Conference: Digital Heritage in a World of Big Data

Thursday 23 May 2019

The conference, ‘Digital Heritage in a World of Big Data’ held at the University of Stirling on the 14th May 2019 was envisaged as an exploration into the potential of big data to study and implement contemporary interventions of the past. It brought together key scholars from both the UK and international heritage sector and academic community of heritage and data science to discuss challenges and opportunities of researching, collecting and curating big data within the heritage sector.

The conference was organised as a collaborative event between Rodney Harrison (UCL Professor of Heritage Studies/AHRC Heritage Leadership Fellow), Daniel Pett (Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge), and Dr Chiara Bonacchi (Lecturer in Heritage in History, University of Stirling), with the intention to create a digital heritage knowledge exchange space for discussion of the role of data and its deeper implications in heritage research.

Key objectives were to:

  • Explore current structures of data and how more informed knowledge of how data is structured and constructed contribute to better practice for heritage data
  • Develop a broader understanding of how data/datasets could be usefully aggregated and/or linked, and what data could be extracted
  • Establish a better understanding of legal and policy protections and obstacles and how this might help frame a sounder code of ethics


The programme to the conference can be found here, in which invited speakers were organised into three sessions focusing specifically on:

  • Researching heritage through ‘big’ data
  • Collecting ‘big’ heritage data
  • Curating arts and heritage through ‘big’ data


We were also delighted to welcome our two keynote speakers:


Followed by speakers:

Mark Altaweel, Reader in Near Eastern Archaeology, UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Chiara Bonacchi, Lecturer in Heritage, University of Stirling.

Nicola Bingham and Helena Byrne, Lead curator and Curator of Web Archives, The British Library.

Rodney Harrison, Professor of Heritage Studies, UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Lise Jaillant, Lecturer, University of Loughborough.

Marta Krzyzanska, PhD Candidate, Cambridge University.

Stuart Lewis, Associate Director of Digital, National Library of Scotland.

Shaleph O’Neill, Senior Lecturer and Head of Communication Design, University of Dundee.

Daniel Pett, Head of Digital and IT, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University.

Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage, Edinburgh Futures Institute, University of Edinburgh.

Terrie-Lynn Thompson, Lecturer in Digital Media and Professional Education, University of Stirling.

The conference was one of a series of activities undertaken by the AHRC Heritage Priority Area to explore its research theme ‘Data, Technology and Social Change’, drawing on questions addressed in its Heritage and Data: Challenges and Opportunities for the Heritage Sector report of the Heritage Data Research Workshop organised by the AHRC Heritage Priority Area, British Library and Alan Turing Institute at the British Library (2017).


The event was recorded and will be available soon, some of the discussions are to be published in a Special Issue volume.