DocExplore - An Historical Document Exploration System
The general theme of this project can be summarised as “empowering citizens on both sides of the Channel to engage with, explore and study their cultural heritage (including, importantly, shared heritage), as embodied in written and printed documents, in meaningful, informative, accessible and entertaining ways, through the provision of transparent computer-based interactive tools”. The term “citizen” should be understood in the broadest possible sense, embracing all relevant parties and stakeholders ranging from the casual enquirer cursorily interested in obtaining a passing knowledge of local historical documents, through the person with an interest in enhancing knowledge about a specific topic of interest (for example, a family history), ultimately to the serious scholar undertaking professional academic research. Though the requirements of the automated support provided within such differing stakeholder scenarios ultimately differs widely, there is also a range of important and useful exploratory tools that share a commonality of purpose and value across all potential users.
As a starting point, we characterise these proposed strata of user types along the following lines, deploying three operational levels of increasing sophistication and complexity:
• 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.)
DocExplore aims to investigate and implement an IT-based system for the exploration of historical documents, providing effective solutions which enhance the interaction with and understanding of documents and associated meta-data to exhibit our common cultural heritage. Specifically we are developing a generic document analysis framework that provides a robust and comprehensive operational infrastructure and interactive toolkit integrating advanced and leading-edge facilities to address different strata of user interactions. This framework will give access to historical documents with shared interests, using appropriate access modes, and using a common infrastructure with shared functionalities.
The project team comprises university researchers from both the ICT and historical document analysis communities (Universities of Kent and Rouen) and cross-national end-users/historical archives (Canterbury Cathedral Archives and the Bibliothèque Municipale de Rouen).