This session gave an overview of what makes Digital Humanities and digital scholarship unique beyond using Dropbox, PDFs, and other commonplace digital and online tools. It gave participants not only a definition of Digital Humanities but also practical examples of where and how these new digital techniques and forms of outputs are involving not only students and researchers but also the public in greater engagement with digital collections.

Mike Mertens, DARIAH-EU

Certain disciplines in the Arts and Humanities have been using computational techniques and tools for some 50 years. In this sense, ‘Digital Humanities’ is nothing new. Regardless of where they are situated, academics will now also be using generic digital means of communicating and publishing their outputs. If Digital Humanities as a research method is not new, the more recent and now seemingly unstoppable penetration of society by algorithms, mobile devices, computers and smartwatches certainly is. What will academic research really signify, for example, in a world based on the Internet of Things, in which even common household appliances share data between themselves, and interact with the Web? How will the Digital Humanities and the academy have a sustainable impact in this environment?

One way of securing the sustainability of the Digital Humanities is to connect the subject more and more to heritage collections as places of digital transformation and digital translation, from data to information. Heritage collections can act as a bridge or common space between the increasingly digital public and researchers. This paper will explore where and how the Digital Humanities can both provide the academy with a unique impact route via the use of heritage collections, going beyond the campus walls, and how DARIAH-EU, the European Digital Humanities infrastructure, is taking such work forward.

Joanne Fitton and Sarah Prescott , University of Leeds

Like many other similar institutions, Special Collections at the University of Leeds has the complementary strategic aims of supporting research excellence, and student education enhancement, all whilst encouraging more students to use our resources. This can potentially mean a large increase in the number of students wishing to engage in volunteering type work, and so, without extended resources to fund this, we have been considering which digital tools can support our offer.

This presentation will consider the various ways in which we are engaging with digital technologies to support meaningful student engagement, with sustainable outputs which can be of benefit to Special Collections more generally (all with little supplementary resource).

The presentation will discuss three pilot projects undertaken by Special Collections in the last 12 months.

  1. multi-spectral imaging: student-led project to evaluate the extent to which multi spectral imaging analysis of medieval material is possible with non-specialist equipment
  2. crowdsourcing technologies: pilot project to assess resource requirements etc for crowd sourcing transcript with particular focus on crowd sourcing to support teaching and research at the University.
  3. online exhibitions : utilising recently developed functionality to explore ‘curatorial’ support for online exhibitions.
  4. We will consider the success (or otherwise) of these projects, and how relevant or achievable they might be for other institutions.

Katharine Short and Elizabeth Wheelband, De Montfort University

The De Montfort University (DMU) Heritage Centre opened in March 2015. The focus of the Centre surrounds the ruins of a medieval church, discovered during construction of the University building in 1935. Additional galleries explore the history and culture of the University as well as highlighting the best of contemporary student work from across all faculties.

From the outset it was envisaged that the Centre would be a showcase for DMU expertise and provide students with opportunities to work on live projects. Interior Design students created the initial concepts for the space, Design Crafts students submitted ideas for decorative features and History students help with research for forthcoming exhibitions.

DMU has a strong digital heritage research focus and this presentation will explain how the Heritage Centre has worked in partnership with academics to use digital means to add value to the Centre – enhancing our interpretation and visitor experience, whilst allowing our staff and students to participate in the development of a functioning museum. This way the Centre is not just a learning space but also an active teaching space for the engagement of digital humanities.

Digital heritage projects to be discussed include reconstruction of the medieval church via digital images, a 3D fly-through and a 3D printed model; hologram technology used to help define the church space within a  modern building; development of a heritage app recreating the history of the campus site; use of eye tracking software to explore and improve visitor experience; online exhibitions; and the creation of a 360 degree walkthrough of the Centre using Google Maps technology.