.

09:30 - 10:00
Registration and Coffee - foyer area, Conference Centre
The event will start at 10:00 sharp in the main Auditorium.

10:00 - 10:05
Welcome and introduction
Dr Adam Farquhar, Head of Digital Scholarship, British Library

10:05 - 11:00
Keynote 'Unexpected repurposing: the British Library's Digital Collections and UCL teaching, research and infrastructure'

Melissa Terras, Director of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, Professor of Digital Humanities in UCL's Department of Information Studies and Vice Dean of Research in UCL's Faculty of Arts and Humanities   

When generous licenses are applied to digitised cultural heritage content, they can be taken, used, repurposed, and applied in unforeseen ways. This talk will focus on the British Library's digitised book collection - 60,000 volumes which are now in the public domain - and how those texts and images have been used with both students and researchers at UCL. Integrating a large scale digital collection from a Library into our undergraduate and masters' level Computing Science student projects has changed our views on teaching transferable skills. Mounting the digitised books on our High Performance Computing facilities has led to changes in our computational architecture, helping to design systems that can cope with heterogeneous datasets. This talk shows how library data sets, in all their complexity, can aid data science in both teaching and research. 

11:00 - 11:15 

Presentation to the British Library Labs Competition (2016) finalists

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library

Roly will present awards to the finalists of the British Library Labs Competition (2016), who will follow with special presentations on their winning projects.   

11:15 - 11:45

British Library Labs Competition (2016) - 'Black Abolitionist Performances and their Presence in Britain' 

Hannah-Rose Murray, PhD student at University of Nottingham 

This project has created an original and exciting window into Victorian society by analysing the African American presence in Britain and how their performances and lectures reached nearly every corner of the country. It asks, how can we uncover hidden black voices in the archive?

11:45 - 12:15

British Library Labs Competition (2016) - 'SherlockNet: Using Convolutional Neural Networks to Automatically Tag and Caption the British Library Collection'

Karen Wang and Luda Zhao, Masters students at Stanford University, and Brian Do, Harvard Medical School and PhD student

This project has harnessed machine learning to extract information and data from the British Library's Flickr Commons 1 million images. CNN algorithms have been delevloped and optimised in order to classify, tag and caption the Flickr collection. The natural-language captions have expanded the richness of the Flickr images and provided intuitive ways for researchers to use the collection. 

12:15 - 13:15

Lunch in the foyer

13:15 - 13:30

Shakespeare Off the Map

Stella Wisdom, Digital Curator at the British Library

Stella will talk about this year's entries and announce the winners of the Off the Map 2016 competition, which challenged budding designers to use digital collections from the British Library as inspiration to create exciting interactive digital media. 

13:30 - 13:35 

Kureshi Archive

Rachel Foss, Head of Contemporary Archival and MSS Collections at the British Library

Rachel will be announcing the availability of the Hanif Kureshi born digital literary manuscript collection in the British Library's Manuscripts reading room.   

13:35 - 15:00

British Library Labs Awards (2016): winners' presentations

British Library Labs has been working with researchers, artists and entrepreneurs from around the world to enable them to make use of the British Library's digital content and data. This session celebrates projects entered in the BL Labs Awards (2016). It will be followed by special presentations from the winners of each category:

  • Research Award
  • Commercial Award
  • Artistic Award
  • Teaching / Learning Award 
  • British Library Staff Award

15:00 - 15:30

Coffee break in the foyer
Please note that the next session will start at 15:30 prompt.

15:30 - 16:15


Presenter to be confirmed.

16:15 - 17:30

Final reception (Chaucer and foyer area)
Please join us for a drink, mingle and network with the delegates, Library staff and speak to the Labs team.




Following the BL Labs Symposium is the evening event 'We Are Amused! A Night of Victorian Humour', taking place in the British Library Conference Centre from 19:00 - 21:00.

Join Dr Bob Nicholson (Edge Hill University) and comedians Zoe Lyons, Bob Mills and Iszi Lawrence as they unearth thousands of old puns, sketches, one-liners and saucy songs from the 19th century. 

Cost: £12 (concessions available), buy your Victorian Humour tickets here.