Collecting the West and “Building Cultural Heritage Knowledge” at the British Museum

by CTW CI Toby Burrows

 Dr Toby Burrows

Dr Toby Burrows

 Rebecca Repper

Rebecca Repper

Toby Burrows and Rebecca Repper spoke about Collecting the West at the international symposium “Building Cultural Heritage Knowledge”, held at the British Museum on 27th and 28th July. The symposium aimed to highlight the challenges for sustainable knowledge building between cultural heritage institutions, universities and the other interested audiences.

The questions addressed included: how do we combine knowledge, skills and experience to create digital resources that have high research value and meaningful content, and are interesting to a wide range of people and groups? How can we avoid digital disruption and fragmentation? What role should cultural heritage institutions and organisations play in preserving and disseminating knowledge?

The speakers discussed digital projects at the Frick Collection in New York, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Oxford University, Stanford University, UCLA, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the British Museum. Several of these projects involve the use of ResearchSpace, the British Museum’s innovative new platform for gathering and sharing cultural heritage knowledge.

In a wide-ranging and stimulating keynote address, Andrew Prescott (Professor of Digital Humanities at Glasgow University) noted that new digital and network technologies have profoundly changed the way in which we engage with the holdings of galleries, libraries and museums. He urged scholars and curators to work together to develop more nuanced and sophisticated views of culture in a digital environment, through initiatives like ResearchSpace.

Toby and Rebecca talked about the way in which Collecting the West is engaging with ResearchSpace. Rebecca presented the work she has been doing on mapping photograph datasets from the WA Museum and the State Library for incorporation into ResearchSpace. Toby talked about the history of collecting related to Western Australia, and especially the way in which W.A. is represented in British and European collections. There was a great deal of interest in the issues surrounding indigenous objects from W.A. which are now held in Britain and Europe, and the way in which ResearchSpace could be used to bring them together in a digital setting.