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Research & Collections Programme

Growing research through the convening power of Cambridge’s collections

The Digital Research Growth Network
Professor Caroline Bassett, Dept of English & Cambridge Digital Humanities

Cambridge Digital Humanities proposes an RGN programme exploring the challenges and opportunities of digital transformations of the archive and the collection. This is a process impacting texts and material texts, the tools for archiving and researching, the production of knowledge and its interpretation. To investigate the archive of the future is to think about new archival practices and their implications. It is to do so both in relation to emerging forms and in relation to new material, and to relation to the archives we already hold. Our network responds to this two-way perspective using it to organize a series of activities focussed on Library collections and extending into other Cambridge collections, including those curated together through the GLAM Digital Champions network. 

Why now? The wider societal contexts of the network include rising demands that we re-think our past and re-assess how we know ourselves, and these include questions about holdings (what is held in stone, what is held in data, what is catalogued in Libraries and collections) that are being raised with increasing urgency. Which lives mattered? Which were lost? For instance. 

Digital technologies are integral to this moment – networks are partly why and how these issues are raised (and also why they are so easily forgotten or their priority continuously displaced), archival footage revives older memories in new ways, algorithmic operations on big data, which may exhibit not machinic neutrality but collective human bias, are increasingly influential.  But digital technologies also offer us ways to respond this moment – and to do so in fresh and productive ways. A sense of digital technologies’ potential to be curative is key to this network. In it we set out to work with various collections to explore how we can exploit the possibilities of digital tools and techniques to find new perspectives and new ways to research. 

Caroline Bassett is Professor of Digital Humanities and Director of Cambridge Digital Humanities and is based in the Faculty of English. Her research and teaching explores digital technologies and cultural change, with a focus on AI, gender equality issues, fiction and futures and critical theory. She recently published Furious (Pluto, 2020), a co-authored monograph exploring technology and gender.