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Boost your skills in working with digital collections!

Researchers often tell us that they have problems when they want to use digital methods to interrogate large archives, special collections, masses of catalogue records or aggregations of metadata.

We are therefore pleased to announce a new partnership between Jisc, the Programming Historian and The National Archives (TNA) to publish a series of articles to aid researchers wishing to use digital methods in archives and special collections.

Arts, Humanities and Social Science researchers increasingly want to make use of these methods to develop their work, but anecdotal evidence suggests a noticeable skills deficit in the analysis and use of large-scale digital collections held by cultural institutions. TNA is supporting the work as part of its Plugged in, Powered Up strategy. Jo Pugh, Digital Development Manager, says that “digital methods are essential for the understanding of contemporary history and they can offer incredible insights into the more distant past. We hope these articles will get more researchers digging into the increasing volumes of digital data collected and generated by archives and we’re delighted to be supporting this project as part of our Plugged in, Powered Up strategy.”

This skills issue has been of concern to both Jisc and TNA for some time now, so we are excited to be working with the Programming Historian team to develop a set of eight tutorial articles, exemplifying best practice approaches to the interrogation of digital collections with a specific focus on born digital content; material which started life in a digital form. James Baker of the Programming Historian team says, “it is a real pleasure to partner with Jisc and The National Archives on such an important initiative. In addition to growing the range of open access tutorials that the Programming Historian offers on working with large-scale digital collections, I’m especially pleased that the initiative will expand our ongoing efforts to foreground authors, voices, and perspectives from outside the Anglophone research community.”

The articles will be published in accordance with the Programming Historian’s open access publishing policy. We are proud to continue our commitment to open access and to be working with partners to boost the use of digital collections, related catalogues and metadata for the purposes of research. Paola Marchionni, Head of Product, Content and Discovery, sees this openness as important dimension and says, “we at Jisc are delighted to work again with The National Archives and new partner, Programming Historian, on an innovative collaboration which will help us support access to and engagement with digital collections in line with the Jisc research strategy. We know that new skills and approaches are needed to make sense of large data sets within the arts and humanities, and this project will deliver just that, in an open and transparent way, through collaboration with the UK and international research community.”

A call for papers in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese will be issued in the autumn of this year with each accepted paper undergoing peer review, translation into a second language and open access publication over the next 12 months or so. Author events will be organised by the Programming Historian to provide potential authors the opportunity to find out more about the project and to ask questions.

Please watch this space for information about the formal call later in the year. In the meantime, please block out your diaries for the first author event on 23 September 2021. More details will follow on the Programming Historian blog.

By Peter Findlay

Digital Portfolio Manager, Jisc

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