Serendipity or design? #dha2016

Over in Tasmania, at the Digital Humanities conference today, there was a panel discussion on GLAM and humanities research and access to collections. @mikejonesmelb and others tweeted some of the content, and I’d love to see some of the papers and presentations.

The focus was, of course, the relationship between GLAM bodies and academia, with some suggestions for collaboration, such as the McCoy Project between University of Melbourne and Victoria Collections, and having LIS students help with digital humanities projects.  It was identified that libraries and archives are not generally identified as research institutions (although with the changes to ARC funding a few years ago, I think the larger institutions can now partner with academics?), and that generally, funding is not that available for research within collections as part of the institutions’ roles.

Digitisation was also discussed with mixed feelings. It’s one way of providing data, but as Janet Carding, one of the panellists said, “the role for GLAM institutions isn’t to shut themselves in a room with a flatbed scanner for the next 20 years …”.  It was also suggested that APIs for collections need to be made more open and accessible for users. I think there may be some more general discussion that needs to occur vis a vis collections data and the ‘ordinary punter’ as one of the panellists put it. The discussion appeared to range over the ways in which libraries and archives make information available about their collections (which is their raison d’etre) while galleries and museums have been much slower to enable access to collection databases. There are also the dichotomies between science and cultural heritage collections to be considered.

Mike Jones then spoke about context and connections, suggesting a web of knowledge lies within archival descriptions, and considering ways in which meaning can be layered over time. Deb Verhoeven followed up with a discussion of HuNI and serendipity, to which she later provided a three minute summary link. Aimed at academic researchers it still leaves lots to think about with regards to the ways in which we make connections across collections for all researchers.


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Archivist, historian, avid reader

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