Digital Archives and Co-Creation - Questions about using digitisation for public engagement and beyond

Authors: Crossen-White, H.

Start date: 3 September 2018

The curation of digital assets is a young discipline. As such this practice throws up many questions particularly around how digital assets are used and collected. This session explores these questions through a conversation between staff from The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and Bournemouth University, as museum practice and university research come together. Central to this discussion is the experience of the end user or visitor. Research undertaken by Bournemouth University highlights how little thought has been given to the end user with raw enthusiasm driving many projects. This is a natural response to a changing world where people increasingly look online for information and was reflected in the recent DDCMS report, Culture is Digital. In this report DDCMS highlighted the importance of digitisation but with the caveat that content needs to be compelling. A 2015 study by Bournemouth University indicated that only 40% of museum visitors sampled had used digital archives, raising the question, what is compelling content ? Latterly NMRN has rapidly increased its digitisation programme and plans to develop public engagement through digital assets as part of its forthcoming SeaMore project. This work raises a number of questions: how are assets accessed and used by visitors; how will future wholly digital assets (e.g. YouTube videos and blogs) be collected? This blurs the disciplines of digitisation and co-curation and poses yet more questions: how will curators structure meaningful access ; how will the process evolve and be flexible enough to meet the as yet to be determined needs of future visitors? This will be a lively 15 minutes conversation raising as many questions as it answers with the dialogue providing a framework for the work that follows. It will also seek contributions from other organisations and prompt them to ask similar questions of themselves.

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