Quantifying Culture: AI and Heritage Collections (WASP-HS 2021-2025)


The project has the purpose to unlock the future potential of AI for the management and curation of cultural heritage collections. A synthesis of AI methods and critical scholarship can co-produce diverse and more nuanced perspectives on heritage collections, thus reaching the public of the future. By developing theoretical and technological knowledge the project’s concrete aims are: 1) To map and explore the current practices and experiences, as well as anticipated futures, of GLAM digitalisation in Sweden; 2) to investigate how AI/ML-generated descriptions of art and heritage can be enhanced in meaningful ways; 3) to analyse AI/ML methods’ and tools’ compliance with FAIR and international data standards, as well as their reflection of and engagement with diversity and ethics; 4) To explore how we can connect AI to qualitative aspects of the examined material where critical and ethical theories meet with algorithms and mathematics.

The project’s key research questions therefore are: RQ1: What is the current and evolving state of the art of GLAM digitization in Sweden today? RQ2: How can we have more nuanced and meaningful AI/ML generated descriptions on heritage collections? RQ3: How do AI/ML methods and tools comply with FAIR and international data standards? RQ4: How can issues of a qualitative nature (bias, diversity and ethics) be connected to the quantitative nature of AI/ML algorithms used for GLAM digitalisation? The knowledge developed will enable GLAMs in Sweden to present cultural heritage framed by diversity and inclusion, responsive to future audiences. 

The project utilizes case studies which span time and space (across continents) and come in a number of formats, mainly photography, prints and textual archives. These include (mid 19th century- early 20th century) photographic and archival collections of artefacts and people from African and Asian countries collected by Swedish ethnographers, photographic archives of the early archaeological Swedish expeditions to Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus, including pictures of antiksamlingen (objects collected by Swedish professors of Archaeology including some minimal accompanying information such as index cards - date bought/collected). These are digitized and curated by Swedish stakeholders such as the National Museums of World Culture Museums of (National Ethnographic and Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities); the Uppsala Museum Gustavianum with an emphasis on Mediterranean collections; the Svensk Diplomatarium archives (1100-1523 CE) at the National Archives of Sweden (Riksarkivet); and the National Heritage Board of Sweden (Riksantikvarietsämbetet). 

The Project is generously financed for five years by WASP-HS (Autonomous Systems and Software Program-Humanities and Society) initiative of the Wallenberg Foundations. (https://wasp-hs.org)


Senast uppdaterad: 2023-06-07