Shalen Fu

Shalen Fu

Last updated on 21 July 2021

Shalen Fu is a PhD researcher in Digital Heritage and Impact Studies at King's College London.  Shalen attended DCDC 2021 with support from the DPC’s Career Development Fund, which is funded by DPC Supporters.

In 2018, I started my PhD journey at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London (KCL). My research looks at how to best assess the impact of digital museum resources in China. Working with museum partners and the general public, I hope to develop an impact assessment framework that helps Chinese memory institutions better perverse their heritage resources, manage digital collections, and engage the audience.

KCL is one of the associated members of the DPC, which allowed me to participate in the Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities (DCDC) 21 Conference enabled through the DPC Career Development Fund. I would like to express my gratitude to the DPC for providing me with this excellent opportunity to learn from others while reflecting on how my research could best serve memory institutions in the context of uncertainties and changes.

The DCDC 21 Conference was held from 26 June – 2 July, which explored “how crisis can act as a catalyst for change within libraries, archives, museums, and cultural organisations”. The conference covered a wide range of topics from digital heritage preservation, accessible and inclusive catalogues, audience engagement to online teaching. Speakers from varied countries and backgrounds shared their viewpoints on the impact of the pandemic and how we could transform crisis into opportunity. This blog will focus on three talks regarding ‘digital loans’, trauma-informed practices in the GLAMA sectors, and digital game creation.


'Digital Loans’ using Augmented Reality – would you?

This workshop was led by Polly Christie from Archives & Collections, Shona Noble from the School of Simulation and Visualisation, The Glasgow School of Art, and Natalie Lorimer from Glasgow University. They first introduced the context and development of the research project Mac(k)cessibility: exploring digital display & digital loans of Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh collection through a pilot study focussed on Mackintosh Furniture items, which aims to explore:

  • the potential capabilities of high-end digital technologies (e.g. AR) to document, record, reconstruct, render and display artefacts and present them effectively in gallery settings;

  • the viability of using this same technology to recreate ‘lost’ pieces;

  • the potential of rolling out such technologies and concepts to facilitate ‘digital loans’ which could have economic, environmental and collection care benefits.

Participants were then invited to experience an AR App and share their views on what was/was not successful about it, both in terms of the App itself and the concept of ‘digital loans’. We had insightful discussions about how small museums could extend their collection reach through ‘digital loans’, how to improve the digital experience of different user groups, and the issue with the authenticity of digital representations etc. The Mac(k)cessibility project is a great example of applying AR in the cultural heritage context. The concept of ‘digital loans’ is also a fruitful avenue for further research and discussion.


Power, Emotion and Change: Trauma-informed practices in GLAMA

In this talk, Nicola Laurent (President, Australian Society of Archivists) presented how trauma has been embedded within the GLAMA professions and became more visible in times of crisis. She noted that we should not overlook the emotional labour GLAMA professionals undertook when dealing with collections relating to traumatic events or difficult histories.

Recognising and responding to emotional labour, vicarious trauma, re-traumatisation are critical if we are to support diverse and inclusive professions.

– Laurent Nicola

Lauren then introduced the concept of ‘trauma-informed practice’: “a strengths-based approach for organisations that acknowledges the pervasiveness of trauma and the risk and potential for people to be retraumatised through engagement with organisations such as archives and seeks to minimise triggers and negative interactions[1].”

Although the topic of ‘emotion’ has attracted increasing attention in the GLAMA sectors, we often approach it from the visitors’ perspective while overlooking the emotions of those working with collections daily. There is also a tendency of prioritising collections/objects over professionals in the GLAMA fields. Lauren’s talk helps shift our emphasis back on the people who have made tremendous contributions in preserving the past.


Inviting Generation Z into the Rarefied World of Archives: Digital Game Creation 
Jacquelyn Sundberg and Nathalie Cooke from the McGill University presented how their team at the McGill Library developed a two-part alternate reality game, Raising Spirits: A Timely Diversion, in response to the COVID-19 closure. This game allows players to virtually explore McGill’s campus, history, and libraries in a fun and interactive way. The game has been a great success, showing the potential in using digital approaches to engage audiences. It is also important for a project team to bring together people from various backgrounds such as researchers, librarians, digital experts, and Gen Z digital natives. In times of crisis, collaboration is crucial and will help us go through difficult situations.  

Other interesting questions raised during the conference include, but not limited to:

  • Who will be the audience of 21st century GLAMs?

  • What should we digitise? What is the priority?

  • How can we reclaim the language in archives that may seem offensive and biased nowadays?

  • Can practices of physical collections be applied to digital resources and vice versa?

  • What ground truths are we used to develop machine learning, and what constitutes these ground truths?

  • How to resolve the tension between standards and autonomy to the public in crowdsourcing projects?

Overall, the DCDC21 was an eye-opening conference that provided participants with fresh perspectives, new insights and many opportunities for expanding networks across the GLAMA sectors. Although we could not meet each other in person, the events team has undoubtedly done a great job making the virtual conference experience equally engaging.


[1] Wright, K. & Laurent, N. (2021) Safety, Collaboration, and Empowerment: Trauma-Informed Archival Practice. Archivaria 9, 1 (June), 38-73

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