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Digital Access, Inclusion, and the Humanities

Across the world in 2020, the COVID-19 crisis led to the closure of the physical spaces where people engage in and with humanities research. University buildings, libraries, museums and archives were shuttered for more than a third of the year in the UK, and have only gradually been able to welcome back staff, students and visitors. Even twenty years ago, the impact of the pandemic on our ability to conduct research, to collaborate, to access cultural heritage and to share knowledge would have been devastating. Today, we have the web, social media, digitised collections of documents and objects, video and audio conferencing, online classrooms and MOOCs. All of these tools and more have been deployed to allow people to access from home the best that the humanities have to offer.

Convenors: Dr Naomi Wells, Early Career Researcher in Italian and Spanish with Digital Humanities, Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study and Professor Jane Winters, Professor of Digital Humanities, School of Advanced Study. 

But how equal is this access? How many children have been disadvantaged because they do not have their own computer or a reliable internet connection? How many of the university students learning and researching from home or in halls of residence have been able to consult the digitised collections that they need? Who has decided what does and does not warrant digitisation, and how much access to digitised material will cost? What is the impact of copyright, IPR and legal deposit legislation on people’s ability to work with digital sources? How evenly are the disadvantages and opportunities spread across different groups in society, and between different nations?

This conversation will explore the enormous value of digital tools and platforms in enabling, promoting and developing the humanities at a time of crisis, but it will also consider how the humanities can help us to examine the challenges and pitfalls of the digital.


  • Roopika Risam (Associate Professor of Secondary and Higher Education and English at Salem State University) 
  • Gabriela Baeza Ventura (Associate Professor of Spanish, University of Houston) 
  • Bethany Nowviskie (Dean of Libraries and Professor of English, James Madison University) 
  • Anasuya Sengupta (Co-founder and Co-director, Whose Knowledge) 

This event is free, but booking is required. Details about how to join the virtual meet-up will be circulated via email to registered attendees.

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