Event 1 – Davy Notebooks Project Online Transcribe-a-thon (4 August 2021, on Zoom)

Our first event – our first ever online transcribe-a-thon – took place on Wednesday 4 August 2021, 3-5pm (UK time) (9-11am CT, 10am-12pm ET).

We had 36 participants from all over the world, and it was a real privilege to finally ‘meet’ and engage with some of our transcribers. The two hours really flew by!

The format of the event was:

Welcome and overview of the event 5 minutes
Q&A between Sharon Ruston and Alexis Wolf 10 minutes
Transcription task 1 (notebook 21B) 30 minutes
Social break (small breakout room discussions of the previous task) 15 minutes
Screen break (to refresh our eyes!) 15 minutes
Transcription task 2 (notebook 22A) 30 minutes
Concluding whole-group discussion 15 minutes

During the one hour we spent transcribing (which, of course, included the time necessary to ‘get up to speed’ with the task instructions), we managed to:

  • Transcribe 15% of notebook 21B
  • Transcribe 4% of the (longer) notebook 22A

Notebook 21B

Notebook 22A

By 5pm UK time, when the transcribe-a-thon ended, we had gathered 329 classifications on Zooniverse for 4 August 2021. With the exception of the days surrounding the project launch, this is the highest number of classifications we’ve ever had on a single day.

We also had lots of stimulating discussion over the course of the event, taking in: the difficulties inherent in transcribing Davy’s hand, and especially the mathematical notation in notebook 21B; Davy’s relationship with his brother, John Davy; Davy’s (sometimes idiosyncratic) use of punctuation; differences between nineteenth-century and present-day handwriting and typography; Davy’s habit of sketching in his notebooks; and more.

Many thanks again to our wonderful transcribers! We really enjoyed the event, and hope that you did too. We’ve gathered lots of positive feedback so far.

Summary by Andrew Lacey

Event 2 – Davy Notebooks Project Online Volunteers’ Meeting (25 February 2022, on Zoom)

RI MS HD/07, p. 000_6, detail (click to enlarge)

Michael Faraday’s note, dated 4 December 1829, in Royal Institution laboratory notebook 07, one of the transcribed pages discussed by Sharon in her talk

On Friday 25 February, we held our first volunteer meet-up event, which was online.

8 volunteers participated in the one-hour event, and four members of the Davy Notebooks Project team: Professors Sharon Ruston and Frank James, and Dr Andrew Lacey and Dr Ellie Bird.

The main purpose of the event was to meet with volunteers and hear their views and experiences of transcribing on the Davy Notebooks Project. There was also a focus on hearing from the project team about the new and exciting research that is being made possible by their impressive work transcribing Davy’s 70-strong notebook collection.

We started the session with short introductions, where we got to hear from volunteers about their backgrounds and interests in participating in the project. It was wonderful and eye-opening to learn more about our volunteers. There was an informal period of questions, during which the project team asked questions, and volunteers also asked questions of each other.

Next, Professor Sharon Ruston gave a 10-minute presentation exploring some of the fantastic research findings that are coming out of the work by volunteers transcribing Davy’s notebooks, followed by a short Q&A. We heard how transcription work and research done by Zooniverse volunteers and shared on Talk (the internal discussion platform on Zooniverse) is helping to expand our understanding of how Davy used his notebooks, which in the case of the Royal Institution laboratory notebooks show the collaborative nature of much of his chemical research, and his attitudes towards the accuracy of scientific description in poetry.

From Dr Andrew Lacey, during a quick update on the progress of the project so far, we learned that the project is now 42% complete – a huge achievement – and heard more about the peaks we’ve seen on various days.

From feedback that we’ve had from volunteers at the event and afterwards, we realise that events like this can help volunteers to feel valued and to see the difference that their contributions are making. Volunteers appreciated the chance to meet with, and chat to, one another. It was clear that they see finding out about the research that is coming out of the project as important – all things that we can build on going forward, as we hope, after the success of this event, to run future meet-up events for our brilliant volunteers!

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Summary by Ellie Bird

Event 3 – Davy Notebooks Project In-person Transcribe-a-thon (14 May 2022, University College London)

Following on from a successful in-person transcribe-a-thon held at the British Society for Literature and Science annual conference on Saturday 9 April, on Saturday 14 May we held another in-person transcribe-a-thon event at University College London. The event ran from 11am to 3pm, and we had 10 participants.

The format of the event was:

Welcome and introduction to Davy Sharon Ruston
Davy and electrochemistry Frank James
Transcription task 1 (notebook 03A1)
The materiality of Davy’s notebooks Andrew Lacey
Transcription task 2 (notebook 03A1)
Working with ALICE and Talk Eleanor Bird

We ended with a group Q&A discussion. Over the course of the event, we managed to transcribe over 65% of notebook 03A1 – a fantastic achievement! On the day of the transcribe-a-thon, we gathered 178 classifications. As usual, we had some stimulating discussion throughout the event – mainly on the difficulties of deciphering Davy’s hand! Two of our participants, Aalia Ahmed and Lucia Scigliano, have written a great guest blog post on how they found the day – many thanks to Aalia and Lucia for sharing their experiences.

Summary by Andrew Lacey

Event 4 – Davy Notebooks Project ‘Using the Zooniverse Project Builder’ workshop (20 May 2022, Lancaster University)

We were delighted to welcome Dr Samantha Blickhan, Zooniverse Co-Director and Humanities Lead, to Lancaster. Samantha travelled from Chicago, where she’s based at the Adler Planetarium, for our workshop. We had 17 participants (15 in person, and 2 online) in this hybrid event, which took place in the Digital Scholarship Lab in the University Library.

The format of the event was:

Introduction, and overview of the Project Builder Samantha Blickhan
Working with the Project Builder: Davy Notebooks Project case study Andrew Lacey
Working with ALICE and Talk: Davy Notebooks Project case study Eleanor Bird
Q&A session Whole team, led by Samantha Blickhan

We welcomed our participants with tea and coffee, and also had an afternoon tea and coffee break before the Q&A session (pictured below).

Our participants learned more about Zooniverse, the practicalities of working with the Project Builder in managing a transcription project, and the various ways in which we work with the transcriptions submitted and engage with our volunteers online. The programme for the day is here.

Summary by Andrew Lacey. With thanks to Clare Egan for providing the photo.

Conference Papers and Related Activities

British Association for Romantic Studies International Digital Conference 2021: Romantic Disconnections/Reconnections (Thursday 12 August 2021, 3-4.15pm, on Zoom)

Davy Notebooks Project Panel:

Sharon Ruston ‘From Poetry to Science: Humphry Davy’s 1800 Notebook, RI MS HD/13/D’
Frank James ‘Between Dichotomies: Thomas Richard Underwood (1772-1835)’
Eleanor Bird ‘Reconnecting Humphry Davy’s Notebooks and Transatlantic Slavery’

There were 30 participants in this panel.

British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 51st Annual Conference: Indifference and Engagement (Friday 7 January 2022, 4-6pm, on Zoom)

Andrew Lacey ‘Digitizing Eighteenth-Century Letters and Manuscripts: A Conversation: The Davy Notebooks Project’

There were 34 participants in this roundtable discussion.

‘Excel in Science’ webinar, University of Nottingham: ‘Re-Emerging Research’ (Wednesday 16 March 2022, 1-2pm, on Zoom)

Andrew Lacey and Eleanor Bird ‘The Davy Notebooks Project’

There were c. 50 participants in this webinar.

Keeping and Making Diaries: Historical Sources and Perspectives: A Two Day International Conference (Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 March 2022, Churchill College, Cambridge)

‘Professional Lives’ Panel (Wednesday 23 March 2022, 3.45-5.15pm):

Sharon Ruston ‘Examining One of Humphry Davy’s 1800 notebooks, RI MS/HD/13/D’
Frank James ‘When do Notebooks Become a Diary? The Example of Michael Faraday’

There were c. 50 participants in this panel.

British Society for Literature and Science 17th Annual Conference 2022 (Friday 8 April 2022, 11am-12.30pm)

Davy Notebooks Project Panel:

Eleanor Bird ‘Exploring Examples of Humphry Davy’s Racial Thinking in His Early Notebooks’
Frank James ‘Trying to Return Europe to the Ancien Régime: Humphry Davy in Naples Chemically Recovering Ancient Literature, 1817-1820′
Andrew Lacey ‘Private Investigations? Davy’s Notemaking’

There were c. 25 participants in this panel. We also ran an in-person transcribe-a-thon at the conference on Saturday 9 April 2022, 11am-12.30pm. Our 12 participants transcribed 51% of notebook 02D5.