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Research to uncover what people read from the 18th century to now

Shutterstock-11232274 Woman reading a book

An OU academic is part of a €1 million research project to develop digital tools to find out what people read from 18th century to the present day.

Dr Shafquat Towheed, Senior Lecturer in English in the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UK Principal Investigator for the Reading Europe Advanced Data Investigation Tool (READ-IT) project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Joint Programme Initiative for Cultural Heritage.

Led by Le Mans Université (France), READ-IT brings together humanities, social sciences and information technology researchers to uncover the rich wealth of information about readers and reading across Europe from 18th century up to today. Other collaborators are: Universiteit Utrecht (Netherlands), Institute of Czech Literature of the Czech Academy of Sciences, CNRS-IRISA (France) and a specialist developer company, IN2.

In order to uncover the rich wealth of information about readers and reading across Europe from the 18th century to the present day, the project team will produce new digital tools to recover, analyse, and showcase the amazing wealth of readers’ responses and make these available for free to the 21st century reading public.

Dr Towheed said: "The new READ-IT project will build upon the success of The Open University’s acclaimed ‘The Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945’ (RED), which has been the recipient of three rounds of Arts and Humanities Research Council funding, and contains over 34,000 records of British readers over five centuries. The new development work on READ-IT will allow us to produce brand new digital tools to examine and explain the reading history of people across the whole of Europe – and thereby return a hidden history of reading back to the European public.”

Over the three-year period of the project, the READ-IT team will organise a range of events in order to test these new digital tools.

Find out more about READ-IT.

Read more about Dr Towheed's research into books and RED.
 

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