Data, code, and documentation

Legacies of Catalogue Descriptions and Curatorial Voice: Opportunities for Digital Scholarship

This 12-month project 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:


Legacies of Catalogue Descriptions is a collaboration between the Sussex Humanities Lab, the British Library, and Yale University Library.

The project is led by James Baker, Senior Lecturer in Digital History and Archives at the School of History, Art History and Philosophy, University of Sussex. James has a background in the history of the printed image, archival theory, art history, and computational analysis. He is author of The Business of Satirical Prints in Late-Georgian England (2017), the first monograph on the infrastructure of the satirical print trade circa 1770-1830, and led the British Academy funded Curatorial Voice project.

The project Co-Investigator is Rossitza Atanassova. Rossitza is a Digital Curator (Digitisation) in the British Library’s Digital Scholarship Department with expertise in the creation and exploitation of digitised content, and experience working on multi-partner international projects. She has a research background in Classics and several years of experience as rare books librarian working with the Library’s 19th-century British printed collections.

Andrew Salway is a Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex. Andrew has 20 years’ experience of digital text mining and corpus linguistic methods in humanities research, and of project management. He previously applied corpus linguistic techniques to analyse the informational content of audio description (Salway, 2007) and co-developed a generalized system of image-text relations (Martinec and Salway, 2005).

Cynthia Roman is Curator Prints, Drawings, & Paintings at the Lewis Walpole Library, a unit of Yale University Library, and a leading expert in long-eighteenth century British visual satire, including the 2016 volume Hogarth’s Legacy.



Over the course of the project, we had planned to run two capability building workshops and a partnership development workshop. Then Covid-19 hit, and we were forced to change our plans. Contact James for more information.

Computational Analysis of Catalogue Data: ad hoc training (3 & 9 July 2020)

Each standalone session will provide instruction in using AntConc and approaches from computational linguistics for the purposes of examining catalogue data to enable important catalogue related work

See the event page for further details.


Legacies of Catalogue Descriptions and Curatorial Voice: Opportunities for Digital Scholarship is funded under the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) “UK-US Collaboration for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions: Partnership Development Grants” scheme. Project Reference AH/T013036/1. Funding value £80,602. The project is live between 10 February 2020 and 9 February 2021.


This project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (exceptions: logos and marked images). Unless otherwise stated, project code is licensed under a GNU General Public License v3.0. As the Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum is a dataset published by the British Museum, data and derived data are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.