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.


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.


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.


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

8 March 2022

Preserving and sharing born-digital objects: end of project symposium

In January the project team for Preserving and Sharing Born Digital and Hybrid Objects from and across the National Collection held an online symposium to launch some of the outputs generated through the research project....
8 March 2022

Big tech heritage: collecting impossible objects

For most of us, digital platforms are sites of social and cultural life, often our primary source for news and entertainment. At the same time, their role as data extraction machines, their capacity to disrupt...
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),...

The Team

Natalie Kane

Principal Investigator

Curator of Digital Design, V&A

Dr Joel McKim


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

Stephen McConnachie


Head of Data and Digital Preservation, BFI National Archive

Richard Palmer

Technical Co-Investigator

Technical Lead, V&A

Dr Gabi Arrigoni

Research Fellow, V&A