Innovation Pilot Projects

A number of pilot projects have been undertaken to explore what opportunities – creative, strategic and technological- there may be in the seamless provision of the rich content (from audiovisual to images to text based works to film) held by range of organisations across the public-sector to enhance educational and research opportunities. These projects broadly aim to support the Digital Public Space initiative in terms of how to take material that exists in digital form, from television programmes to scanned texts to 3-D models of objects in museums, and make it available to the wider public in a way that will support the aspirations of many different organisations with many different missions.

Chronicle: BBC Northern Ireland’s news from the sixties and seventies


The audio-visual archives of the BBC contain a wealth of material gathered since it was founded in the 1920’s but it remains largely inaccessible, held on film or videotape and indexed to serve the needs of programme-makers within the BBC. ‘Chronicle’ is a new project that explores how material from the BBC’s extensive archive of news coverage of Northern Ireland can be made available for use in further and higher education, combining digitised film and video with tools which can be used to search and tag coverage to be used in research or teaching.

Delivered through a partnership between the JISC-funded Strategic Content Alliance, the British University Film and Video Council (BUFVC) and the BBC, ‘Chronicle’ is one of several initiatives from the Archive Development group at the BBC. Its goal is to explore ways in which researchers and teachers can be given access to material from the archive while in return delivering public value back in the form of improved data and information about its own collections for the BBC.

Chronicle provides Authenticated Users with access to digitised copies of news and current affairs material covering Northern Ireland and The Troubles, along with web-based tools allowing it to be searched, viewed and annotated.

Television News from the Sixties and Seventies

This period was chosen in part because there is very little audiovisual material covering Northern Ireland politically or culturally in depth from that time, and during preliminary discussions several organisations and individuals in the academic sector indicated a ‘significant need’ for such historically significant materials.

There is also an archival need to digitise the material from the period: between 1969 and1981 news material was recorded on 16mm film and a significant proportion of this footage is now in need of preservation while coverage from 1981 onward was recorded on Beta or Digibeta tape and at much less risk of deterioration.

For additional information please see the ‘frequently asked questions’.

Academic Engagement

The project is shaped by an Academic Steering Group made up of scholars from participating institutions including the University of Westminster, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Ulster, St Mary’s University College and Royal Holloway University of London. Members suggest material to be digitised, looking at specific events like the 1980 hunger strikes or broader themes like powersharing, as well as reviewing the academic value of the project as it runs.

It is recognised that some material may be considered historically and politically sensitive. Content complies with BBC editorial guidelines, while user-generated metadata will be moderated, and provision is being made within the tools provided for material to be taken offline for review if that proves necessary.

Universities represented in the Academic Steering Group

  • University of Westminster
  • Queens University Belfast
  • St Mary’s University College
  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • University of Ulster

JISC World War One commemoration activities


2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. It is a landmark event for educators and custodians of cultural heritage alike, offering an opportunity to use digital content to its fullest in helping teachers, learners and researchers in higher education reinterpret, reengage and re-create a new social memory of a war that changed the UK and the globe politically, culturally, economically and socially.

JISC/SCA have undertaken a broad spectrum of work around the centenary in order to create, expose, enhance and aggregate digital content to suit the requirements of education and research. Broadly these can be categorised into 3 areas:

1)      Understanding the requirements for education and research

In order to help create or enhance content digital content to meet the requirements of education and research, we first need to identify what those requirements are. We need to understand which content is currently being used, how it is being used and what the impediments are for further exploitation and integration in teaching, learning and research, so that these impediments can be resolved.

The ‘Digital Content for the First World War’ report, undertaken by King’s College London, considers the requirements of academics in a teaching and research capacity and suggests a range of recommendations to ensure that digital content provision and development supports these needs, so that digital content can be effectively embedded to academic practice. This is complimented by an online collections database which captures information on UK University, archive, library and museum holdings relating to the conflict.

2)      Creating/ enhancing digital content:

The JISC-funded World War One: Continuations and Beginnings project at the University of Oxford surfaces a range of Open Educational Resources (digital materials that can be re-used for teaching, learning, research and more, made available free through open licenses), through a cross-disciplinary set of thematic collections that reappraise the War in its social, historical and cultural context. Each theme also includes a series of expert commentaries created by some of the most notable academics in the field of First World War studies and related disciplines. This project also delivered an excellent example of how social media can be employed to interpret and engage people with key aspects of the war through it’s ‘Arras95’ twitter campaign which re-examined the Battle of Arras, 95 years after it took place.

The JISC WW1 Discovery project at MIMAs at the University of Manchester also aims to make First World War digital content resources more discoverable through the development of innovative web presentation layers and technological development which will enable machine-to-machine communication.  We’re aiming to achieve this by building an aggregation API and discovery layer for content from a range of digital collections, and by finding new and innovative ways of presenting this content for the benefit of education and research.

3)      Developing mechanisms for collaboration

We believe that is essential that JISC, with other organisations, funders, content providers and agencies, should work effectively and in collaboration to develop content which can engage, excite and inform our respective audiences. Effective collaboration at a strategic level not only fosters opportunities for enhanced content creation and delivery but reduces the risk of duplication of effort and provides better value for money. By building mechanisms for collaboration, any potential investment ‘goes further’ & delivers better experiences for less.

A good example of collaboration being the basis of content creation and enhancement was the JISC/ Wikimedia UK ‘Editathon’ at the British Library. This ‘first of its kind’ event brought together academic experts and editors of Wikipedia (Wikipedians) to create and improve Wikipedia articles on topics related to the First World War. The aim of the event was to increase coverage and make the information as accurate, consistent, wide-ranging and up-to-date as possible and to build bridges between Wikipedian and academic communities.