Discussions from Digital Humanities

The Digital Transformation in the GLAM sector

I have worked in the conservation sector in galleries, libraries and museums for 15 years  and have been involved in plenty of projects that have some digital aspect embedded in them. There are some incredible digital projects out there in the Irish GLAM world but there is a feeling that the digital transformation has been frustratingly disjointed and slow in many institutions. 

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Behind this is an employee skills gap, a lack of facilities and resources and in some cases a resistance based in a deep institutional fear of what embracing the digital might bring. 

The closures and lockdowns caused by the COVID19 pandemic have forced even the most conservative and reluctant institutions to engage with the digital in terms of their public programming and access provision and there is now a general acceptance that digital approaches are here to stay.

I am always a bit suspicious when marketing analytics are applied to heritage collections because reductive, over-simplified value judgements are often made based on visitor numbers or income and then policy is generated using those figures.  This has real, tangible effects on the condition of collections when the resources for collections care are impacted. The Tate/Pompidou analysis is however a very interesting read that is quite a convincing case on the power of digital initiatives to engage people. I also absolutely loved the 3D model of Modigliani’s studio that was linked in the bibliography (Coates, C. (2019).


Some of my favourite examples of GLAM digital humanities projects

  • Recognition at Tate gallery was an artificial intelligence program that compared artworks with breaking photojournalism, resulting in beautiful juxtapositions.
  • Closer to van Eyck, an in-depth digital investigation of the Gent Alterpiece and his other works.
  • This incredible dataset of images from multiple collections that are searchable by tag, meaning you can arrange them by colour, amongst other things!
  • This digital tool that is used by various independant researchers as well as GLAM institutions allows for the provenance of paintings to be tracked, mapped and overlapped.


Alshawaaf, Nasser and Lee, Soo Hee (2021)’Business model innovation through digitisation in social purpose organisations: A comparative analysis of Tate Modern and Pompidou Centre’,Journal of Business Research, Vol 125, 2021.

Coates, C. (2019). ‘Virtual reality is a big trend in museums, but what are the best examples of museums using VR?’ Museum XR [online] Available at
article/how-museums-are-using-virtual-reality/. Accessed 13 Dec 2021