Past research projects

Browse a selection of research projects we’ve completed in the past few years.

  1. The Northern Way
  2. Deep Discoveries
  3. Safeguarding the nation's digital memory
  4. Traces through Time
  5. Big data for Law
  6. Knowledge Transfer Partnership
  7. New connections: The BT e-archive
  8. Research network: Born-digital methods and data for the humanities

1. The Northern Way

In collaboration with: The University of York, with the support of the Chapter of York Minster.

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Timeframe: 2019-2022.

Overview: This project investigated the political role of the Archbishops of York, 1304-1405. The principal aim was to make the key records of spiritual and temporal governance more digitally accessible and searchable for free. The project website now features high-quality digital images of the registers of the archbishops held at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, the University of York, alongside searchable, indexed summaries of all entries from each fourteenth-century register and  from the many records of government that relate to ecclesiastical affairs held at The National Archives. The website also contains background information to archiepiscopal registration and the mechanics of government, project blog and features that have emerged from the research.

Find out more about this project.

2. Deep Discoveries

In collaboration with: University of Surrey and Victoria and Albert Museum.

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

Timeframe: 2020-2021.

Overview: Deep Discoveries was a project exploring the application of computer vision (CV) and explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) methods for enhancing the ability of general audiences and specialist researchers to discover visual collections in new and/or more effective ways. The team developed and user-tested a CV-based search platform that allowed users to visually articulate their search task, understand how the CV algorithm found similarity between their input image and the returned image results, and to carry out a ‘visual dialogue’ with the AI to refine their search further.

Find out more about this project.

2. Safeguarding the nation's digital memory

Partners: The University of Warwick, Dorset History Centre, Gloucestershire Archives, Transport for London Archives, University of Brighton Design Archives, University of Leeds Brotherton Library, and the Digital Preservation Coalition.

Funder: The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSPRC) Impact Acceleration Account.

Timeframe: 2019-2020.

Aims: This project proposes a collaborative approach to managing digital preservation risk, bringing established statistical risk management methods into the digital heritage sphere. Project participants will create a structured evidence base, pooling collective experience to map and explain an interconnected network of risk events, actions and impact on heritage.

Find out more about this project.

2. Traces through Time

Partners: Institute for Historical Research, University of Brighton, University of Leiden.

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council and The National Archives.

Timeframe: (2014-2017 including 15 months of external funding).

Aims: To develop new algorithms and models to link individuals with confidence across large, diverse historical data.

The first, research phase of the project developed new probabilistic models and tools that allow researchers to trace and connect individuals, with confidence, across historical ‘big data’.

In the second, implementation phase we exploited this research to create a new navigation feature in our catalogue, Discovery, which provides researchers with suggested links between records that may relate to the same people, with associated confidence measures.

Find out more about this project in our blog posts, Making connections and What’s in a place?

3. Big Data for Law

Partners: Incorporated Council of Law Reporting; LexisNexis; Office of the Parliamentary Counsel; Office for Official Publications of the European Communities; Thomson Reuters.

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Timeframe: 2013-2015.

Aims: to create new legislation data research infrastructure, support downloadable data and online tools, and investigate the idea of a pattern language for mapping the statute book of UK legislation.

Researchers typically lack the raw data, tools and methods to undertake research across the whole statute book. This project provided data, tools and trusted methods to enable big data research across legislation.

Find out more about this project.

4. Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Partners: IMC Group Ltd.

Funder: Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK), plus additional funding from the industry partner.

Timeframe: 2013-2015.

Aims: to develop specialised software for risk-based assessment of environmental conditions in storage of cultural heritage collections.

The project created graphical representations that correlate environmental monitoring data and indicators of preservation in order to develop reporting tools that can inform management decisions for improving preservation environments and meeting sustainability targets.

The National Archives is now using the software developed through the project, called Ensight, for its annual environmental assessment. We are also leading in the development of new specifications for managing environmental conditions in cultural collections.

Find out more about Ensight.

5. New connections: The BT e-archive

Partners: Coventry University; BT Heritage.

Funder: Jisc.

Timeframe: 2011-2013.

Aims: to digitise BT’s physical archive, making almost half a million photographs, documents and correspondence available online.

Images and documents detail how Britain laid the foundations for global communications, including the first telephone exchange in 1879 and the Queen making the first automatic long-distance telephone call in the 1950s.

The team produced case studies which show how digitised archival material can be used to explore new avenues both in teaching and research in a wide range of subjects, from design to linguistic and cultural studies.

Find out more about this project

6. Research network: Born-digital methods and data for the humanities

Partners: School of Advanced Study, University of London; King’s College London; University of Cambridge; University of Sussex; University of Waterloo; British Library.

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Timeframe: 2016-2017.

Aims: to bring together a network that will deliver an understanding of the potential of born-digital big data for humanities research.

How are humanities researchers engaging with this source, which includes the live and archived web, aggregated tweets and emails? What kinds of questions will this data allow us to ask and answer? What insights can scholars in the humanities learn from the computer and social sciences, and from the archives and libraries who are concerned with securing all of this information?

An exchange of knowledge and experience will take place through a series of workshops across the network, and will be distilled into a white paper.

Find out more about this project.