Data - Method - Asset. Harnessing the infinite archive

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Classics


The proposed network addresses the 'Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities' Highlight Notice. It will explore the challenges and opportunities posed by the 'infinite archive', in the shape of the web and other digital resources which have become an increasingly important component in all fields of academic enquiry in recent years. The impact of these 'infinite' digital resources on the processes of academic research are so far not well understood; neither is the role methods of enquiry specific to the humanities could play in the creation and exploitation of next-generation digital resources and repositories.

The network will examine: the ways in which the infinite archive structures the recording, representation, and replay of digital records, how we analyse evidence; the production and communication of knowledge within the infinite archive; how the analytical and methodological skills specific to the humanities may have to change to accommodate the infinite archive; and, finally, how the humanities can transform current data management processes and increase the value of existing and future digital assets. In Phase 1, the network will focus on three fundamental protocols of academic research in the context of the infinite archive - data gathering and retrieval, knowledge preservation and expertise, methodology and interpretation; Phase 2 will build on the outcomes of Phase 1 to explore the potential and role of practical applications in the digital economy.

The network is designed to include a range of research and engagement cultures and mechanisms to help break down boundaries between the individual constituencies and explore the potential for innovative knowledge exchange. It draws on existing collaborative partnerships - regionally, nationally, and internationally, within academia and with public and private partners. It benefits from collaboration with US partners conducting world-leading research in the field of digital humanities; from the expertise and support of nationally and internationally leading public and private industry partners; and from strong intellectual, technical and financial support from the Horizon Digital Economy Hub based at Nottingham. To foster exchange between these groups, the network will employ traditional modes of interaction alongside more innovative forms of engagement, chosen specifically to bridge existing communication gaps between the arts and sciences, and between academics and commercial partners.

Planned Impact

The proposed network builds on extensive previous research undertaken by the individual core participants and, where applicable, their commercial experience; it draws on digital resources and repositories produced in previous years, on the expertise and track record of its participants, and on the well-established collaborative relationships between the individual members such as demonstrated in the EPSRC funded feasibility study, 'Towards Pervasive Media', grown from a long-standing research consortium of scholars at Nottingham ( This robust framework, along with the mechanisms chosen for the network to facilitate lasting interaction between all participants, will ensure impact of the research well beyond the lifetime of the award.

The immediate beneficiaries will be those actively involved and represented at the network meetings: academic researchers from regional and national, and both research-intensive and applied-knowledge UK institutions, and from the US, drawn from both within and beyond the arts and humanities disciplines and including the members of the Horizon Digital Economy Hub; HEI information technology and data collection/retrieval practitioners; and representatives of the public and private creative industries, specifically the domains of collecting, curating and publishing.

Beyond this core group, the network activities target the following non-academic communities:

(1) Creative industries practitioners, including content developers, technologists, and artists. These will be drawn from the existing local and regional commercial partners of the Horizon Digital Economy Hub and the Broadway Cinema, and the national and international contacts of the publishers and the British Library. We will use the distribution channels and in-house fora of our partners (including internet news sections, newsletters, customer lists and social media channels) to publicise the activities and findings of the network; this might also include articles resulting from the network meetings and features written by workshop participants. The generous matching funding provided by Horizon will facilitate the showcase sessions and the sandpit which should serve as a powerful mechanism to draw in commercial collaborators.

(2) The wider public. We will use the already existing links between the academic and commercial partners involved in the network and the wider public, and the general public interest in the work of insititutions such as the Broadway Cinema (local/regional) and the British Library (national/international) to raise awareness for the infinite archive as a cornerstone of knowledge production and curation, and to stimulate interest in issues around the collection, archiving and retrieval of digital assets, and in the requirements for, and the potential of, next-generation archives. To achieve this, and in parallel to the in-house fora of our partners, we will publicise the network proceedings and outputs via the dedicated Digital Humanities website hosted by the Centre for Advanced Study at the University of Nottingham (

(3) Public policy makers. The outputs of the workshops and the sandpit have the potential to inform policy decisions in the area of data collection, storage and management through contributing to a deeper understanding of the rationales and social attitudes that can shape these processes, and by searching for adequate technological tools to accommodate or modify them. The collaboration with the British Library, with its role in curating public data repositories, will serve to maximise the potential impact upon future policy.
Description The network funded through this award has studied the way in which digital technologies change Humanities practice and, vice versa, how Humanities methods might inform digital technologies, their development and their application.
Exploitation Route The network is now informing further work, including commercial collaborations and continued research projects.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The network included partners at the British Library and at two publishing houses, Cengage and Proquest. These have applied findings from the network to inform their own practices, including continued work between Nottingham academics, library services and Cengage on text-mining of digital newspaper repositories, with repercussions for copyright policy. The network also provide a basis for further collaborative work with museum collections, including the Nottingham Castle Museums and Galleries. We are now generating further impact through follow-on funding AH/R004641/1.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Economic

Description Research Priority Area
Amount £58,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Nottingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 07/2016
Description VisitorBox: a toolkit to support ideation of novel visiting experiences
Amount £80,353 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R004641/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2018