Born-Digital Archives: A Practical Introduction

A bespoke research workshop and networking event in partnership with the British Library.

1030 - 1600 | 2 September 2019

Venue: The British Library (St Pancras, London)

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The ‘papers’ of writers, artists, activists and public figures are today most likely to be produced in digital form on desktop computers, laptops, phones, tablets and other handheld devices. This ‘born-digital’ content might include draft works, notes, emails and other correspondence, databases, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, film and social media.

As a result, the contemporary collections of libraries and archives are increasingly acquired in digital format – whether as discrete files or as complete operating systems and hard drives. Archivists and librarians face questions about how to preserve, organise and enable access to this material, stimulating innovations in archival practice. This is changing not just the ways in which researchers are able practically to access contemporary archival collections but also the questions they are able to ask of the material and to the research methodologies that can be employed.

This workshop offers a chance to explore some of the implications of born-digital archives with academics, staff from the British Library, and fellow AHRC PhD researchers from the CHASE, South West & Wales, and WRoCAH Doctoral Training Partnerships. You will gain valuable insights into work-in-progress at the British Library to enhance access to its born-digital literary collections. You will also have the chance to feed into wider discussion around how libraries and archives should aim to collect, curate, preserve and develop born-digital material and data of all kinds. This is also a great opportunity to meet and network with British Library curators, established academics and other PhD researchers and who are already working with born-digital collections or are planning to do so in future.

This event will be of interest to anyone who is interested in contemporary archives and digital humanities, whose research draws on digital resources (or is likely to in future) or who is interested in pursuing a future career in the archives and libraries sector.

Related reading:

Pledge, J. & Dickens, E. (2017). Process and progress: working with born-digital material in the Wendy Cope Archive at the British Library. Archives and Manuscripts, 1-11.

Full programme

10.30 - 11.00 Registration, Tea & Coffee
11.00-11.45 Introduction:

Overview of born-digital and ‘hybrid’ archives at the BL

Archiving emails

Brief summary of the technical challenges and process
Rachael Foss
(Head of Contemporary Archival and Manuscript Collections)

Callum McKean
(Curator, Contemporary Literary Archives & MSS)

Jonathan Pledge
(Curator, Contemporary Archives & MSS: Politics & Public Life)
11.45-12.15 Case Studies: research using born-digital archives Florian Stadtler
(Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures, Department of English and Film, University of Exeter)

Lise Jaillant
(Lecturer, School of the Arts, English and Drama, Loughborough University)
12.15-13.00 Group discussions:
Current PhD students share their research interests and use of/interest in born-digital archives – facilitated by BL staff and external research collaborators.
13.00-14.00 LUNCH
Students split into groups and do each of the following sessions in turn
User-testing: using the terminals in the Rare Books & MSS Reading Room to view and interrogate born-digital content Seminar/discussion: Facilitated by BL staff and external academics, based on reading circulated in advance of the workshop Treasures Gallery: Opportunity to visit the BL’s Treasures Gallery
14.45-15.45 Feedback from user testing, followed by refreshments and networking

Terms and conditions

By registering below you are requesting a place on this training programme or selected sessions that form part of the programme. A member of the CHASE team or the workshop leader will contact you in due course to confirm that a place has been allocated to you. If you no longer require a place, please email as soon as possible so your name can be removed from the registration list.  

If you are allocated a place but can no longer attend, please email so that your place can be reallocated. CHASE training is free to attend and events are often oversubscribed with a waiting list. Failure to notify us of non-attendance in good time (ideally 5 days prior to the workshop/programme) means your place cannot be reallocated and may result in your access to future CHASE training being restricted.

The training is open to: