Our goal is to foster CHI as an interdisciplinary field studying and pursuing the effective use of cultural heritage data, information, and knowledge for humanistic or scientific inquiry, problem solving, and decision making, motivated by efforts to improve human well-being.

Cultural Heritage Informatics deals with managing the problems and potentials that the material past represents, and eliciting new insights. In some cases, there are ethical dilemmas surrounding the question of ‘what to do with’ materials that were collected in an era of colonialism and cultural genocide. In other cases, new cultural heritage materials are being generated faster than we know how to deal with them. Cultural heritage materials are used to remember (or mis-remember) dark episodes in our past. How we choose to approach these materials signals how we will honor and do justice to the various peoples who live on this land now called ‘Canada’. This is the task before us.

At CU there is a nexus of compelling research, skills, and interests that could be united under the ‘Cultural Heritage Informatics’ rubric, but are spread across multiple departments and faculties. This work has brought us individually into collaboration with colleagues at other universities, in museums, and in cultural heritage data repositories. All of this work employs techniques and approaches currently at the forefront of CHI. Similarly, we have students across faculties and programs pursuing theses and major research projects (in our main course streams, as well as the Specializations in Digital Humanities, and in Data Science) largely in isolation from one another and who would benefit from a central ‘home’ where they could obtain support and aid. Our goal is to thread these strands together to create a centre of gravity at Carleton located around our research and expertise. As Kinàmàgawin, Learning Together, Carleton’s Indigenous Strategy guides us, we propose that research in CHI has to provide meaningful partnerships with, and opportunities for, Indigenous students, faculty, and communities. We intend to provide an opportunity for an Indigenous PhD research assistant on this project to meaningfully shape the direction of our work from the outset. We explicitly commit, in the projects that we will generate from the present proposal, to develop ways of integrating student training for Indigenous students to explore/use/develop CHI towards understanding and representing their own history and culture, with us, and with our external partners.

Our plan for the next year is to

  •  survey, bring together, and identify opportunities in the intersections of the various strands of CHI research at Carleton and with our partners, through a series of workshops;
  • use this information to develop a pilot for a Cultural Heritage Informatics Field School. Digital humanities pedagogy embraces ‘building as a way of knowing’, and so designing and running the Fieldschool becomes a catalyst towards applying for two major transdisciplinary grant opportunities. The fieldschool model gives participants the opportunity for intensive collaborative projects in conjunction with professionals from both CU and our external partners. Our model is the successful Fieldschool run in the US by Michigan State University and directed by our partner Ethan Watrall. The Canada Science and Technology Museum (Ingenium Corporation) has a digital lab and research facility in its new conservation building that will house the Fieldschool.
  • Having done that, we can then generate at least two interdisciplinary grant proposals; appropriate programs might be the SSHRC Partnership, the New Frontiers in Research Fund, or NSERC Create. The process of putting such grants together can be used to spin out open access publications that will increase our impact, like position papers or white papers (perhaps for the International Journal of Heritage Studies).

Only the largest cultural institutions have the ability to integrate bespoke solutions; our X-Lab can democratize cultural heritage informatics for a wider audience. Expectations for accessible and reusable data across disciplines and research streams, including commercial, government, and academic contexts, are increasing. Promoting digital data reuse means new tools, skills, professional roles, and communication standards, which will transform the research process. By building in an open-access and open-science research workflow into the X-Lab, we have a positive impact on society by making our materials easily reproducible and re-usable by the wider community.