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Digital Humanities: Digital collections

An introduction to digital humanities

What are digital collections?

Digital collections are online databases of digital objects. These can contain a variety of formats, such as images, text, audio or video, and can either be "born digital" or digitised. In addition, digital collections may have some form of function to search, retrieve and organise content. 

You may consider making a digital collection to make material accessible, either for people or machines; to preserve collections; or to use for analysis in your research. 

Types of digital collections

  • Digital archives
    • Digital archives contain digital objects for preservation, storage and/or access. These may include born digital and digitised objects.
  • Digital libraries
    • Digital libraries are databases consisting of collections of digital objects accessed through a search interface. It could also be a digital collection, or a database providing records of digital and material resources.
  • Databases
    • Databases are organised collections of information or data, and interfaces for managing and retrieving this information.
  • Digital publication
    • Digital publication refers to the publishing of content in digital formats that are accessed on electronic devices and on the internet.
  • Text corpora
    • Text corpora are large sets of texts guided by a focus/source/purpose, upon which study and analysis can be performed.
  • Digital repositories
    • A digital repository provides a number of functions, such as acquiring, storing, preserving and accessing digital content. They typically allow a user to access digital collections that have a particular relevance to a institution or organisation.

Practices around digital collections

  • Digitisation
    • Converting objects in a physical format to a digital format. For more information, check out our Digitisation page
  • Metadata
    • Having well described records for digital items can help with searching and accessing items. 
      • Items that are digitsed may only need to have their information copied.
      • Born digital items may require you to create a metadata record from scratch.
    • More information about metadata is available on our page about describing digital content.
  • Digital preservation
    • Digital preservation aims to ensure that digital collections are accessible and usable in the long term. This involves planning and using preservation methods and technologies to ensure that collections can always be accessed, regardless of media failure or changes to technology

Tools and techniques used in creating, maintaining and using digital collections


Relevant guidelines and standards

Examples of digital collections

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