About ‘a practical guide to crowdsourcing in cultural heritage’

book cover

Some time ago I wrote a chapter on ‘Crowdsourcing in cultural heritage: a practical guide to designing and running successful projects‘ for the Routledge International Handbook of Research Methods in Digital Humanities, edited by Kristen Schuster and Stuart Dunn. As their blurb says, the volume ‘draws on both traditional and emerging fields of study to consider what a grounded definition of quantitative and qualitative research in the Digital Humanities (DH) might mean; which areas DH can fruitfully draw on in order to foster and develop that understanding; where we can see those methods applied; and what the future directions of research methods in Digital Humanities might look like’.

Inspired by a post from the authors of a chapter in the same volume (Opening the ‘black box’ of digital cultural heritage processes: feminist digital humanities and critical heritage studies by Hannah Smyth, Julianne Nyhan & Andrew Flinn), I’m sharing something about what I wanted to do in my chapter.

As the title suggests, I wanted to provide practical insights for cultural heritage and digital humanities practitioners. Writing for a Handbook of Research Methods in Digital Humanities was an opportunity help researchers understand both how to apply the ‘method’ and how the ‘behind the scenes’ work affects the outcomes. As a method, crowdsourcing in cultural heritage touches on many more methods and disciplines. The chapter built on my doctoral research, and my ideas were roadtested at many workshops, classes and conferences.

Rather than crib from my introduction (which you can read in a pre-edited version online), I’ve included the headings from the chapter as a guide to the contents:

  • An introduction to crowdsourcing in cultural heritage
  • Key conceptual and research frameworks
  • Fundamental concepts in cultural heritage crowdsourcing
  • Why do cultural heritage institutions support crowdsourcing projects?
  • Why do people contribute to crowdsourcing projects?
  • Turning crowdsourcing ideas into reality
  • Planning crowdsourcing projects
  • Defining ‘success’ for your project
  • Managing organisational impact
  • Choosing source collections
  • Planning workflows and data re-use
  • Planning communications and participant recruitment
  • Final considerations: practical and ethical ‘reality checks’
  • Developing and testing crowdsourcing projects
  • Designing the ‘onboarding’ experience
  • Task design
  • Documentation and tutorials
  • Quality control: validation and verification systems
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Running crowdsourcing projects
  • Launching a project
  • The role of participant discussion
  • Ongoing community engagement
  • Planning a graceful exit
  • The future of crowdsourcing in cultural heritage
  • Thanks and acknowledgements

I wrote in the open on this Google Doc: ‘Crowdsourcing in cultural heritage: a practical guide to designing and running successful projects’, and benefited from the feedback I got during that process, so this post is also an opportunity to highlight and reiterate my ‘Thanks and acknowledgements’ section:

I would like to thank participants and supporters of crowdsourcing projects I’ve created, including Museum Metadata Games, In their own words: collecting experiences of the First World War, and In the Spotlight. I would also like to thank my co-organisers and attendees at the Digital Humanities 2016 Expert Workshop on the future of crowdsourcing. Especial thanks to the participants in courses and workshops on ‘crowdsourcing in cultural heritage’, including the British Library’s Digital Scholarship training programme, the HILT Digital Humanities summer school (once with Ben Brumfield) and scholars at other events where the course was held, whose insights, cynicism and questions have informed my thinking over the years. Finally, thanks to Meghan Ferriter and Victoria Van Hyning for their comments on this manuscript.


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