Current research projects

As an Independent Research Organisation, we lead and produce high-quality, interdisciplinary research.

Read more about some of our current projects at the links below:

Exploring digital and hybrid engagement strategies in the GLAMA sector

Funder: Strategic Research Fund, The National Archives

Timeframe: 2022–2023

In collaboration with: Alexandra Leigh

Overview: Led by the Academic Engagement team, this report seeks to reflect the current state of remote and hybrid academic engagement activities in the GLAMA sector, following the shift to online delivery after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It captures the experiences of those involved in designing and co-ordinating remote and hybrid events and activities, with insights gathered through semi-structured interviews and two online workshops.

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The Prize Papers Project

Funder: Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen (Germany)

Timeframe: 2018–2037

In collaboration with: The Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg (Germany), German Historical Institute, London (Germany), Verbundzentrale des Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund (Germany).

Overview: This is an archival, research and digitisation project covering the Prize Papers of the High Court of Admiralty, 1652-1815. The collection comprises the court process (in London) of c.35,000 enemy and neutral ships captured in wartime) and the related exhibits (all papers found on the ships). The exhibits form an extraordinary global archive, including ships’ trading and navigation papers, personal archives of seafarers (mariners and passengers), and c.160,000 undelivered letters, as mail-in-transit. These provide matchless insights into the global connections of early-modern lives, from a multitude of backgrounds, in 19 different languages. The project includes (at The National Archives) the sorting, identification and initial cataloguing of the papers, ship-by-ship, and the preservation and photographing of the papers; and (at Oldenburg) the creation of research-oriented metadata and the presentation of the digital copies and the metadata in an open access research portal. The portal development reflects our continuous engagement with current discussions in the field of Digital Humanities. We cooperate with numerous international researchers and research institutions working on the Prize Papers and related areas, and run an annual seminar series. We are very grateful to the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation for their generous support of the initial sorting/cataloguing of Prize Papers.

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Digital approaches to the capture and analysis of watermarks using the manuscripts of Isaac Newton as a test case

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Timeframe: 2021–2023

In collaboration with: University of Cambridge (UK), Indiana University (USA), Huntington Library (USA), Science History Institute (USA), Ecole Nationale des Chartes (France), Ecole des Ponts ParisTech (France).

Overview: This project will develop methodologies for the digital capture of watermarks and their automated clustering and matching across formats. Analysis of the findings will enable a new account of the chronology and organisation of Sir Isaac Newton’s widely-dispersed papers to be developed.

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From Lima to Canton and beyond: An AI-aided heritage materials research platform for studying globalisation through art

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Timeframe: 2021–2024

In collaboration with: Nottingham Trent University, Hispanic Society of America, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Royal Horticultural Society, Royal Geographical Society, Getty Conservation Institute, Library of Congress, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Museum of International Folk Art and the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

Overview: The project involves the material analysis of maps and sea charts, scientific illustrations and custom paintings from 10 different collections across the UK and the US. AI tools will be used to support the processing of large data sets, and the results will shed light on the global movement of painting materials, techniques, motifs and practice in the 19th century, with a focus on the relations between the colonial powers and the local artists and cartographers.

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Archives in the UK/Republic of Ireland & AI (AURA) Network

Funder: Irish Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Timeframe: 2021–2022

In collaboration with: Loughborough University, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Ireland and the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Overview: The AURA network is to discuss the unlocking of cultural assets that are preserved in digital archives closed to the public or difficult to access. The digital revolution has had a huge impact on archival collections: emails have largely replaced letters, government reports are now written in digital format. Yet the vast majority of these born-digital records are inaccessible due to privacy, copyright or technical issues. By bringing together digital humanists, computer scientists and stakeholders (including policy makers), the network will explore the problem of inaccessible records in digital archives.

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Funder: The European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme – Grant Agreement No 823862

Timeframe: 2019–2022

In collaboration with: Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF – France), Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald (Germany), Kazimierz Wielki University (Poland), Musée Cognacq-Jay (Paris Musées – France), Sorbonne Université (France), The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning/McGill University (Canada), The University of Warwick (UK), The University of Western Brittany (France), Università degli Studi ‘G. d’Annunzio’ Chieti-Pescara (Italy), Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada), Université Sorbonne Paris-Nord (France).

Overview: This is an international research project on the development of 18th-century sociability in Europe. A core element of the project is to fund staff secondments from one partner institution to spend time at another partner institution, to allow academic researchers to access, publish and unpublished resources. The project also involves workshops, events, conferences and other collaborations between researchers, curators and digital experts. There is a strong focus on the use of innovative digital tools, and the research conducted during staff exchanges has been used to enrich a digital encyclopaedia where users can explore the wide range of topics related to British sociability from 1650 to 1850 and discover how the circulation of models of sociability shaped European and colonial societies.

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Engaging crowds: citizen research and heritage data at scale

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council under Towards a National Collection

Timeframe: 2020–2021

In collaboration with: University of Oxford, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh and National Maritime Museum.

Overview: The project explores the current and potential practice of engaging diverse audiences with the creation, use and reuse of heritage data, developing a new indexing tool that gives volunteers the agency to choose their own pathway through a project.

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Historicizing the Dot Com Bubble and Contextualizing Email Archives

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council under the US-UK networking grants scheme

Timeframe: 2020–2021

In collaboration with: Bristol University, De Montfort University (UK), University of Maryland and the Hagley Museum and Library (US).

Overview: The project will analyse the email archive of a failed US software company from the era, allowing researchers and wider user groups to explore emails for their content, inter-relationship and broader contextual significance.

Shell shock, syphilis and self-inflicted wounds: injury, disease and discipline in the British Army during the First World War

Funder: The Wellcome Trust

Timeframe: 2017–2019

Overview:  To make available detailed catalogue entries to the thousands of medical sheets for First World War army personnel.

This project will see 135 of these boxes (around 50,000 items) to allow individual cases to be searched for and found. This data will then be made available through Discovery, our catalogue.

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Tudor Chamber Books

Funder: The Leverhulme Trust

Timeframe: 2016–2019

In collaboration with: The University of Winchester, and The Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield.

Overview: This project will transcribe and translate the contents of the payment and receipt books of the King’s Chamber, otherwise known as the Chamber Books, between 1485 and 1521. For the first time, the text of these records will be digitally available and searchable, enabling and promoting further research into Tudor court, culture, politics and kingship.

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In Their Own Write

Funder: The Arts and Humanities Research Council

Timeframe: 2018–2021

In collaboration with: The Department of History at the University of Leicester

Overview: This project uses letters from paupers and other poor people, and associated manuscript material such as petitions, sworn statements and advocate letters to investigate the lives of the poor between 1834 and 1900.

The project aims to sample, transcribe and analyse the letters, and will lead to a variety of impactful outcomes, including the production of a number of scholarly articles and organisation of outreach events.

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Computational Archival Science Network

Funder: The Arts and Humanities Research Council

Timeframe: 2018–2020

In collaboration with: King’s College London Department of Digital Humanities, the University of Maryland iSchool Digital Curation Innovation Center (US), and the Maryland State Archives (US)

Overview: This one year International Research Networking grant will explore how collections can be made available, digitally, for large scale computational research. Through a series of events held in both the US and the UK, the Network will address 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.

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