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Tuesday, July 11 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Extracting Meaningful Data from Decomposing Bodies

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We present Decomposing Bodies, a digital humanities project that examines the late-19th-century system of anthropometrical measurement introduced in France by Alphonse Bertillon. "Bertillonnage," as this system is commonly known, was the first measurement-based, state-controlled system used for criminal identification. Currently, researchers resort to the tedious manual transcription in order to study the data on these cards in bulk. Here, we propose an end-to-end system for extracting handwritten text and numbers from scanned Bertillon cards in a semi-automated fashion and also the ability to browse through the original data and generated metadata using a web interface. The proposed system will enable historians and humanities researchers to study the data produced by the Bertillon system with much more ease than ever before. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first system that has tried to automate Bertillon card analysis through the application of existing handwritten digit and word recognition methods. We present our current results on performing document analysis on a selected set of scanned Bertillon cards from the Ohio State Reformatory and Ohio Penitentiary. We conclude with a few recommendations for increasing the likelihood of success for collaborations between Computer Science and Digital Humanities researchers.

Tuesday July 11, 2017 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Bolden 5

Attendees (31)