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Digital humanities: humanities research in the digital age
Digital humanities: humanities research in the digital age

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2.1 Who digitises cultural heritage materials, who uses them, and why?

Who uses digitised materials?

Our first steps in research often involve searching through digitised resources online (see Session 3). Digitised materials are so common that it is easy to forget that access to them is a recent development and often the result of expensive digitisation projects.

Who creates them?

There is no one answer to this question. Mass digitisation projects are normally undertaken by national institutions, large academic publishing companies, or through partnerships between these and commercial interests or research organisations. However, digitisation is also undertaken by far smaller organisations or individual scholars working with highly specialised collections.

Why do they do it?

Common reasons include:

  • Increasing accessibility by making the materials available to a wider audience
  • Raising the profile of a collection
  • Making the materials more processible for research and other purposes
  • Reuniting or gathering collections or related items in one virtual space
  • Digital conservation to safeguard against decay or loss (this is not to be confused with digital preservation, which refers to preserving digital materials).

It is worth distinguishing between individual scholarly notetaking and the creation of a digitised corpus: the latter aims to capture a more complete representation with an awareness that digital representations can serve a range of uses and users.