Arts, archives and technology
Following the second call for submissions to the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts in Wales a small amount of money was left to fund collaborative projects that either enhance audience reach or explore new business models through the use of digital technology. We’re really pleased to announce that we’ve awarded a final grant from the remaining fund to Yello Brick, a creative organisation based in Cardiff and artist Jorge Lizalde; they’ll work with The National Library of Wales on our Arts, Archives and Technology call for applications.
Arts, Archives and Technology.
The Digital R&D Funds are an experiment in arts funding, testing whether digital R&D in the arts can be supported and, if so, trying to understand the best way(s) to do it. In Wales we held two open calls for innovative ideas from arts organisations and have funded six projects. This time round, we decided to tweak the way that we make the call for applications to cover themes that we have been unable to fund and to overcome some of the weaknesses in applications from the first two calls.
We decided to focus this call on archiving as a topic for a number of reasons – of the original six themes it had the most applications of those that we haven’t be able to fund. It’s also a key area of interest for Arts Council of Wales who are keen to understand how we unlock the creative capacity of the archive material that exists in Wales.
Looking back over archive based applications to the first and second calls, we found that in the majority of applications a lot of time and money was allocated to the digitisation of archive material. While this is clearly important, as an activity it doesn’t help us explore audience engagement or new business models – the core objectives of the R&D Fund.
To overcome this, we decided to partner with an organisation that already had a large digital archive that could be exploited more efficiently. While we appreciate the importance of proper digitisation and cataloguing of archive material, the R&D fund’s primary objectives require us to examine the exploitation of this material, so that’s where we’re focusing. The National Library of Wales very kindly agreed to come on board as an archive partner for this project, meaning that we’re in a strong position to start experimenting with new ways to explore the key objectives of the fund from the outset.
We also decided to test the role that serendipity and open experimentation could play in this process. To that end, we asked people to apply as a team – arts organisation, artist and digital producer – without a clear idea as to how they might use the archive or what their digital outcomes might be. We wanted to see a strong commitment to experimentation and the necessary skills and expertise to achieve this.
This is an experiment for us in Wales – iteration in the way that we approach the funding of digital R&D, based on what we’ve learnt from the first two calls for submissions. We hope that it tells us more about the barriers that exist when working with (public) archives and the role that a digital producer can play in overcoming these barriers. In doing so, we hope to find a more clear set of working principles that other archive holders can follow, should they wish to open up their archives to a wider audience. Alongside this, we hope to have a working prototype that demonstrates just one of the many ways that digital technology can help make this a reality.
We had eight applicants to the call and from these, eight separate and distinct approaches. This in itself is a good indication that archive material is of interest to arts organisations and artists. Given a better understanding of the ways in which this can be accessed and used creatively, we hope that other archive projects can be fostered beyond the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts in Wales. You’ll be able to keep up to date with progress on this project via Native, the Magazine for the Digital R&D Fund, in due course.
photo credit: Jorge Lizalde/Yello Brick