Digital Humanities refers to the intersection of digital and computational techniques with humanities and cultural heritage. Its objects of study include primary and secondary source material, such as texts, images, film, sound, performance arts and objects in 2D or 3D. These may come from sources such as museums, archives, galleries, archaeological digs or other memory institutions. It aims to produce computational applications and models which make possible new kinds of knowledge both in the humanities disciplines and in computer science and its allied technologies. It also studies the impact of these new techniques on cultural heritage, memory institutions, libraries, archives and digital culture in general.
Digital Humanities is a growing field; the cultural heritage sector in particular is increasingly aware of the need to provide and manage digital content. For example, the British Library published their new digital strategy in April 2010 as did the National Archives, with whom UCL Information Studies has strong links. Most museums are investing heavily in web delivered content. The AHRC has announced that Digital Humanities will be one of its key strategic funding areas from 2011, and research in this area also fits within the EPSRC's Digital Economy programme. All this provides evidence for the recognition of the importance of the technologies and more general intellectual issues dealt with by the Digital Humanities.
The UCL Centre for Digital Humanities is a university-wide initiative, funded by the Provost's Strategic Development Fund, to create a unique environment within UCL where the full potential of the arts and humanities to challenge and inspire technology research is realised. Capitalising on UCL's interdisciplinary expertise in information studies, computing science, and the arts and humanities, this new centre is the hub of a network bringing together researchers interested in the application of digital technologies to research problems in the arts and humanities and cultural heritage sectors in different departments and research centres within UCL. These include Library Services, Museums & Collections and Research Computing, allowing the Centre to benefit from facilities and artefacts ranging from rare books, original artwork and museum objects to high performance computing and 3D scanning. It also aims to collaborate with organisations outside UCL, such as museums, galleries, libraries and archives. Its position in central London, close to the British Museum and British Library, makes this an ideal base from which to make such connections.
James Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation, speaking at the launch of the Centre in May 2010 said that: "Digital technology has significantly changed the way we communicate and share knowledge. The Centre holds great promise, not only for finding new ways of applying technology to the study of the human record but also for providing insights and perspective on how we think about culture and creativity in the future. As a discipline, the digital humanities have grown from the simple use of databases in scholarly work, to an approach championed here at UCL: a partnership in which technology is neither the servant of the humanities, nor its master, but an equal partner. The result has been a balance that has fostered innovation on both sides."
The Open Educational Resources created by the DHOER project will play an important role in further establishing the Centre, particularly its new MA/MSc programme in Digital Humanities which starts in the 2011/12 academic session. By allowing students to access high-quality teaching and learning resources prior to applying for a degree programme this project will benefit not only UCL in terms of overseas recruitment and academic reputation, but will also be instrumental in consolidating the UK's role as one of the leading research cultures in this field.