This research has led to four main achievements:
1 – Bringing together scholars, archivists, and policy makers
This was done through a one-day workshop [January 2019] and a three-day international conference [January 2020]. These collaborations are particularly valuable to solve the issues related to born-digital archives.
With the digital revolution, emails have largely replaced letters, and texts (including literary texts) are now often created in digital format. Most born-digital archives are closed to researchers due to privacy, copyright or technical issues. To solve the problem of access, we need collaborations across the entire archive “circuit” – from creators of archival records to archivists and users of these collections. The workshop and conference brought together a total of 91 people across various disciplines, and will lead to an edited collection on “Archives, Access and AI” (under contract with Transcript Verlag, distributed by Columbia UP in the US, full manuscript due in March 2021 for open access publication).
2 – Oral history and transcripts of poets, editors and publishers
…who have played a major role in the postwar and contemporary UK poetry scene.
These oral history interviews and transcripts are now made freely available on the project digital resource, offering a unique source of information to researchers and to anyone interested in poetry. Women poets and editors have been key figures in the British literary scene, and we have paid particular attention to the inclusion of these voices. Short profiles on interviewees are also available to contextualise the recordings and transcripts. The digital resource constitutes a model of open access archive that can easily be replicated for other projects.
3 – Exhibition at the John Rylands Library in Manchester
An exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carcanet Press opened in October 2019. It featured key archival findings as well as first editions, rare materials and archival emails of major figures associated with the press. The exhibition explored three themes: Carcanet’s relationship with Arts Council England, its place within the broader UK poetry publishing landscape, and its role in publishing the work of female poets including Elizabeth Jennings and Sujata Bhatt.
4 – Major research outputs
Jaillant’s work on born-digital records has now reached the stage of publication. This includes a special issue of “Archives and Manuscripts” (2019) on born-digital collections, including a 19-page article by Jaillant: “After the digital revolution: working with emails and born-digital records in literary and publishers’ archives“. It argues that we need to accelerate the preservation of born-digital literary archives to avoid losing a large part of our cultural heritage. We also need to push for access to these archives through lobbying for open data respectful of privacy. And we should train the next generation of literary scholars to fully embrace the data revolution. The special issue, guest-edited by Jaillant, includes 6 other articles by distinguished scholars and archivists.
Other research outputs include an edited collection on “Archives, Access and AI” (forthcoming in 2021) and a monograph (forthcoming).
A chapter entitled “User Experience and Access to Born-Digital Data Produced by Publishers: The Case of Carcanet Press” was published in 2020 as part of Matthew Kirschenbaum et al. (eds), Books.Files: Preservation of Digital Assets in the Contemporary Publishing Industry.
An article entitled “Invisible poetry: women, ethnic minorities and the forgotten history of Carcanet magazine” was published in 2021 in the Review of English Studies (publisher: Oxford University Press).
The outcomes of this funding (including the workshop and international conference) have been useful to academics in the fields of literary studies, cultural history and information studies. Non-academics – particularly in the sectors of Policy as well as Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections – have also benefited. For example, the conference on “Archives, Access and AI” [January 2020] brought together a total of 56 academics and non-academics.
Among non-academics, there were 4 civil servants from the Cabinet Office and the Office for Artificial Intelligence. One participant commented after the conference: “I was particularly pleased to have the chance to meet some public servants at ArAcAi, who could flesh out some of the social and political ramifications of this new technology.”
There were also 33 archivists/ librarians/ museums professionals (59% of the total) from institutions such as Lloyds Banking Group; Yale University Library; the British Library; the International Council on Archives; the Royal Danish Archives; Cambridge University Library; Imperial War Museum London; the Frick Art Reference Library (New York City); The National Archives (UK); etc.
The edited collection on “Archives, Access and AI” (forthcoming in 2021) will allow academics and non-academics to situate the ethics and expectations of archival practice within the context of rapidly developing AI technologies.
Communities and Social Services/Policy, Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections.