British Library

London calling: Forensics, European crime fiction…and cake

Mrs. Peabody Investigates

I’m just back from a couple of crime-filled days in London. The main reason for my visit was to speak at a symposium on European crime fiction and data visualisation (of which more later), but I travelled up a day early in order to see the Forensics exhibition at The Wellcome Trust.

16498201563_555d7a914b_z The Wellcome Trust is by Euston Square station. Get there early, as it’s a popular exhibition

I’ve already written about the Forensics exhibition in a previous post, so here’s a summary of the parts I particularly liked.

  • Its focus, as one would expect, is scientific, but it also incorporates photography and artwork reflecting on violence, murder and its aftermath, which provide some genuinely thought-provoking perspectives.
  • Frances Glessner Lee’s ‘Nutshell Study of Unexplained Death’ – a crime scene recreated in a dollhouse for police training purposes in the 1940s – was fascinating for its miniature juxtaposition of detailed handcrafts and…

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Symposium : Towards a Digital Atlas of European Crime Fiction? (British Library Conference Centre, April 10, 2015)

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In the last decades the astonishing speed in the global circulation of cultural works and the unprecedented opportunities to gather and analyse large amount of data through electronic resources have opened up new possibilities for researchers in all disciplines. At the same time, the spatial turn in the Humanities has prompted scholars to consider the benefits of using maps and graphs to investigate the transnational history of cultural phenomena. However, while scholars working on quite traditional literary subjects have been quick to discuss and carry out the provocative claims made by Franco Moretti in The Atlas of the European Novel (1998), an ideal case study for such an approach, i.e. popular fiction, had been largely neglected.

The AHRC-funded project Visualising European Crime Fiction: New Digital Tools and Approaches to the Study of the Transnational Popular Culture has represented a first attempt to adopt this approach in the field of crime fiction studies, starting to collect data from different sources and exploring the uses of an online database and various visualisation tools. This exploratory project in partnership with the Paris-based BILIPO aimed at testing a number of strategies and possibilities in order to envision a larger, longer-term initiative to conduct extensive studies on the transnational circulation of popular fiction at the European level.  Researchers from a group of universities in the UK, France, Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic have collaborated to create sample datasets, the prototype database and a series of visualisations. Continue reading

British Library crime classics

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John Bude aka, Ernest Elmore (1901 – 1957), a co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association

Our AHRC project Visualising European Crime Fiction aims at rendering visible not only metadata from archives, but the materiality of the Crime Fiction books contained in Libraries Holdings.  Restoring visually the original appearance of the books provides often important elements of context. It helps explaining their appeal and their circulation. This focus on the books as material objects, and on the graphic art which accompanies them, complements the compilation,  analysis and  cleaning of lists of bibliographical records, which forms the other side of  our project. Metadata  from Libraries, title from Publishers’s catalogues allow to locate and select the books, data regarding their print run and numbers of reprints help identifying the most successful. Continue reading