Computing for Cultural Heritage

Computing for Culture Heritage laptop with books

A project to develop a new postgraduate certificate, Computing for Cultural Heritage, with The National Archives and Birkbeck University

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About

The British Library and partners Birkbeck University and The National Archives have been awarded £222,420 in funding by the Institute of Coding (IoC) to co-develop a one-year part-time postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), Computing for Cultural Heritage, as part of a £4.8 million University skills drive. 

Background

A recent job advertisement for a curatorial role at the British Library reflects the changing nature, and digital competency requirements for professionals working in the cultural heritage sector:

  • contribute to and undertake work on digitisation and digital projects
  • assist in implementing new technologies to make the collections more accessible through online presence or through digital tools
  • have experience or familiarity with a variety of information technology skills underpinning digital research methods and practices (e.g. geo-referencing, text mining)
This is no less the case for professionals already working in post, who have often come to their role many years ago, having deep domain expertise in a particular subject, yet now find themselves with increased responsibility for assisting on the design and delivery of complex digital projects, without a foundation in computing to truly empower them.  

Additionally, due to the scale and diversity of the digital collections held by the BL, and changing Library services and researcher demands, it is of great importance that all staff are aware of the issues, opportunities and strategies involved in working with large-scale digital collections and developing innovative digital projects.  This requires having an understanding of approaches used in programming, data science, big data, machine learning, text mining, data analytics, cloud computing, and visualisation. 

From deploying simple scripts to make everyday tasks easier, to advising on the building of new digital collections systems, or supporting collaborative, computational and data-driven research using digital collections and data, this postgraduate certificate will provide cultural heritage professionals with a much-needed grounding in computational approaches to navigate this new data-driven landscape confidently.  



Over the last seven years, the Digital Curator Team have delivered a ground-breaking and bespoke Digital Scholarship training programme for staff at British Library. In this time we’ve experienced first-hand the incredible transformations that arise when time, space and opportunity is created for colleagues wishing to keep apace of the technological innovations that underpin their work. This is an exciting opportunity to consolidate all that we’ve learned about the skills and knowledge they seek and encode it in a course uniquely designed to meet our needs in the cultural heritage sector.

-Nora McGregor, Digital Curator




“Over the last seven years, the Digital Curator Team have delivered a ground-breaking Digital Scholarship training programme for staff at British Library. In this time we’ve experienced first-hand the incredible transformations that arise when time, space and opportunity is created for colleagues eager to keep apace of the technological innovations that underpin their work. This is an exciting opportunity to consolidate all that we’ve learned about the skills and knowledge they seek and encode it in a course uniquely designed to meet our needs in the cultural heritage sector."

         -Nora McGregor, Digital Curator


What’s next

Throughout 2019 the team will work closely with a newly appointed Lecturer at Birkbeck to develop the PGCert framework, covering topics such as; demystifying computing for heritage professionals, analytic tools for information professionals and digital project design and development. In autumn 2019 a select number of staff from within the British Library and the National Archives will be given the opportunity to attend a free trial version of the course in order to evaluate the framework and programme content. By autumn 2020 the project aims to be in a position to roll out the full PGCert to professionals across the sector.

Project Team

Dr. Martyn Harris, IoC Manager, Birkbeck, University of London
Dr. Mark Levene, Department Head of Computer Science and Information Systems, Birkbeck, University of London  
Nora McGregor, Digital Curator, British Library  
Dr. Jo Pugh, Digital Development Manager, The National Archives 
Dr. Stelios Sotiriadis, PGCert Computing for Cultural Heritage Programme Director, Birkbeck, University of London