Coventry sky line at night

Coventry Digital: A digital archive for the heritage and culture of Coventry

Funder

Coventry University (City of Culture commitment)

Project team

Benjamin Kyneswood - Coventry University

Collaborators

Coventry University (lead)

Coventry Digital is underpinned by a partnership, which includes major city institutions including Culture Coventry and the Belgrade Theatre as well as local community groups, businesses, artists, families and individuals. Coventry Digital (Cov Dig) also collaborates with other major archives not in the city, including MirrorPix and Historic England.

Value 

£500,000

Duration

2020-present


Project overview

Coventry Digital is an online resource for and about the city of Coventry. It was created by and is maintained by Coventry University as its commitment to City of Culture in 2021/2. The ambition is to create a ‘city’ archive by binding partner archives and making them available as a single resource. It is designed to encourage sharing and reuse, new storytelling and forging new associations. From this we hope that new partnerships and ways of thinking about how archive material is used will emerge to answer today’s questions about how people participate in and see themselves represented in the archive.

Project objectives

  • To archive the year of culture for Coventry;
  • To connect that archive to other significant archives about the city;
  • To identify and connect hidden, quiet or marginal archives;
  • To develop a city model for connecting archives;
  • To explore working-class heritage, how it is managed, saved and re-used;

Impact statement

By engaging the public in generating a very real sense of Coventry’s past and present, beyond a limited view of dominant place narratives curated by authorized professionals, we have shown that hidden, quiet, marginal working-class archives matter. Alongside a significant archive for the UK City of Culture, the first such archive available to the public, 275,000 people have shared an asset since launch, including Coventry’s earliest colour photography of the city’s biodiversity in 1910 and a South-Asian archive from 2006.

Community involvement has provided the energy and new knowledge. The Arthur Cooper archive is a significant newspaper photography archive from between 1930 and 1968 owned by MirrorPix. Community knowledge challenges historiographical approaches to authorized knowledge and is connecting a major publisher directly to local people. This has raised ethical questions about the real value of local knowledge to major companies and has led to a second project iteration looking to use place-based AI.

Coventry Digital assets supported the evaluation of the city of culture, providing images for websites, publications and the Walking Through Coventry Data and virtual exhibitions. This has led to further work with West Midlands Combined Authority.

Outputs

 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023