On 9th April 2019, our Research Chair, Dave Thomas, hosted an event with Cisco as part of the Digital Cultural Heritage programme. 

We welcomed a wide range of cultural sector organisations, Government representatives and partners with an interest in proactively improving collaboration across the sector, and overcoming barriers that are impacting digital capabilities. 

Primary discussions centred around best practice for curating, storing, and disseminating data as a collective. Conversations also focused on new methods to engage the public with digital cultural heritage. 

It was a great event and there is clear appetite for further collaboration. We are excited to continue working with these organisations as we progress into the next phases of activity. 

In tandem with this event, Corsham Institute published a report assessing the key issues in digital cultural heritage for galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs). We provided recommendations based on three core focal points identified within the research; audience engagement, funding, and collection management.

Some of our key findings and recommendations 

There is evidence to suggest that increased digital activity by GLAMs, and subsequent engagement by the public, leads to an increase in physical visits to institutions. Audience engagement is vital in the preservation of cultural heritage, however, visitors from lower socioeconomic groups only accounted for 36% of the physical visits in 2017. Engagement with audiences from a wide range of demographic groups is needed at a local and national level. 

To address concerns like this, new strategies must be developed to bring cultural heritage to the communities, enabling all members of society to actively engage with GLAMs.

The issue of funding is a primary concern held by GLAMs, particularly in terms of maximising any available digital opportunities. The industry experienced a 13% decrease in funding between 2007 and 2017, and they currently only receive around 0.09% of GDP funding, despite contributing £26.8 billion GVA in 2016. 

There is a critical need for prioritisation and coherency with the management and allocation of funding to a foundational digital programme in cultural heritage. This will, in turn, allow for more effective digital progress with the sector. 

Institutions across the UK hold millions of items in their collections, however, lack of space results in large numbers of items needing to be held in storage. The task of digitising these items for online engagement and research is also enormous, with suggestions that there is only 10% of content currently digitised and available to the public. 

Accessibility to collections is the priority to improve public and research engagement with GLAMs. A foundational digital programme incorporating digitisation will allow for wider access to these exhibits, maintaining an ethos of open access whilst also effectively preserving historical items.    

You can read the full research report by clicking the button below.