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DH Seminar: Applying AI to Digital Archives: Trust, Collaboration and Shared Professional Ethics.

Digital Humanities Lab seminar series. Lise Jaillant (Loughborough University): "Applying AI to Digital Archives: Trust, Collaboration and Shared Professional Ethics".

Event details


Policy makers produce digital records on a daily basis. A selection of records is then preserved in archival repositories. However, getting access to these archival materials is extremely complicated for many reasons – including data protection, sensitivity, national security, and copyright. Artificial Intelligence can be applied to archives to make them more accessible, but it is still at an experimental stage. While skills gaps contribute to keeping archives “dark”, it is also essential to examine issues of mistrust and miscommunication.  

This talk argues that although civil servants, archivists and academics have similar professional principles articulated through professional codes of ethics, these are not often communicated to each other. This lack of communication leads to feelings of mistrust between stakeholders. Mistrust of technology also contributes to the barriers to effective implementation of AI tools. Therefore, we propose that surfacing the shared professional ethics between stakeholders can contribute to deeper collaborations between humans. In turn, these collaborations can lead to the building of trust in AI systems and tools.  

The research is informed by semi-structured interviews with 30 government professionals, archivists, historians, digital humanists, and computer scientists. Previous research has largely focused on preservation of digital records, rather than access to these records, and on archivists rather than records creators such as government professionals. This research is the first to examine the application of AI to digital archives as an issue that requires trust and collaboration across the entire archival circle (from record creators to archivists, and from archivists to users). 


Born-digital archives; Digitised archives; Artificial Intelligence; Government; Trust; Collaboration; Ethics; Professional codes


Dr Lise Jaillant is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Digital Humanities at Loughborough University, UK. She was awarded a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award (2017-18) for her project “After the Digital Revolution,” which was followed by an AHRC Leadership Fellowship (2018-20) to work on the born-digital records of the poetry publisher Carcanet Press. Jaillant has extensive experience of international research networks. Since 2020, she has led three AHRC-funded projects: (1) AURA (Archives in the UK/ Republic of Ireland and AI: Bringing together Digital Humanists, Computer Scientists & stakeholders to unlock cultural assets); (2) AEOLIAN (UK/ US: AI for Cultural Organisations); (3) EyCon (Visual AI and Early Conflict Photography). Her new project LUSTRE ("Unlocking our Digital Past with AI") is funded by an AHRC Follow On grant and delivered in partnership with the Cabinet Office. Recent publications include the edited collection Archives, Access and AI (published open access, 2022), and articles in AI & Society, Archival Science and American Archivist.

This meeting will held only on Zoom. To join the meeting online, please use the link below.

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Meeting ID: 999 7728 4154
Password: 373730