Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities – what’s not to like?

The full title of the DCDC annual conference, Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities has a ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ quality to it. Anyone who has attended a DCDC conference will probably have come away with at least two impressions of the event. Firstly, surprise at the sheer quantity and diversity of material that is being carefully curated and made accessible by libraries, archives and digital collections. And secondly, just how committed and passionate people are about the materials, records, documents, images, recordings, films, etc. that they are responsible for. The extent to which these archives and collections are being used in research, teaching and audience engagement is impressive.

DCDC18 welcome reception – Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

The DCDC Conference was first organised by RLUK (Research Libraries UK) and TNA (The UK National Archives) in 2013 and from the outset appears to have correctly identified a gap in provision for an event that enables organisations with responsibility for collections to discuss issues, barriers, problems and opportunities. The value of congregating in one place, face-to-face, for a few dedicated days to share stories and swap notes may be tricky to formally quantify in terms of a cost-benefit calculation – but it is relatively easy to justify in terms of connections made, ideas sparked, inspiration, motivation, and knowledge gained.

For example, at the 2017 conference, I found myself having to completely recalibrate my ideas about risk management after listening to the courageous exploits of North Somerset Council as they worked in secret with the anonymous artist Banksy to create a complex and provocative art installation in support of their regeneration plan for Weston-Super-Mare.1 In 2018, Jo Fox’s keynote made the increasingly urgent and critical connection between the role of archives and the emergence of the concept of ‘fake news’ – both in terms of the importance of ensuring an accurate cultural record and of the implicit problems of archiving propaganda.2

In 2019, Jisc joined forces with RLUK and TNA as a co-organiser of the conference series and we are delighted to be taking a more hands-on role with an event that we have always viewed as an essential date in the calendar. One of the biggest issues that organisations and individuals who are responsible for collections face is how best to exploit all the opportunities that digital technologies offer. Whilst our organising partners are clearly ideally placed to represent and champion libraries and archives as types of institution, Jisc is uniquely suited to provide support and advocacy for a wide range of relevant digital content, methods and solutions.

Working collaboratively to provide a forum for diverse communities to come together to explore best practice and find ways to get useful and interesting content in front of learners and researchers is an exemplary way for Jisc to work on behalf of its members. Not only does it practically support discovery and help to disseminate collections, it is a great opportunity to push the digital agenda and to spot trends, identify gaps and clarify requirements across a wide range of stakeholder organisations.

We are looking forward to welcoming delegates to Birmingham on 12th – 14th November 2019 for what promises to be another diverse and inspiring programme of sessions and workshops. Registration closes on 11th October so if you haven’t got your tickets yet – you need to get a move on!

Register at the conference website –

  1. Dismaland by Banksy –
  2. Jo Fox (Director of the Institute of Historical Research), ‘Fake News’ Into the 21st Century, DCDC18,
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By Neil Grindley

Director of Content & Discovery Services at Jisc. With oversight of Jisc's library and archival discovery services and content solutions for HE and FE.

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