Preserving and Sharing Born Digital and Hybrid Objects

Exploring the challenges facing meaningful access to digital collections across the sector.

About the Project

This AHRC-funded project, part of the Towards a National Collection programme, addresses the challenges of preserving, collecting and meaningfully sharing born-digital and hybrid digital objects in museum collections. It focuses on collection management, digital preservation, and public access.

Context

How can we collect the software design of an iPhone? How do we represent the work of digital designers in museums? How can we capture our digital lives for current and future audiences? Contemporary design is digital design. From websites, through apps and social media, creative practitioners increasingly work with digital techniques: this prevalence of digital culture poses significant challenges to collecting institutions. This project considers born-digital material as a fundamental part of contemporary collections and explores the transformations of practices to accommodate this shift.

Aim

A partnership between the V&A, the BFI, and Birkbeck University, the research focuses on different digital object types - from digital art, film, and architecture, to videogames, software and complex digital design. The project argues for centrality of born-digital cultures in contemporary cultural heritage. It aims to identify and respond to the need for the development of digital skills and literacy across the cultural sector. The project is designed to inspire confidence in collecting institutions to build capacity and encourage a more effective development of born-digital collections.

Outcomes

This project will involve a combination of desk-based research, collection-based case studies, a series of workshops, and the development of two technical pilots. Committed to benefitting the cultural sector, it will produce a set of toolkits, best-practices and recommendations for policymakers and heritage professionals. The project outcomes will collectively contribute to enhanced understandings of born-digital objects, practices, and challenges associated with both, to inform future research agenda in the field.

Project updates
13 September 2021
Born-digital objects and the not so digital challenges for museum collections
The V&A has a growing collection of born-digital and hybrid (physical and digital) objects, including examples of digital product design making our homes smart (such as NEST Thermostat, Amazon Echo), signature apps (Flappy Bird, WeChat),...
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The Team
Natalie Kane
Principal Investigator

Curator of Digital Design, V&A

Dr Joel McKim
Co-Investigator

Director of Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology, Birkbeck, University of London

Stephen McConnachie
Co-Investigator

Head of Data and Digital, BFI

Richard Palmer
Technical Co-Investigator

Technical Lead, V&A

Dr Gabi Arrigoni
Research Fellow, V&A
Background image: geist.xyz by Zeitguised (2015)