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Future Prospects for Digitization

Future Prospects for Digitization

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Questioning our current approach to digitization, Andrew Prescott offers different perspectives for the future.

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The digital transformation of our society has an enormous impact on the nature and form of art and heritage. New, digital art forms are emerging, computers are now making art and 3D printers are producing objects. The preservation of contemporary art objects and installations, tomorrow's heritage, poses great challenges for both heritage and art organizations today.

In a series of four webinars, spread over the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022, four international experts will talk about the archive of the future. After each lecture there will be plenty of time to ask questions and share experiences.

In his talk “Future Prospects for Digitization” Andrew Prescott questions our current approach to digitization and offers different perspectives for the future:

When the production of digital images of libraries and archives first widely appeared in the 1990s, the process had a strong experimental aspect, enabling innovative explorations of the structure and character of the manuscript. As digitization has entered the mainstream, it has become less adventurous and often simply consists of the production of 'vanilla' colour images. While this has benefits for remote access and enables curators to control more closely use of original manuscripts, it also misses the opportunities offered by digital tools for closer analysis of the physical structure of manuscripts. It seems likely that this retrospective mass production approach to digitization will become increasingly unsatisfactory to both curators and users.

This talk will indicate three areas in which our current approach to digitization will be challenged. First, we will want to use tools such as multi-spectral imaging and RTI techniques to explore manuscript material in more detail. Second, we have hitherto been primarily concerned with digitizing existing written records. However, the explosion in born-digital records will pose major issues in terms of resources, methods and access. This will require greater data science and computer science skills than have been deployed hitherto. Third, we will need completely new forms of interface to cope with the vast quantities of born-digital records that will become available. It is here that we will need to consider the possibilities offered by VR and AI.

Andrew Prescott is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow. He trained as a medieval historian at Westfield College and Bedford College in the University of London, where he completed a thesis on the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. He was from 1979 to 2000 a Curator of Manuscripts in the British Library, where he was involved in some of the Library’s first digitization projects, including Electronic Beowulf. He was Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield from 2000 to 2007. He has also worked at the University of Wales Lampeter and King’s College London. From 2012-2018, Andrew was Theme Leader Fellow for the Arts and Humanities Research Council strategic theme of ‘Digital Transfomations’.

To imagine otherwise: future archives is an initiative of CEMPER, Letterenhuis, M HKA/CKV, VAi, FARO and meemoo.

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