Added on 12 March 2018

Call for Papers

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“Museums and digital memory: from creation and curation to digital preservation”
Free conference and debate at the British Museum, Monday 3rd September 2018

The British Museum’s National Programmes team and the Digital Preservation Coalition invite you to contribute towards a day of workshops, discussion and debate on the subject of digital content in museums.

In this one-day conference we want to explore best practice in how we as a sector create, curate and preserve digital content – not just the exciting outward-facing side of digital technology in museums, but the often overlooked back-of-house digital preservation work that is essential to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of these efforts.

Central to the day is the question: if museums are memory institutions, how do we ensure that we maintain access to the digital memory that we’re creating now for our future audiences?


The UK museum sector is making increasingly creative use of digital technologies in the way it records and disseminates information about its collections – from the fundamentals of digital cataloguing and publishing collections online, to accessioning digital artworks, live-streaming events, 3D scanning objects, creating online exhibitions and incorporating interactive digital interpretation in galleries.

These technologies and advances in museum practice offer dynamic and exciting new ways of engaging people with collections, but they also provoke urgent questions about how we manage and preserve all the digital content we’re creating. Looking after physical assets in archives and collections is at the heart of museum work, but how do we do the same for our digital assets? What are the new skills museums need in order to safeguard digital content, and how will we develop them?

Digital data management, preservation and engagement skills are vital if we are to successfully tackle these issues as a sector. The British Museum is delighted to have recently been awarded a Skills for the Future grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a new project, Museum Futures. This five-year national programme of paid vocational training opportunities for diverse young people will seek to address some of the key digital skills gaps in the sector, exploring what our workforce needs to know now, and what we should be investing in to increase our capacity for the future.

This conference, generously funded by the Vivmar Foundation, therefore seeks to open the conversation and we warmly invite professionals across all relevant sectors to take part.

Conference Scope

We are looking to hone the themes of the conference as papers come in, but we hope that the list of questions below might inspire discussion or particular case studies.

The day will be broken down into three areas:

1. Digital content creation

How can museums and galleries best engage with new and emerging technologies while thinking about long-term sustainability? What does best practice look like? What are the key considerations and questions to ask when procuring or outsourcing resilient digital services? How can / do we successfully engage artists working in digital media? What promises, implied or explicit, are we making to the future when we create or commission digital content?

2. Curation and use of digital content

How can we optimise the way we engage with people through digital technology today so that we secure its value for tomorrow? What do we really understand successful digital audience engagement to be, both remote and in-gallery? How can collections be most effectively disseminated digitally? How can back-end coding and optimisation help content reach more people? How do we choose which digital platforms and media to invest time and money in, when new technologies are emerging and becoming obsolete so quickly?

3. Digital preservation

What are the essential steps for building a resilient digital preservation strategy for a museum, gallery or cultural heritage organisation? How can we develop and implement policies and strategies that will support the acquisition, life cycle management and dissemination of digital materials? How can we anticipate and manage data loss? Is future-proofing possible / how best can we adapt our practice? Which skills does the sector most need to develop now, to create the workforce we will need in the future?

The conference will aim to:

  • Be stimulating, informative, inspiring and challenging
  • Showcase current best practice from across the UK and offer access to expertise both from outside the museum sector and within it
  • Cater for a wide range of UK organisations at different stages of digital engagement and with different levels of expertise – offering an introduction for colleagues without much digital experience, and valuable learning for those with more advanced knowledge
  • Offer a mixture of practical and theoretical sessions, so that everyone leaves having learned something useful and applicable to their organisation
  • Create a safe space for open discussion – we need to be able to admit where things haven’t worked!

Submitting a proposal We welcome submissions from museum professionals, representatives of sector bodies, academics and early-career scholars, people working in the creative and digital industries with a relevance to the museum sector, and others working in these fields including digital preservation specialists and practitioners. If selected as a speaker your travel costs will be covered.

The conference programme will be built around the proposals submitted, and will be a mix of presentations, panel discussions and workshops. We are also exploring the possibility of running a series of parallel sessions to complement the main conference programme during part of the day and/or lunch/breaks.

Please indicate which theme (creation / curation / preservation) you are submitting a proposal for, and in what format (presentation / workshop / other):

Presentations (10-15 minutes)
  • Title
  • Author/s (*indicate author for correspondence)
  • Institution/s
  • Position/s
  • City
  • E-mail address/es
  • Main body of presentation synopsis (300 words)
  • Title
  • Author/s (*indicate author for correspondence)
  • Institution/s
  • Position/s
  • City
  • E-mail address/es
  • Main body of text synopsis (300 words) – please highlight the focus of the activity, how it would be delivered and how long you envisage the activity needing

Complementary session content More informal and/or creative responses to the themes and agenda of the day are also very welcome. These could include conversations, films, demonstrations, interviews etc. This activity will run in parallel to the main conference lecture programme, making use of the variety of spaces available in the Clore Centre for Education. Please submit a proposal for your ideas no longer than 300 words, indicating any AV or practical requirements.

Please send proposals no later than Monday 30th April to Georgia Mallin, UK Partnerships Coordinator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please do not hesitate to get in touch direct with any enquiries in the meantime.

British Museum National Programmes

The British Museum National Programmes Conference 2018 has been developed in partnership with the Digital Preservation Coalition, and is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Vivmar Foundation.

The annual conference forms part of the British Museum’s wide-ranging National Programmes activity, designed to support the UK’s cultural heritage sector by sharing collections and expertise.

The National Programmes include touring exhibitions, single-object Spotlight tours, partnership galleries and long-term loans supported by the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M. Weinrebe. These run alongside various skills-sharing, training and professional development initiatives which aim to support the UK museum workforce, including the Knowledge Share programme supported by the Vivmar Foundation and the Museum’s series of Skills for the Future programmes supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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