Funding awarded to develop digital archive of Atlantic slave trades - Museums Association

Funding awarded to develop digital archive of Atlantic slave trades

Project among 12 collaborations between US and UK universities to create digital tools for culture and heritage
Digital Funding Slavery
Philippa Kelly
The research projects aim to advance the use of digital tools  in cultural institutions
The research projects aim to advance the use of digital tools in cultural institutions Pixabay

Twelve university research projects have been awarded a share of £2.5m by the Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions grant.

The grant, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the US National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), brings UK and US universities together to advance the use of digital tools in museums, galleries, libraries and archives. 

Partnerships will use new technology to explore under-researched histories and develop new understandings of visitor needs.

One collaboration, between Lancaster University in the UK and Rice University in the US, plans to develop the Digital Archive of the Atlantic Slave Trades. The open-access resource is intended to deepen the understanding of one of the largest slave trading companies in history through the digitisation, transcription and translation of 30,000 pages of records.

Nicholas Radburn, lecturer in the history of the Atlantic World at Lancaster University, who has been closely involved with the project, said: “This [project] is in partnership with the British Library, and the Huntington Library and Clements Library in the States, all of which are big, international cultural institutions. So, it's a really significant award.

“The digital archive will pull together a huge amount of material from across those different partner institutions and make it all available digitally. All sorts of additional materials will help contextualise the material and make it easy to work with, not only for scholars, but members of the public students, teachers, etc.


“Our headline claim is that we wanted to democratise access to the archives of the slave trade… The hope is that this project will transform the ways that people are able to study the slave trade and transform who is able to study slave trade.”

Another collaboration, between the University of Westminster in the UK and the University of Michigan in the US, will work together to train museum practitioners in the use of digital audio description tools. The project aims to improve the accessibility of cultural collections for blind, partially blind and sighted audiences.

Christopher Smith, executive chair of AHRC, said: “This collaboration connects leading institutions in the US and the UK to pioneer ground-breaking new research methods, and lead world class research and innovation in digital humanities.

“These projects will open up heritage and culture in new ways that benefit both researchers and the public and bring a wealth of fascinating collections into the 21st century and in ever more accessible ways.”

A full list of grant recipients and associated research projects can be found here.

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