Skip to main content
Research project

Legacies of Catalogue Descriptions

Project overview

Legacies of Catalogue Descriptions will develop a platform for a transformational impact in digital scholarship within cultural institutions by opening up new and important directions for computational, critical, and curatorial analysis of collection catalogues. Extensive digital and digitised sets of curatorial descriptions from legacy catalogues are increasingly available. We seek to realise their potential as valuable resources for cross-disciplinary research into curatorial practice, and for enhancing access to and analysis of collections at scale.

Our pilot research will investigate the temporal and spatial legacy of a landmark catalogue: the 1.1 million word British Museum ‘Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires’, which is the basis of related catalogue data at the Lewis Walpole Library and the British Library. Alongside this research we will:

- Demonstrate how methods combining corpus linguistic and archival research can be used to produce an empirical account of curatorial “voice” across a large catalogue.
- Ask questions about the enduring legacies of curatorial labour, methods for defining and highlighting those legacies, and the role of digital scholarship in responding to the ways in which legacy descriptions work against contemporary ambitions of cultural institutions.
- Develop sectoral capability in digital scholarship through co-produced training materials and reports, proofs-of-concept for changing how legacy descriptions are presented to diverse publics, and releases of transparent code, data, and methods.


Lead researcher

Professor James Baker


Research interests

  • cultural heritage
  • digital humanities
  • knowledge organisation
Connect with James

Research outputs

James Baker, Andrew Salway & Cynthia Roman, 2022, Digital Humanities Quarterly
Type: article
Lucy Havens, James Baker & Rossitza Atanassova, 2022
Type: report