Gerald Aylmer Seminar: Digital and the Archive

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The National Archives

Bessant Drive



United Kingdom

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The Gerald Aylmer Seminar is an annual one-day symposium jointly convened by The National Archives, the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research. Running since 2002, the seminars are held in memory of Gerald Aylmer (1926-2000), who was president of the Royal Historical Society and Chairman of the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

The purpose of the Gerald Aylmer Seminar is to bring together historians and archivists to discuss topics of mutual interest, particularly the nature of archival research and the use of collections.

Digital and the Archive: preservation, research and engagement

The impact of digital technology on archives and historical research is not a new subject of discussion. For many years now questions have been raised about how information can be effectively preserved and accessed in a digital age and how digital methodologies have fundamentally changed the ways in which a subject can be researched and visualised. It has become clear, however, that we are not on a relatively quick linear progression from analogue to digital, but instead that we will be living in a world of hybrid archives and research for the foreseeable future.

As we embrace this ‘state of becoming’, the Gerald Aylmer Seminar 2019 seeks to provide a forum to raise and debate digital problems, discuss how the academic and archive sector can work together to address these issues, and address how the value of the archives can be unlocked through innovative research and engagement.


9:15 - Registration and tea/coffee

9:45 - Welcome and introduction

Valerie Johnson, The National Archives, and Jo Fox, Institute of Historical Research

10:00 - Keynote conversation: past, present and future of digital and the archive

10 minutes each followed by 15 minutes of curated conversation and 15 minutes of questions.

  • PAST: Alice Prochaska, former head librarian at Yale University and Principal of Somerville College, Oxford
  • PRESENT: Jane Winters, School of Advanced Studies, University of London
  • FUTURE: John Sheridan, The National Archives

Chair: Pip Willcox, Head of Research, The National Archives

11:00 - Comfort break

11:15 - Panel session one: preservation

Jenny Mitcham, Digital Preservation Coalition, 'Embracing the hybrid archive: some reflections on the journey so far'

James Newman, Bath Spa University, 'Mario is Missing! Playing, not playing and preserving videogames'

Chair: Valerie Johnson, The National Archives

12:15 - Lunch (will be provided)

13:15 - Panel session two: research

Ruth Ahnert, Queen Mary, University of London, ‘Reconstructing networks in the State Papers Archive’

Rachel Foss, British Library, 'Hybrid collections and holistic collecting: contemporary archives at the British Library'.

Chair: Alexandra Eveleigh, Wellcome Collection

14:15 - Tea/coffee break

14:45 - Panel session three: engagement

Adrian Glew, Tate, ‘Combining digital and analogue: engaging audiences with the Tate’s Archives and Access project’

Naomi Wells, School of Advanced Study, University of London: 'Bridging the Archive and the Repertoire: London’s Latin Americans in the UK Web Archive'

Chair: Errol Francis, Culture&

15:45 - Comfort break

16:00 - Problems and provocations

A selection of five-minute ‘provocations’ followed by open discussion

Jo Pugh, The National Archives, ‘Trust in digital archives: earned or engineered?’

Kelly Foster, AfroCROWD UK, ‘What do we mean by open? Ethics and equity in digital archives’

Jo Fox, Institute of Historical Research, 'What historians think they know about digital archives'

Chair: Margot Finn, Royal Historical Society

16:45 - Closing remarks

Margot Finn, Royal Historical Society

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