May 28, 2022

UK’s JISC is Commissioning Data Visualizations to Support Access to 19th Century Medical History Books

From JISC:

The aim of the Visualising Medical Heritage project is to develop data visualisations which will support access and engagement with the 19th Century medical history books digitised (15 million pages) as part of the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK-MHL) project.

These visualisations will be integrated into the Jisc Historical Texts platform as part of a separate work package.

The rationale for using data visualisations to access the UK MHL came out of discussions with the Academic Advisory Group assigned to the project. They noted that when making such a large corpus available digitally it raises a some important questions:

  • When millions of digitised pages sit “behind a keyword search box” how does a student make sense of the full extent of what is available?
  • Lacking the visual clues and serendipity that a traditional library set-up provides, how can teachers convey the broader context in which this literature was produced?
  • How can digital technology stretch the traditional way of “searching” content and support the identification of key concepts, themes and connections within the digitised texts?
  • How do scholars sift through and prioritise long lists of search results that may have been generated through more traditional searches?
  • How do they account for OCR imperfections?
  • And how can the interaction between text and images be represented, and the integrity of texts kept?

The successful contractors for this project will analyse the UK-MHL exploring common concepts, trends and semantics within the data to produce data visualisations. For students and teachers the visualisations will support digital literacy and engagement with the content whereas for scholars and researchers visualisations will provide more a more advanced means to interrogate the corpus.

Read the Complete Announcement

See Also: New Jisc commission to Visualise Medical History (April 9, 2015, via JISC)

See Also: Visit, Search, Browse the UK Medical Heritage Library

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.