Computational archival science (CAS): Exploring data, investigating methodologies – workshop invitation

Would you like to join us at The National Archives for a two-day data exploration workshop?

What: Computational archival science: exploring data, investigating methodologies
Where: The National Archives, Kew (map)
When: Thursday 20 June from 10:00–17:30 and Friday 21 June from 10:15–16:30

Last year I blogged about a collaboration between The National Archives and the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London in early September 2018, which developed from the series of digital experimentation workshops initiated by The National Archives. The research that flourished through this collaboration led to a new transatlantic network that responds to the technological shift taking place in cultural organisations around the world, and explores how collections can be made available in digital form for large-scale computational research.

King’s College London’s Department of Digital Humanities, together with The National Archives UK, the Digital Curation Innovation Center at the University of Maryland iSchool and the Maryland State Archives in the US, were awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) one-year International Research Networking grant for UK-US Collaborations in Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions, running from 1 February 2019 to 31 January 2020. The AHRC-funded CAS network addresses the application of computational methods to the contextualisation of records within archival collections, at a time when the archive is becoming an increasingly digital space.

Through a series of events held in both the US and the UK, the network will explore how collections can be made available, digitally, for large-scale computational research. For more information about the network and its activities, you can visit the network’s page.

Computer equipment for decryption

Computer equipment for decryption (catalogue reference: HW 25/26)

CAS: Exploring data, investigating methodologies (20–21 June)

As part of this network’s activities, we are organising a two-day event on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st June at The National Archives UK. The event will explore various research areas and methodologies (i.e. topic modelling, computer vision, graphs and visualisation), using The National Archives’ datasets (e.g. the Cabinet Papers, data from our War Diaries, data from our Web Archive and data from legislation.gov.uk).

Working in small groups, the multi-disciplinary teams will work under the leadership of experts in these research areas to explore and experiment with selected data. The main focus of the event is to unlock the black box of digital research: to understand and explore the conceptual and methodological challenges and ethical implications that the digital brings to our understanding of the record and the archival context, and to suggest new ways for archives to become more accountable, collaborative and transparent.

The event will encourage experimentation, collaboration, engagement and discussion between the group leaders and working groups, enabling opportunities throughout the two days to discuss how we explore the data and the decision-making involved, based on specific challenges.

The enterprise of exploring the technological shift taking place in cultural organisations, and investigating how collections can be made available in digital form for large-scale computational research, requires interdisciplinary synergies and methodological collaborations. Insights from a range of disciplines will be essential for this rethinking of the digital record, as well as for addressing the theoretical, methodological and technological challenges that researchers face.

In order to explore these major questions, which are fundamental to us as a national digital archive, The National Archives welcomes expressions of interest from scholars from a range of disciplines, such as computational linguists, designers, Human-Computer Interaction researchers, social scientists, historians, data scientists, computer scientists and more, who work within the academic, industrial or heritage sectors.

How to apply to participate

Those who are interested in participating in this two-day event should send a short summary (not more than 200 words) of their research interests, expertise, and motivation for attending the workshop to research@nationalarchives.gov.uk, with ‘Exploring data, investigating methodologies’ in the subject line.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 17:00 on Friday 17 May.

Applicants will be selected depending on research background and interests, to create a balanced, multi-disciplinary workshop, and will be contacted by 17:00 on Friday 24 May. Successful applicants must commit to attending both days of the workshop. Spaces are free but they are limited. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

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