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DCDC21 Call for papers

DCDC21 :: 28 June – 2 July 2021

Catalysts for change: transforming our practices, collections, and communities through times of crisis

DCDC21 will explore how crisis can act as a catalyst for change within libraries, archives, museums, and cultural organisations. It will explore the impact that crisis can have on working practices, collections, and audience engagement, and how periods of turbulence can lead to new opportunities for research and collaboration. It will seek to examine how cultural heritage organisations can look beyond times of crisis and foster innovation and collaboration in their institutions and communities.

DCDC stands for Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities. We are a cross-sectoral conference, hosted by The National Archives, RLUK and Jisc, that brings together the GLAMA sectors (galleries, libraries, archives, museums and academia) to shine a light on our shared experiences, innovations, interests and concerns.

In the midst of an extraordinary time in history, cultural heritage organisations across the globe are facing unprecedented changes and challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic, political isolationism and disruption, and a long spotlight cast by the Black Lives Matter movement on societal and systemic inequalities are all confronting the ways we work and engage with one another. These events are forcing a reassessment of our place in, and our relationship with, society at large.

The response to recent events has been as varied as the sector itself. Libraries, archives and museums swiftly responded to their communities’ changing needs through adapting their offerings and fostering a spirit of collaboration, innovation and engagement in the digital environment. Digitised and born-digital collections and resources have been a key service in support of scholarship, teaching and the wellbeing of society. Digital initiatives and campaigns have highlighted collections, engaged audiences in creative ways, and promoted proactive collaboration. At the same time, not all organisations have been able to respond in the same way, and the emphasis on digital solutions has highlighted the digital divide between institutions and users, and existing inequalities in digital infrastructure.

While the role of heritage in providing solace, belonging and empowerment in times of hardship is not new, neither is the importance of cultural heritage organisations in proactively documenting and preserving major societal events. However, the pandemic has further emphasised the deep inequalities which exist within societies based on race, gender, disability, and socio-economic background. Initiatives and techniques previously seen as underpinning inclusivity, such as the digitisation of collections, look uncertain within the context of the ‘digital divide’, leaving us to question some of the fundamental assumptions around many of our collective activities.

This period of crisis has also revealed more embedded and structural inequalities within our communities, challenged established orthodoxies and exposed weaknesses within digital infrastructures. It has constituted a catalyst for change in institutional practices and presented opportunities for innovation in collections and community engagement. It has encouraged the revision of research practices, experimentation with new ways of interacting with collections, and has refined approaches to digital engagement and scholarship. Structural inequalities will take longer to address, but this year, more than any other, has exposed the urgent need to do so.

Crisis as a catalyst for change

DCDC21 invites proposals on the theme of ‘catalysts for change’ on any project or initiative involving archives, libraries, museums and other heritage and cultural organisations in partnership with each other, communities and the academic sector.

The main conference themes will include, but are not limited to, the following:

Crisis as a catalyst for collaboration and change

  • Creating new models of collaboration between institutions, audiences and researchers
  • Shaping a ‘new normal’ and the role of heritage and culture
  • Developing capacity and resilience within institutions
  • Funding and sustainability in the post-COVID-19 landscape
  • Climate crisis and sustainability: the role of heritage organisations

Organisational health and resilience

  • The impact of crisis on working practices and workforce development
  • Institutions in crisis: exploring funding and sustainability
  • Investing in the future: skills and workforce development

Addressing inequality and exclusion

  • The role of heritage and culture in reducing social inequality
  • Structural inequalities of access and inclusion with collections, services, audiences and workforce
  • Exploring anti-racist action in cultural heritage
  • Widening participation and diversity for early career researchers and practitioners
  • Power, intersectionality and privilege within heritage

Access, discovery, and use of collections and archives in periods of crisis

  • The development of hybrid approaches to collection access and use
  • Understanding and overcoming the challenges of digital inequality
  • Enabling research-ready digital collections

Documenting and archiving societal crisis and unrest

  • Collecting and documenting economic crisis, climate change, trauma and war
  • The role of the archive and the voice of the young
  • The role of digital technologies and media
  • Navigating the ethics of the digital record

Research and digital scholarship

  • Changing research practices and methodologies
  • The exposed strengths and inadequacies of digital research infrastructure
  • Opportunities and challenges for new frontiers of research



Papers will be (10/15) minute presentations, with or without accompanying slides. Proposals may have multiple authors, but should have a maximum of one speaker. Papers may be pre-recorded, but an author should be available during the session for questions and answers. Where possible, papers should relate to the conference sub-themes listed above, but can also relate to other topics pertinent to the conference theme.


We welcome proposals for practical up to two hour workshops on the theme of the conference. All workshop proposals  should clearly demonstrate a high level of interactivity and audience participation. Workshops may utilise online tools such as collaborative white boards or online polls, and may also include breakout groups. Workshops may be split over a number of days but the objective and benefits of this should be outlined in the proposal.

Speed presentations

Speed presentations are short, fast paced presentations with speakers restricted to 20 slides at exactly 20 seconds per slide (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). Presentations must relate to the conference sub-themes listed in the call for papers.

Hackathons / solutions rooms

This format may or may not have a technological focus, however, the crux of this format is to bring people together for creative problem solving of a particular topic or issue. Proposals should articulate clear objectives for the session, and an idea of desirable solutions or outcomes for the session. The organisers are flexible on timings for this format.

Long table

The long table is an experimental open public forum that is designed to facilitate free-flowing dialogue by gathering together people with common interests. Any attendee can participate by getting up and joining the long table. This format works best for discussions that may be provocative, challenging and that will benefit from a wide range of perspectives.


Provocation sessions will have a moderator and up to four ‘provocateurs’ to deliver short (no more than 10 minute) verbal presentations on a single theme, and then discussions will open up to members of the audience. This format is a way to interrogate an issue from different perspectives, and as the title suggests, these perspectives should offer an intellectual challenge to assumed or accepted norms related to the work of cultural institutions. Proposals should include a list of all speakers.


Roundtables are discussions engineered for smaller groups that may focus on a specific theme, offer opportunities for networking, and facilitate peer-to-peer experience sharing. Roundtables may be broken up into smaller breakout groups, but should include moderation for each group.

Case studies

Case studies shine a light on concrete projects or initiatives that are relevant to the DCDC21 conference theme. Case studies should give an overview of the project or initiative, from the initial objective or problem, provide reflections of the experience, both positive and negative, and outline lessons learnt, next steps and any wider impacts. Case study sessions will be 40 minutes in length, divided into 20 minutes for presentations, and 20 minutes for Q&A. This session can have up to four speakers and one moderator.

Poster presentations

We invite proposals for poster abstracts related to the 2021 DCDC themes. Poster presentations will not be presented live, but will be shared on a virtual space on the DCDC website. Posters may be submitted as a PDF, slide, interactive whiteboard, or video (or across a combination of these formats).

Submission guidelines

All submissions should be submitted via this Google form by close of business on Friday 22 January 2021. Submissions received after this date will not be considered.

Occasionally the DCDC organisers may suggest a submission is delivered in a different format than that initially proposed. Authors will be fully consulted in this instance.

DCDC21 will be a fully virtual conference, and we have provided some guidance for authors below.

DCDC21 Conference fees

We are still finalising plans for the conference, therefore we are unable to confirm final prices currently. However, we are able to confirm that successful proposals will receive free tickets for up to the maximum number of speakers/contributors for each format.

Guidance on delivering a virtual presentation or session

We won’t just be replicating the physical conference for DCDC21, but we wish to embrace all the opportunities that a virtual platform can bring.

Many of us will be Zoom veterans by now, but it may help to consider the following:

  • We have listed a number of possible formats above but will welcome other suggestions, and where possible will work with speakers/convenors to help make this happen.
  • Presentations may be recorded in advance but we will require speakers to be available for live Q&As.
  • We will be holding rehearsal sessions ahead of the conference and would encourage all speakers/convenors to attend where possible.
  • The conference will be held via an online meeting/webinar platform, meaning that we will have the functionality to hold interactive meetings (where all participants may have their audio and video on), or webinars (only main speakers/convenors etc. will have audio/video privileges, admins can enable audience mics/videos on an individual basis).
  • For workshops and other interactive sessions we would advise there be multiple facilitators/convenors to hand, especially for those that wish to have breakout groups. There should be at least one convenor per group.
  • Even though we may be sat in the comfort of our own homes during the conference, it would be advisable to plan a break for sessions that run over an hour so that people are able to grab a drink, stretch their legs, and rest their eyes from their monitors. Breaks are also a good way to seamlessly switch between sections of the meeting or chairs.
  • For interactive workshops and sessions, you may wish to use a collaborative, third-party tool. We have listed just a few of these tools below. Please note that the DCDC organisers will not be able to subscribe to, or cover the costs for any third-party tool or service.

Google Jamboards

Jamboards are interactive whiteboards, which are free to create and there are no restrictions on the number of jamboards that can be created.


Padlet is a digital canvas to create  projects that are easy to share and collaborate on.  A free account offers up to three whiteboards.


Miro is an collaborative whiteboard platform that offers pre-built templates. An advantage of Miro in comparison to Jamboard or Padlet is that it has more functionality, including an infinite canvas and the option for video conferencing. A free account allows for the creation of up to three boards.


Mentimeter is a useful way of interacting with an audience using real-time interactive polls and quizzes. Slides are shared using a code. There is a free plan option which puts a limit of two questions or five quiz questions per presentations, but there is no limit to the number of presentations that you can create.


Slido offers interactive Q&A, live polls and audience insights.There is a free account option with a limit of 100 participants, and three polls per event.


Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform. Its learning games, ‘Kahoots’, are user-generated multiple-choice quizzes that can be accessed via a web browser or the Kahoot app. There is a free plan with limited functionality, but users may also sign up for 7 day free trials on the more premium plans.