About Caoimhe Burke

B.A. International (Double Hons.), History and English (N.U.I, 2016), Student of M.A. Digital Humanities with An Foras Feasa, Maynooth University. Lover of early mornings, fluffy dogs, strong coffee and rare steaks.

Reconstruction of the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition: Putting it all Together.

This is it, folks! The final hurdle! We’re almost there!

Now that the materials are applied to the building and all of the interior components that Fionn built are complete, it was time to put the scenes together. As Fionn had tried and succeeded to combine the scenes before in a trial run, she was left with the responsibility of putting all of her interior furniture pieces into the model.

I then imported all of the smaller interior details, such as the flags and the signage that Fionn had built, and calculated where they would be located on the model. I then used the coordinates in the move tool to place them in the correct spots.

I then created the daylight system to mimic the daylight and weather on May 9th, 1865, the opening day of the Dublin International Exhibition, while Fionn created the cameras to view the model.

The last hurdle was the creation of our metadata files and creating the zipped folder which housed the model, the material folders, the scene assets folder and all of our textures and sending it in for submission.

The clock tower that Fionn created as the centrepiece to our model.

A rendering of the stage that Fionn created.

A rendering of the interior of the model.

Needless to say, Fionn and I celebrated with some lovely chicken curry at 1 am, and it was just as glorious as it sounds.

If you’d like to see how Fionn got on with our project, you can follow her updates here. Thanks for reading!

Effective Data Modelling Techniques for the Humanities.

The process of data modelling for the purposes of analysis and querying humanities data differs from that of absolute data, due to the underlying differences between humanities data and other data. Humanities data, by it’s very nature, is conceptual, interpretive and subjective. Therefore, it is difficult to model and to query, due to the different viewpoints of the creators and users of humanities-based databases. Johanna Drucker (‘Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display’, Digital Humanities Quarterly, 5(1), 2011) argues that ‘(r)endering observation (the act of creating a statistical, empirical, or subjective account or image) as if it were the same as the phenomena observed collapses the critical distance between the phenomenal world and its interpretation, undoing the basis of interpretation on which humanistic knowledge production is based.’ Drucker’s understanding of data modelling for the humanities has it’s roots at the interpretation of data. She continues, to point out that ‘at the very least, humanists beginning to play at the intersection of statistics and graphics ought to take a detour through the substantial discussions of the sociology of knowledge and its developed critique of realist models of data gathering. At best, we need to take on the challenge of developing graphical expressions rooted in and appropriate to interpretative activity’.

With this understanding of humanities data in mind, the attention can turn to the two different types of data modelling techniques, XML and semantic models, and how they are used. By understanding the uses and principles for each schema, one can more effectively assess which is most appropriate to model humanities data.

The principles of XML allow for the querying of almost any type of database, as XML is not a language in it’s own right, but rather a formalism for creating query languages within the context of a particular database or set of databases. In relation to humanities data as a whole, XML is the most customisable form of data modelling. Reverting to the earlier argument that all humanities data is subjective and interpretive, the customisable features of XML query language allows the creator and user of the database to conceptualise the data in their own fashion. The XML tags of a database exist in the logical schema, or the structural reference guide to a database. There is no wrong type of logical schema for XML tags but the creator must always thrive for a consistent output on each database, which is detailed in the structure of an entity relationship model. Wendell Piez (‘Three Questions and One Experiment On Data Modeling in the Humanities’, Workshop on Knowledge Organization and Data Modeling in the Humanities, Brown University Press: Providence, RI, 2012), highlights the capabilities of personalisation in XML documents; ‘every XML instance, as an encoded document, both depends on character encoding and the rules of XML syntax, and it implies a schema, more or less coherent, even if it does not call one explicitly.’ With this understanding of XML and the study of humanities data, it is not difficult to understand the appeal of conceptual data modelling which still functions in a very structured and linear fashion.

In contrast, the principles of the semantic web work in a very contextual way, defining the meaning of data within the context of the interrelationships between various data within a database. Semantic web models define the resources, ideas, and events of a real-world figure within the physical data stores of a model. Therefore, the model most be a representation of the real world. This can have a two-sided effect on the interpretation of the data. On the one hand, the findings of the data may be taken as true, given that they have gone through a computational querying and structuring. On the other hand, one can argue that all data is conceptual, so despite the computational understanding, the findings can always still be assessed. Semantic web models are most useful in the context of large, sharable databases, where the data can be queried from any number of users, all of whom can easily contradict the findings of each other. The most popular uses for the semantic web include artificial intelligence modelling, due to the effectiveness of the semantic web for the assessment of the interrelationships within large databases.

When one asks which data modelling technique is most useful in the context of the humanities, it is fair to say that the usefulness of the method depends on the needs of the user. XML works in a very structured and linear format, but the main navigation and query language of the method is subject to the needs of the user. In contrast, the semantic web, while also being very customisable, provides the user with a very advanced method of understanding data, due to the assessment of the interrelationships of data.

Works Cited
Johanna Drucker, ‘Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display’, Digital Humanities Quarterly, 5(1), 2011
Julia Flanders and Fotis Jannidis ‘Data Modelling’ in Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens and John Unsworth (eds.) A New Companion to Digital Humanities, Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd (2016).
Wendell Piez, ‘Three Questions and One Experiment On Data Modeling in the Humanities’, Workshop on Knowledge Organization and Data Modeling in the Humanities, Brown University Press: Providence, RI (2012)

Reconstruction of the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition: DISASTER!

The unthinkable has happened, ladies and gentlemen. We have lost some files.

During the night, the models for the flags, the signage and a beautiful tent that Fionn had built got corrupted in the OneDrive folder and could not be saved. And so began the all-nighter from my nightmares.

While I was completing some of the final details of the iron structure, Fionn got to work remaking the flags and the signage that we had lost. While they are very small details in the model, they give the final model a beautiful overall aesthetic that we wanted to keep.

In the end, these features proved to be easy to recreate, as they could be copied once a single flag or sign had been created, and all of the textures had been saved in our 3dsMax folder, so it was a matter of retrieving them.

To read more about this, you can see Fionn’s post all about it.

To keep up with the project in general, you can see my blog here and Fionn’s blog here.

Moral of the story? Multiple files, friends. Multiple files.

Reconstruction of the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition: Glass Frames and Materials.

Now that the entire iron structure is built, it came the time to add the glass to the entire model and apply materials. To make matters easier for myself, I decided to apply all of the materials before I built the glass frame. As most of my structure was the same throughout, I only needed three materials to complete the entire structure, not including the glass.

For the floor, I chose to use a standard arch and design material, which was a light, birchwood, planked floor. I chose this because the reference image shows a light wooden floor, but I also like that it allows the maodel to look very bright on the inside, something which I had to be aware of throughout the process as ther are no lights inside the model to illuminate it. As I had all of the components for the floor in a single layer, it was easiest to use the ‘Assign to Selection’ tool in the material editor to apply the wood material to the entire floor in one click.

The application of the materials to the iron girders was almost the same process, but I had to go through my layers to be sure that everything was in the correct place, as some of the features in the iron structure are a light mint green colour and the other features are a light grey colour. Once i was sure that all of the correct parts of the structure were in the correct layers, I grouped the layers for each colour together.

For the mint green colour, I used an Arch and Design material in a matte metal finish, and assigned a colour which was as close to the reference image as possible. I then selected the group which was to be coloured green and used the ‘Assign to Selection’ tool to apply the material to the scene. I then repeated the process to complete the light grey colour on the other parts of the iron structure.

Before moving on to create the glass, I rendered the scene to be sure that the materials worked correctly.

Rendered Exterior of the Model

To create the glass panes, I took the measurements for each side of the structure, the length of the roof, and the width of each window frame in the dome. For the straight sides of the building, I created one long, thin box which fit the measurements of the walls, and was 0.05m thick, so that it was as thin and transparent as possible. I then embedded these panes into the existing window frames.

I repeated the process of creating the thin boxes to fit the length of the roof, and rotated the thin boxes to create a curved roof. This same process was also used to create the glass panes on the walls of the dome. The largest problem that I encountered, and the one that is the biggest eyesore of the model for me, is that of the glass on the dome roof. I could not create the curves properly, and had a lot of problems rotating it to properly fit the frames of the iron structure on the roof.

To assign a material to the glass, I first made sure that all of the glass was once again in the same layer so that I could quickly used the ‘Assign to Selection’ tool in the material editor. Again, I used a simple Arch and Design glass designed for thin geometry, and changed the colour to a slight blue colour.

When I applied the glass, I rendered the scene again to check that it had worked. The overall result reminded me distinctly of St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin 2.

St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre


For project updates, you can keep up with this blog or with Fionn’s blog here.

Reconstruction of the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition: Windows, Railings, and the Smallest Boxes Known to Man.

Now that the walls, floors, and roofing is built, it was time to tackle the finer details of the model, namely the window frames and the railings.

To create the railings, I first measured the distance between girders in the model to create a basic railing which was the correct size. I then created the frame of the railing using four thin boxes to create the iron structure of the individual railing. I then divided the width of the box by three to determine where to put the dividing box, turning the railing into a fused, 3 section railing before adding all of the details, as seen in the reference picture below.

The design elements of the railing, seen here at the left, mid-height in the image.

The diamond shaped part of the railing was created from boxes, made the same width, length and height as those used for the main frame, and were rotated to fit the shape of the railing perfectly. The very small, finer details are made from extremely thin boxes, all rotated to fit the model. When one railing was complete. I used the attach tool to attach all of the boxes together and create a single element for the railing. I then created copies of this railing to put into the model. In the places where the railing did not fit perfectly, I used the scaling tool to modify the railing.

The approach to creating the window was very similar to that of the railings. To create the window frames, I measured the distance between girders in the model to create a proportionate window frame. I then created the outer iron frame using four thin boxes. I then divided the width of the box by three to determine where to put the dividing box, turning the window frame into a fused, 3 section structure. I then looked to the reference photograph to determine the details of the window frame. Measuring the existing frame I had created, I divided the measurements accordingly so that my window frames were perfectly symmetrical. When the window frame was created, I used the group tool to create a temporary single component frame which I then copied to fill the entire structure of the model’s walls, scaling the frame to fit where appropriate. The reason to group rather than attach the boxes in the model was a good decision on my part, as it made the creation of the curve in the window frames much easier, on both ends of the model. Instead of creating brand new boxes from scratch, I used the move tool and the shift button to make new boxes along the X and Y axis and align them with the girders of the iron structure to create the windows.

To follow updates on our project, see the rest of my blog or Fionn’s blog.

Reconstruction of the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition: No More Girders! But plenty more where they came from.

Now that the girders and dome of the building frame are completed, it was time to create the other details of the building, including the floor, the upper hallway and the roofing for the hallway.

To create the hallways on the top floor, I had to return to my measurements from the start of the project, as the hallway was the same width and thickness throughout the structure. I also had to determine where would be a suitable height on the model to put the hallway, as the height had not been specified in any of the sources that we had found.

Once I had determined these measurements, I decided that the easiest way to build the floor was to build a box for each of the straight sides. The side that has the dome attached has a single box on the hallway each side of the dome. To create the curved floor for the dome, I created two cylinders; one was the same diameter as the dome and had the same height settings as the rest of the floor. The other cylinder had the width of the floor accounted for and the diameter set accordingly, and was created with a larger height so that it could be placed in the larger cylinder and be wider on the top and the bottom, making the use of the Boolean tool much easier. I positioned both cylinders at the same point in the scene so that the centre point in both was exactly the same, and the floor width would be even all the way around the dome. I then used the Boolean tool to remove the smaller cylinder from the larger, creating a donut shape. I then created a box which was longer and thicker than the floor donut and made it wide enough to cover one half of the donut. I used the boolean tool again to cut off one half of the donut, creating a semi-circular shape which would then become the floor for the hallway. I matched this shape with the floor height of the rest of the hallway structure and positioned it within the dome. Once all of the boxes were in place to create the floor, I used the attach tool to attach all of them together, making it easier to use the material editor later to create the textures for the flooring.

To create the roofing for the hallway, it was a matter of creating copies of all of the boxes that I created for the hallway floor, so that the sizes were exactly the right size to cover the hallway. I then created doubles of each of the boxes and paired them, before rotating each box 45 degrees on the X-Y axis and pairing them to create a roof shape, which I then placed on the model at the same X-Y coordinates as the hallway, but higher on the Z axis to create the roof shape.

To follow updates, you can do so here on my blog or here on Fionn’s blog, as she is building the interior of the model.

Reconstruction of the 1865 Dublin International Exhibition: I Have Made a Grave Mistake….

Okay, so despite being warned about keeping shapes organised in 3dsMax, whether it be in groups, layers or detailed naming conventions, I didn’t adhere to any of the warnings I was given. In what can only be deemed as naîvety, I did not consider how many boxes would be in my model once I had created all of the girders, and when it came to finding the boxes contained in a certain area of the model in order to group them, I realised the extent of my mistake.

From this mistake was born a day that I devoted to organising my files as much as possible, dividing them between different layers and naming the groups. Whether or not I remember to keep up with this practice remains to be seen.

Too keep up to date with our project, you can follw updates on my blog and Fionn’s blog.