Engaging Crowds: Citizen research and heritage data at scale harnesses the capabilities of people-powered research to enrich understanding of cultural heritage collections through digitally enabled participation. Citizen research enables volunteers, including people previously not reached by cultural heritage organizations, to participate in research projects, helping classify, annotate or transcribe collections.
Engaging Crowds explores the current and potential practice of engaging diverse audiences with the creation, use and reuse of heritage data. It investigates best practice in the citizen research landscape, by considering how institutions assess, present and value the work of volunteers and by working with three groups that are potential recipients of the data volunteers produce: collections-holding organisations, machine learning algorithms, and the citizens themselves. Engaging Crowds is developing a new indexing tool that gives volunteers the agency to choose their own pathway through a project and will evaluate it by running three citizen research projects. A report based on these findings together will recommend the best ways of encouraging and supporting meaningful public interaction with heritage collections.
The project is led by The National Archives, with the Zooniverse team at the University of Oxford, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, and Royal Museums Greenwich. All partners have significant experience of conducting citizen research projects, not least using Zooniverse, a free, open source platform with more than 1.9 million volunteers worldwide. Engaging Crowds aims to promote open discovery and research, interdisciplinary working across sectors and equality, diversity and inclusion.