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Special Collection

Remaking Collections

Collection launched: 25 Apr 2018

In recent decades cultural and collecting institutions have digitised their collections en masse. These digital collections are vast, diverse and dispersed, challenging traditional modes of management, access and engagement; but they also constitute an immense cultural resource. As well as supporting traditional uses in research and scholarship, digital collections are fostering an emerging body of creative practice. Through the work of artists, designers, data visualisers, heritage hackers and digital humanists, digital collections are being remade.

This practice enlivens digital collections online through interface design and visualisation, revealing new connections and meanings; it also enriches the collections themselves, adding new layers of metadata and modes of approaching cultural artefacts. Software bots and agents drop digital artefacts into the everyday digital environment of our social media streams, seeding serendipitous encounters between past and present. Open digital collections and computational tools enable makers to work at vast scales; and to either collaborate with collection holders, or work independently, offering unsolicited interventions that bypass institutional contexts altogether. As digital collections reach web scale — tens of millions of items — experimental digital practices play a vital role in understanding their content and potential, as both scholarly and cultural resources.

This special collection of articles will address emerging creative practices around digital collections. It aims to document current practice and theory through diverse case studies and articulate multidisciplinary understandings of the art, design, computing, heritage and humanities practices that come together here. This practice brings a growing computational toolset to bear on mining, interpreting, annotating and transforming digital archives; how do we grasp this interplay of data, code, collections and emerging cultural forms?

This Special Collection is co-edited by Prof. Mitchell Whitelaw (Australian National University), Dr Geoff Hinchcliffe (Australian National University), Prof. Tim Sherratt (University of Canberra) and Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk (University of Applied Sciences Potsdam).

Featured image adapted from Tim Sherratt’s project Open With Exceptions (2016). Used with permission.