Making archives work for research

The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science, E-RIHS [ˈīris], is working to launch DIGILAB: the new data and service infrastructure for the heritage science research community.  The DIGILAB platform will provide remote services to the heritage science research community but will also be relevant to and accessible by professionals, practitioners and heritage managers. DIGILAB will enable access to research information as well as to general documentation of analyses, conservation, restoration and any other kind of relevant information about heritage research and background references, such as controlled vocabularies, authority lists and virtual reference collections. For more details about DIGILAB see here.

By safeguarding information and enabling access to it, archives provide an indispensable component of the digital ecosystem of cultural heritage. As current archival approaches are quite fragmented, there is a critical need for an overarching methodology addressing business and operational issues, and technical solutions for ingest, preservation and re-use. One of our partners, the University of Brighton’s Cultural Informatics Research and Enterprise Group, has developed an extensive expertise in the area of digital preservation. In particular, the team has an established reputation for work in the curation and preservation of complex objects such as 3D renditions of cultural artefacts, as well as in data warehousing, database archiving, and data mining. With this background in coordination and dissemination, the team took a leading role in E-ARK, working on piloting a pan-European methodology for electronic document archiving.

Between 2014 – 2017, the Group coordinated a consortium of 17 partners from the UK, Slovenia, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Estonia and others. As part of the E-ARK (European Archival Records and Knowledge Preservation) consortium, the group worked to synthesise existing national and international best practices to keep records and databases authentic and usable over time. The project results fed into building an archival infrastructure across the EU and in environments where different legal systems and records management traditions apply. E-ARK has also demonstrated the potential benefits for public administrations, public agencies, public services, citizens and business by providing simple, efficient access to the workflows for the three main activities of an archive – acquiring, preserving and enabling re-use of information. The E-ARK open source, digital archiving framework, complete with accompanying metadata and other standards, has been thoroughly tested and has made a significant impact on the institutions who carried out the pilots: this has been assessed by carrying out semi-structured interviews at the pilot sites based on a detailed impact questionnaire. The results improved public awareness and allow web-based access to tools. The project worked to make archival processes open to re-evaluation, and to enhance the preservation and visualisation of archives. The expertise of University of Brighton’s Cultural Informatics Research and Enterprise Group as well as other UK partners, from the Archaeology Data Service to the National Gallery, will contribute to the construction of the DIGILAB and its services for new communities of users.

About the Cultural Informatics Research and Enterprise Group

The Group’s research focuses on technical areas, including 3D digitisation technologies, virtual environments, archives and collections management systems, web and museum based interactive applications and language technologies; and non-technical areas, including testing, economic and social impact evaluation in support of the development of the cultural heritage sector and its opportunities in tourism, entertainment and education.

As an expert in international project management, the group is a leader of the E-RIHS Risk Management Framework to design, implement, monitor and improve risk management consistently and efficiently across all aspects of the research infrastructure’s activities. It will enable a Corporate Risk Management function to be embedded in the structure and support audit activities.

 

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