ResearchSpace Symposium- Building cultural heritage knowledge

British Museum,London

27,28,29 July 2017  

Conference Days – Thursday 27th and 28th

Workshops, Saturday Morning 29th   

This document will be updated as the full programme is established


This conference seeks to highlight the challenges for sustainable knowledge building between cultural heritage institutions, universities and the other interested audiences. How do we combine knowledge, skills and experience to create digital resources that have high research value, meaningful content, and are interesting to a wide range of people and groups? How can interdisciplinary work be practically supported and maintained? How can the outputs of digital research be academically robust and accessible for reuse in other projects? How can we avoid digital disruption and fragmentation? Finally, what role should cultural heritage institutions and organisations play in preserving and disseminating knowledge?

Keynote Speakers

Andrew Prescott, University of Glasgow: Remediating Our Culture: Threats and Challenges

Since the publication of foundational works of cultural theory by commentators such as Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall, we have become conscious of the complex ways in which culture embodies power structures. Just at the time we have become aware of the complexity of ideas of culture, the emergence of new digital and network technologies has profoundly changed the way in which we engage with the holdings of galleries, libraries and museums.

It will be argued that, far from democratising our culture, there is a risk that digital projects can return us to backward-looking and elitist views of culture, both as a result of the use of commercial partners and because of the way metadata is constructed. It will be suggested that museums and other memory institutions have a moral responsibility to engage with these emerging digital cultures in order to resist such retrograde cultural outlooks. One of the most important achievements of the British Museum’s ResearchSpace project is the way in which it facilitates the development of more nuanced and sophisticated views of culture in a digital environment.

Andrew Prescott is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow. He is AHRC Theme Leader Fellow for the Digital Transformations strategic theme. He was formerly a Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library, where he was the principal curatorial contact for the Electronic Beowulf project. He has also worked at digital humanities units and libraries in the University of Sheffield, King’s College London and University of Wales Lampeter.   

Included Projects Represented at the Workshop

Late Hokusai: Thought, Technique, Society

Despite Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) notoriety and globally recognisable art he remains a puzzling figure in terms of his life, influences and wide portfolio. This project represents a significant international collaboration drawing on a range of researchers in order to explore the interdisciplinary questions at its heart. Key institutional partners are Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Freer-Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musée Guimet in Paris, and over ten leading museums in Japan, including the Tokyo National Museum. Among the key contributors to the project will be an advisory committee comprising Professors Henry Smith (Columbia University), Peter Kornicki (Cambridge), Robert Campbell (Tokyo) and KOBAYASHI Tadashi (Tokyo), Dr John Carpenter (Metropolitan Museum) and NAGATA Seiji (Tsuwano Katsushika Hokusai Museum). The project coincides with the British Museum exhibition, Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave running through the Symposium from 25 May to 13 August.

Dr. Louisa Wood Ruby (The Frick Art Reference Library)

PHAROS is an international consortium of fourteen European and North American art historical photo archives committed to creating a digital research platform allowing for comprehensive consolidated access to photo archive images and their associated scholarly documentation. T

he PHAROS collections collectively contain an estimated 31 million images documenting works of art and architecture and the history of photography itself. The integration of these archives both the photographs and the expertise could transform research and provide greater insight to the histories of works of art.

The coordinating organisation, the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, will present on the rationale, challenges and aspirations of the project, and how distributed archives can become a significant integrated resource in art history research.

Gravitate is an example of the benefits of collaboration between different inter-disciplinary groups across cultural heritage and computer science.  The project brings together 3D geometric shape analysis and mating, natural language processing, semantic pattern matching and curatorial archaeological expertise encapsulated within an integrated semantic knowledge graph.

The overall objectives of the GRAVITATE project are to create an environment to allow archaeologists and curators to reconstruct shattered or broken cultural objects, to identify and re-unify parts of a cultural object that has been separated across collections and to recognise associations between cultural artefacts that will allow new knowledge and understanding of past societies to be inferred.

The project is driven by the needs of the archaeological institutes and uses information from the Cyprus Institute, British Museum, Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam museums.

Florian Kräutli

Sphaera: Knowledge System Evolution and the Shared Scientific Identity of Europe

Florian Kräutli

Berlin, Berlin, Germany

In these textbooks, which were mandatory in almost all European universities at that time, the original text is accompanied by annotations, commentaries and additional chapters. These commentaries were an opportunity for scholars to express their own views, even dispute the original text, and spread new knowledge.

Our project looks at a collection of more than 300 treatises beginning with an analysis of the included commentaries and their authors and publishers. We compile a dataset that will enable us to study, on a structural level, where certain knowledge first emerged in the treatises and how it was disseminated through subsequent publications. On a social level, we will study the role of different actors in spreading knowledge: printers who include certain commentaries but not others, or publishers who commission authors to draft new texts.