R & D

The Digital Archive Lab

By mute, 17 October 2011

Currently the project is in a pre-production phase, with plans to start work over 2012.

The Digital Archive Lab seeks to tackle the key technical, organisational and communications challenges cultural organisations presently face in archiving and disseminating their work – be that historical, newly created and/or the product of audience engagement and education. By creating a time-limited but profoundly interdisciplinary process of exchange, through which selected archivists, curators, artists, interface designers, technical experts and academic researchers can engage with real-world problems and collections, the Lab seeks not only to increase the knowledge held in common across leading or influential organisations, but also to emerge with specific, concrete solutions, particularly as these answer to urgent imperatives to keep cultural material in circulation, stimulate new forms of engagement and generate new business and revenue models.

The Digital Archive Lab's producers envisage that meeting this challenge will entail producing new tools, processes and standards, which members of the broader cultural sector can adopt easily and practically. We have created a proposition in line with this as part of the Lab process (see below). However, in keeping with Performing Arts Lab's (PAL's) mission and values, the Lab will maintain an open, non-prescriptive methodology, enabling the kind of collaborative innovation most likely to produce solutions 'by the sector for the sector'.


We aim to emerge from this project with a workable cataloguing system for cultural organisations, the urgent need for which has been expressed by all prospective participants, even those at the leading edge of the sector.

Our primary aim is to aid the visibility and discoverability of a cultural organisation's entire artistic output, from historical archives to current and ongoing artistic production – allowing staff to 'archive-as-you-go'.

Such a cataloguing system would also provide opportunities for audiences' deeper engagement with cultural archives, allowing data to be re-used, for example, in crowd-sourcing historical document transcription, the visualisation of relationships and video conferencing learning packages.

A collaboration between Performing Arts Labs (PAL) and Mute Publishing.