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Born-Digital Archives: A Practical Introduction

2nd September 2019 @ 10:30 am - 4:00 pm

Born-Digital Archives: A Practical Introduction

A bespoke research workshop and networking event in partnership with the British Library.
Date: Monday September 2nd 2019

Venue: The British Library (St Pancras, London)




The ‘papers’ of writers, artists, activists and public figures are today most likely to be produced in digital form on desktop computers, laptops, phones, tablets and other handheld devices. This ‘born-digital’ content might include draft works, notes, emails and other correspondence, databases, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, film and social media.

As a result, the contemporary collections of libraries and archives are increasingly acquired in digital format – whether as discrete files or as complete operating systems and hard drives. Archivists and librarians face questions about how to preserve, organise and enable access to this material, stimulating innovations in archival practice. This is changing not just the ways in which researchers are able practically to access contemporary archival collections but also the questions they are able to ask of the material and to the research methodologies that can be employed.

This workshop offers a chance to explore some of the implications of born-digital archives with academics, staff from the British Library, and fellow AHRC PhD researchers from the CHASE, South West & Wales, and WRoCAH Doctoral Training Partnerships. You will gain valuable insights into work-in-progress at the British Library to enhance access to its born-digital literary collections. You will also have the chance to feed into wider discussion around how libraries and archives should aim to collect, curate, preserve and develop born-digital material and data of all kinds. This is also a great opportunity to meet and network with British Library curators, established academics and other PhD researchers and who are already working with born-digital collections or are planning to do so in future.

This event will be of interest to anyone who is interested in contemporary archives and digital humanities, whose research draws on digital resources (or is likely to in future) or who is interested in pursuing a future career in the archives and libraries sector.


Related reading:

Pledge, J. & Dickens, E. (2017). Process and progress: working with born-digital material in the Wendy Cope Archive at the British Library. Archives and Manuscripts, 1-11.






Registration, Tea & Coffee




Overview of born-digital and ‘hybrid’ archives at the BL


Archiving emails


Brief summary of the technical challenges and process

Rachael Foss

(Head of Contemporary Archival and Manuscript Collections)


Callum McKean

(Curator, Contemporary Literary Archives & MSS)


Jonathan Pledge

(Curator, Contemporary Archives & MSS: Politics & Public Life)


11.45-12.15Case Studies: research using born-digital archivesFlorian Stadtler
(Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures, Department of English and Film, University of Exeter)


Lise Jaillant
(Lecturer, School of the Arts, English and Drama, Loughborough University)


12.15-13.00Group discussions:

Current PhD students share their research interests and use of/interest in born-digital archives – facilitated by BL staff and external research collaborators.



Students split into groups and do each of the following sessions in turn


User-testing: using the terminals in the Rare Books & MSS Reading Room to view and interrogate born-digital content



Seminar/discussion: Facilitated by BL staff and external academics, based on reading circulated in advance of the workshop


Treasures Gallery:

Opportunity to visit the BL’s Treasures Gallery

14.45-15.45Feedback from user testing, followed by refreshments and networking




2nd September 2019
10:30 am - 4:00 pm


British Library, St. Pancras, London
96 Euston Road
London,NW1 2DBUnited Kingdom
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0330 333 1144