AI / Arts / Innovation

Library of Congress welcomes two creatives into its 2020 Innovators in Residence program

Two computer scientists have been selected to create projects on the intersections of tech and hip hop, historic newspapers and classic illustrations.

Inside the Library of Congress. (Photo via U.S. government)

The Library of Congress has welcomed two people into its 2020 Innovators in Residence program. The pair will focus on researching the intersections of tech and hip hop, historic newspapers and classic illustrations.

Launched in 2017, the residency program invites creative innovators to “to develop research concepts and projects that connect the American people with the Library’s vast collections.” The Innovators in Residence program is part of the Library of Congress Labs and spans a full year, allowing entrepreneurs to access to the library’s digital collection for short-term projects. Data artist and educator Jer Thorp served as the first Innovator in Residence, when he created a podcast and made a collection of proof of concept applications for users interested in engaging with large cultural heritage collections.

The 2020 Innovators in Residence are Brian Foo and Benjamin Charles Germain Lee.

Lee is currently working on his doctoral degree in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington and is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow. He will use machine learning to pull photos and illustrations from historic newspapers in the library’s Chronicling America collection to make them more searchable and accessible. During the program, he will also focus on creating a search interface to help users browse the Chronicling America collection more.

“A primary motivation behind my project is to encourage innovation by demonstrating the power of machine learning applied to library collections,” Lee told the Library of Congress. “The appeal of this research cuts three ways: first, it allows users to experience the Library’s digital collections in an engaging way; second, it enables cultural heritage practitioners to ask new research questions; and third, it allows computer scientists to better understand how people are using the systems they build.”

Foo brings computer science and design experience to the program, including as a data visualization artist at the American Museum of Natural History, where he launched a permanent exhibit on climate change last year. He also produced an album of 10 songs focused on public datasets and open source software that will exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York this year. For the Innovators in Residence program, Foo will create an application for people to use the Library’s digital collection to create hip hop music with public domain audio and video materials.


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