LUSTRE event: AI & born digital archives

Adam Nix and Stephanie Decker recently took part in a fascinating workshop on digital archives at the Cabinet Office in London, organized by the fantastic LUSTRE network. The overall aim of the LUSTRE project is to connect policymakers with Computer Scientists, Digital Humanists and professionals in the GLAM sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums). The project is co-delivered with professionals from the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO). The recordings from the day are available here.

We talked about our recent paper in AI & Society: Finding light in dark archives: Using AI to connect context and content in email. The practice of digital archival discovery is still emerging, and the approaches future research will take when using digital sources remain unclear. Archival practice has been shaped by paper-based, pre-digital sources and guides assumptions around how researchers will access and make use of such collections. Paradoxically, dealing with the increasing relevance of born-digital records is not helped by the fact that many born-digital collections remain dark, in part while questions of how they should be effectively made available are answered. Our research takes a user perspective on discovery within born-digital archives and seeks to promote more meaningful access to born-digital archives for researchers. In doing so, our work deals with the implications that unfamiliar archival technologies (including artificial intelligence) have on disciplinary traditions in the humanities and social science, with a specific focus on historical and qualitative approaches.

Our work in this area currently focuses on the issue of context within organisational email, and the challenges of searching and interpreting large bodies of email data. We are particularly interested in how effective machine-assisted search and multiple pathways for discovery can be used to open contextually opaque collections. Such access is likely to leverage a collection’s structural and content characteristics, as well as targeted archival selection and categorisation. We ultimately suggest that by combining relatively open user-led interfaces with pre-selective material, digital archives can provide environments suited to both the translation of existing research practices and the integration of more novel opportunities for discovery. Our presentation will summarise our progress in this area and reflect on the technical and methodological questions our work here has raised.

BHC mid-year virtual event

We are very proud to be presenting our work with email archives (workshop 2.2) at @the_BHC mid-year event “Methods and Madness” this month. For the up-to-date programme, please see: .

Preliminary program for September 30, 2022. Venue: Zoom (Link provided with Registration). All times in Eastern Time (EST). Download PDF of the program here. To see the extended program and post questions to convenors in advance please check out the working document here.

9:00 Welcome
9:15Session 1Reinventing Interpretation
 Workshop 1.1Interpreting Visual Sources Rick Halpern (University of Toronto) and Carol Quirke (State University of New York, Old Westbury) Chair: Beatriz Rodriguez-Satizabal (Universidad del Pacífico)
 Workshop 1.2Interpreting the Senses Ai Hisano (University of Tokyo) and Sven Kube (Florida International University) Chair: Sven Kube (Florida International University)
 Workshop 1.3Material Culture Jen Black (Misericordia University) and Marina Moskowitz (University of Wisconsin) Chair: Paula de la Cruz-Fernández (BHC)
 Workshop 1.4 Topic Modeling Marta Villamor (University of Maryland) and Fabian Prieto-Nañez (Virginia Tech) Chair: Ghassan Moazzin (University of Hong Kong)
 Workshop 1.5Databases, Network Analysis and QCA Erica Salvaj (Universidad del Desarrollo), Alberto Rinaldi (Unimore) and Susie Pak (St. John’s University) Chair: Valeria Giacomin (Bocconi University)
 Workshop 1.6Built and Natural Environment Jeremy Zallen (Lafayette College) and Bartow Elmore (Ohio State University) Chair: Christoph Viebig (Copenhagen Business School)
10:15BreakAttendees are welcomed to stay connected during the 15 minutes break
10:30Session 2Reinventing Sources
 Workshop 2.1Account Books Rachel Van (Cal Poly, Pomona), Caitlin Rosenthal (University of California, Berkeley), William Deringer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Chair: Ellen Nye (Harvard University)
 Workshop 2.2Email archives Stephanie Decker (Birmingham Business School), David Kirsch (University of Maryland), and Adam Nix (University of Birmingham) Chair: Christoph Viebig (Copenhagen Business School)
 Workshop 2.3Online Archives Philip Scranton (Rutgers University), Edward Balleisen (Duke University), Andrea Lluch (CONICET) and Geoffrey Jones (Harvard Business School) Chair: Ghassan Moazzin (University of Hong Kong)
 Workshop 2.4Advertisements  Susmita Das (University of Illinois) and Cynthia Meyers (College of Mount Saint Vincent) Chair: Paula de la Cruz-Fernández
 Workshop 2.5Forms and Reports  Sean Vanatta (University of Glasgow) and Gabriela Recio Chair: Beatriz Rodriguez-Satizabal (Universidad del Pacífico)
 Workshop 2.6Legal sources Ashton Merck (North Carolina State University), Anna Hrom (William & Connolly LLP), Nate Holdren (Drake University), and Justene Hill Edwards (University of Virginia) Chair: Ashton Merck (North Carolina State University)
11:30BreakAttendees are welcomed to stay connected during the 15 minutes break
11:45Session 3Reinventing Form
 Workshop 3.1Visualizing the past David Staley (Ohio State University) Chair: Ellen Nye (Harvard University)
 Workshop 3.2History-as-Dialogue: Podcasting Bernardo Batiz-Lazo (Northumbria University) and Gregory Hargreaves (Hagley Museum & Library) Chair: Beatriz Rodriguez-Satizabal (Universidad del Pacífico)
 Workshop 3.3 Business History and Business/Policy in Practice  John Wilson (Newcastle University Business School) and Anna Tilba (Durham University) Chair: TBA
 Workshop 3.4 Microhistory  Andrew Popp (Copenhagen Business School) and Susan Lewis (State University of New York at New Paltz) Chair: Sven Kube (Florida International University)
 Workshop 3.5Curation Marina Moskowitz (University of Wisconsin) Chair: Paula de la Cruz-Fernández
 Workshop 3.6Tiktok History  Zhaojin Zeng (Duke Kunshan University) Chair: Valeria Giacomin (Bocconi University)
12:45BreakAttendees are welcomed to stay connected during the 15 minutes break
13:00 Wrap Up: Where Might We Go From Here?

Archives & Artificial Intelligence

We are very pleased to be part of the AURA special issue in AI & Society 37,3. The special issue explores how modern data analytics affect archival practice, through conceptual and applied articles as well as elaborated case studies. Contributions consider a variety of issues, from new and exciting opportunities for exploration to continuing exclusion of communities, and provide food for thought for anyone interested in the future of history in a world increasingly captivated by AI.

DCDC22 presentations on digital archival research practices

#DCDC22 VIDEO | Innovative practice in search and discovery

Chaired by @paolamarchionni of @JISC

The video recording comprises three talks at DCDC that address how to search and discover born digital & reborn digital archives, and the role of AI in this process:

  1. Jacquelyn Sundberg & Carolyn Pecoskie of @McGillLib , who introduced work on Handwritten Text Recognition for the files of a Canadian trading company.
  2. Jenny Bunn of @UkNatArchives presents a critical take on the role of AI for research.
  3. Stephanie Decker @Deckersteph, Adam Nix @adamjnix, @Santhilata Kuppili Venkata, and David Kirsch @darchivist talked about how to research email archives.

AOM 2022 PDW: Digital archives search

Are you interested in learning about how to use email in your research? If so, please come to a special Professional Development Workshop (PDW) at the 2022 Academy of Management (AOM) Annual Meeting to learn how other scholars are using email and to participate in a study about knowledge discovery in large-scale, organizational email corpora.

Emails are materially different from the correspondence of the pre-digital age, but their significance as traces of the past is substantial, especially for organizations, where email is not only used as a form of correspondence but also as an informal mode of record keeping. We believe that the preservation of a meaningful, relatively complete email archive is one plausible pathway to supporting scholarly research on organizations.

The forthcoming PDW — “Introducing the ‘Digitally Curious’ to Email Archives for Organizational Research and History (session 183)” — is sponsored by the Management History (MH) division of AOM and will introduce the “digitally curious” scholar to email archives for organizational research. It will be moderated by Prof David Kirsch (University of Maryland, US), Dr Adam Nix (University of Birmingham, UK), Shubhangkar Girish Jain (University of Maryland, US) in person, and online by Prof Stephanie Decker (University of Birmingham, UK, and University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Dr Santhilata Kuppili Venkata (independent scholars).

The PDW will take place on Friday, August 5, from 2:00-4:00pm PDT in a hybrid format with both in-person and virtual participation supported. To allow participants to access the email tools and collections, pre-registration is requested. If you would like to register or to learn more about the workshop and the project, please email Shubhangkar Girish Jain (

Attendees at the PDW are invited to contribute to research on the use of email and will be encouraged to complete a post-workshop survey that will constitute an input to our ongoing research in this area. Completion of the survey is not required to attend and participate in the workshop.

Launching the Dotcom-Archive website!

Our AHRC-funded project, Contextualizing Email Archives has recently finished and we are proud to share with you one of our major outputs: the Dotcom-Archive website!

Our new website tells the history of a Dotcom start-up company through its emails, opening a window into the first digital revolution. Our very own desktop assistant, Mr Gummy, guides you through four vignettes giving background information and directions. The vignettes deal with claims of the end of strategy in the Dotcom-era, burning through investor cash, trying to figure out how to make money from software and platform business models, and how to take a digital venture into international markets. These stories can be read on their own or used for teaching. 

The website is part of our wider AHRC-funded project. We believe emails are a valuable source of historical record, particularly for those wishing to understand the organizations of the digital era. Our project delivers two distinct outputs – the Dotcom-Archive website, and the EMCODIST search prototype that we used to create it.  

Stay tuned for updates, as we’re looking forward to announcing some more exciting plans on here soon. Until then, you can read more about our project in our open access publications: 

AI & Society

IEEE Big Data conference paper  

“Contextualising Email Archives” is a UK/US collaboration funded by UK Research and Innovation and led by the University of Bristol. Other partners are the National Archives (UK), Hagley Museum and Library (US), University of Maryland, and De Montfort University. The Dotcom-Archive website was developed by GreenHat Bristol and realised by ResearchIT Bristol.

Digital Archives and Heritage annual conference videos now online!

Image of the DCDC21 logo

Did you miss part of, or all of, DCDC21? 

Not to worry. The video recordings from the conference are available online to view at your leisure. 

Discoveries Collections, Discovering Communities (DCDC) is a cross-sectoral conference, hosted by The National Archives, RLUK and Jisc, that brings together the GLAMA sectors (galleries, libraries, archives, museums and academia) to shine a light on our shared experiences, innovations, interests and concerns. The DCDC21 Conference explored how crisis can act as a catalyst for change within libraries, archives, museums, and cultural organisations. 

 > Watch the videos

Update from the “Unlocking the Past” project

We are delighted to share a short blog piece on the first Unlocking our Digital Past workshop that seeks to capture some of the key discussions we had. It was really nice reflecting on the event when writing this. Please feel free to read and share with anyone who you think might be interested.

For a peak at the presentations from the workshop, take a look at their website:

Unlocking our Digital Past

As part of our research project on “Contextualising Email Archives”, we were invited to attend and present at a fantastic event from the “Unlocking our Digital Past” project in July. For a recording of the presentation discussing key issues in the current debate on digital heritage, have a look at their website: .

Digital archives events

Next week our AHRC-funded project on “Contextualising email archives” will be presenting at two digital archives events – at the same time!

Adam will present follow on work at the third and final AURA event (16 March, 10:30-17:00), while I will be presenting our work at the Digital Archives Learning Event (DALE) “Strictly on the Download” event run by The National Archives (16 March 2-4pm).

Information on the AURA event follows below and you can book here.

Information on the the DALE event follows after the AURA information, and you can book here.

Artificial Intelligence and Archives: What comes next?

This final workshop will bring together all key actors in the archive “circuit”: from creators of data, to archivists and to users (thereby crossing the boundaries between Computer Scientists and Humanities Scholars) with the aim of planning new projects on AI and Archives.

Workshop 3 is organised by the University of Edinburgh in partnership with the AURA project team.

Tuesday 16th March


  • 10:30 – 10:40 Welcome (Lise Jaillant and Melissa Terras)
  • 10:40 – 11:40 Keynote presentation, “Can Archives make AI Better?”

– Professor Andrew Prescott, University of Glasgow

Chair: Bea Alex, University of Edinburgh

  • 10 minute break
  • 11:50 – 12:50 Focus on Digital Humanities

– Dr Larry Stapleton, “The INSYTE Cooley Laboratory, Waterford Institute of Technology: A Survey of Key Themes, Recent Research and Future Directions”

– Angeliki Tzouganatou, University of Hamburg, “AI, openness and participation in digital cultural archives”

– Dr Jennifer O’Mahoney, Waterford Institute of Technology, “The role of born digital data in confronting a difficult and contested past through digital storytelling”

Chair: Rachel Hosker, University of Edinburgh

  • 1 hour lunch break
  • 13:50 – 14:50 Focus on machine learning/ AI techniques

– Dr Giorgio Maria Di Nunzio, University of Padova, “Bias and Fairness in AI: New Challenges with Open Data?”

– Professor Matthieu d’Aquin, National University of Ireland, Galway, “AI for archives and collections: From processing metadata to analysing content”

– Bram van der Warf, “What comes next? AI for discovery or destruction?”

Chair: Rachel Foss, British Library

  • 15 minute break
  • 15:05 – 15:45 Focus on Ethics

– Dr Jenny Bunn and Mark Bell, The National Archives, “Archives and AI: What now?”

– Dr Adam Nix, De Montfort University, “Finding light in dark archives: Using AI to connect context and content in email”

Chair: David Canning, Cabinet Office

  • 15:45 – 16:45 Roundtable discussion

Melissa Terras; Joe Nockels; Rachel Hosker; Mike Bennet; Kirsty Lingstadt; Anthea Seles

  • 16:45 – 17:00 Short talk and closing remarks (Dr Annalina Caputo, Dublin City University)

Digital preservation in action

About this Event

‘Strictly on the download: digital preservation in action’ will explore how services are utilising digital preservation tools and resources to take next steps in delivering effective and high quality projects, and to think about the needs of a new generation of digital researchers. The event will also include an update on ‘Plugged In, Powered Up’, The National Archives’ strategy to increase digital capacity across the archive sector.

DALE is the Digital Archives Learning Exchange, a network facilitated by The National Archives to explore digital challenges, build capacity and improve digital skills across the sector.

Event programme:

14:00-14:10 Welcome, introductions and Plugged In, Powered Up update

Jo Pugh, The National Archives

14:10-14:30 ‘From Guidance to Action: Implementing Digital Preservation Processes at the Garden Museum’

Rosie Vizor, The Garden Museum

14:35-15:05 ‘Introduction to Digital Archives Graphical Risk Assessment Model (DiAGRAM)’

David Underdown, The National Archives

15:15-15:35 ‘Finding light in dark archives: Searching email archives by connecting content and context’

Prof. Stephanie Decker, University of Bristol

All presentations will be followed by a short Q&A session