In March, CDH welcomed participants from across the world to our online Cultural Heritage Data School. Through a mixture of sessions taught live on Zoom, email fora and self-directed study using tutorials developed by our teaching team, Data School participants have been exploring a wide range of digital methods from applying machine learning to image collections to data cleaning, named entity recognition and visualising geodata. We asked participants to introduce themselves by bringing along an object which symbolised something about why they wanted to join the Data School – here are some of their varied responses.


Dr. Dorothy Sebbowa Kyagaba

Makerere University, Uganda

Dr. Dorothy Sebbowa Kyagaba is a lecturer at the Department of Humanities and Language Education, Makerere University, Uganda. Her background is in History Education. Her areas of interest include; Cultural Heritage, Digital Humanities, Slavery, Decolonization and Design Based Research.

She shares the traditional drum as a symbol of Ugandan culture. The Ugandan traditional drum is locally known as “ngoma” in Luganda language. Traditionally, the drum was used as a means of communication to call people for village meetings, to celebrate the birth of twins, performance of cultural rituals, played in times of war, planting and harvesting among others. However, at 58 years after Independence, Uganda is still recovering from the Colonial legacy, which dismissed its culture as primitive and negative (Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda, 2018). To this end, the current generation of learners lack a shared identity and understanding of the relevance and the value of cultural heritages such as the Ugandan traditional drum, which remains constantly at risk of becoming obsolete, and in many cases destroyed. Dorothy is looking out for methods and processes of digitizing the Ugandan traditional drum to attract the new generation of learners (digital natives) who are the future custodians of upholding cultural heritages in Uganda and as well as their preservation and sustainability.


Nesli Gül

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Nesli Gül is an independent researcher, curator, and art writer, based in Amsterdam, she is interested in re-examining and re-interpreting art archives through the transmission of historical knowledge based on individual and collective memory, artistic identity, and contemporary art.

The image she shared with us is the front cover of an exhibition booklet called “Turkse Kunstenaars in Nederland” (Turkish Artist in the Netherlands), organized in 1993 in Stadsgaleri, Emmen in the Netherlands by brining 14 artists, who are immigrants from Turkey and who stayed a while in the Netherlands. Her research focuses on the impact of contemporary artist who moved from Turkey to the Netherlands by revealing, comparing and assessing how their representation, participation, and practices change, vary, and expand from the late 1980s to the present.

Felix Bayode Oke

University of Lagos, Nigeria

Felix Bayode Oke from the University of Lagos chose this picture from the Eyo festival, one the major cultural events he has been working to document digitally. He is a cultural data analyst with an interest in cultural heritage data (intangible materials), which motivates his research into digital pedagogy and digital humanities. He is experienced in working with computational tools for both linguistics and humanistic research.

Aude Alexandre

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Aude Alexandre from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium chose a volume which documents the collections at the museum where she works.

“Drawing on its rich archives, this book tells the multi-faceted history of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB). I am thrilled to participate in the Cambridge Cultural Heritage Data School and explore new ways of making the Archives of RMFAB more easily accessible through new DH methods. Sharing is caring: caring about the museum’s memory and caring about facilitating the research of others.”

Sara Hale

British Library, UK

Sara Hale, Digitisation Officer for the Heritage Made Digital Project at the British Library, chose a bookmark which doubles as a magnifying glass:

“I’m taking part in the Data School to learn how to analyse and make accessible the collections, data and images produced by digitisation. My object is a magnifying bookmark – brand name ‘optical fantasies’. I chose this to represent all that digitisation can achieve in allowing us to view books in new and creative ways.”


Augustine Farinola

University of Birmingham, UK

Augustine Farinola is a PhD Researcher at the University of Birmingham, UK. He brought along a ‘Talking Drum’ as an introduction to his archival project which inspired him to join the Data School.

“Although my current dissertation is a Postphenomenological reflection on issues and practices relating to computer-assisted textual analysis in literary studies, my interest in the field of Digital Humanities includes digital archiving and visual analysis. Starting our training at the Cultural Heritage Data School of the University of Cambridge, it was a pleasure to meet colleagues from various institutions across the globe. At that session, I displayed ‘Talking Drum’ as an object that captures my ongoing archiving project entitled ‘PaintMeBlack’ []. That ‘talking drum’ is an instantiation of African cultural artefacts whose meaning lies beyond their aesthetics but in the rationale behind their design and the embedded codes in their implementation. In building a digital archive for such cultural objects, my goal is to document those meanings and values which are deeply rooted in African epistemic framework.”

Dominik Bönisch

Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany

Dominik Bönisch works at an art museum called the Ludwig Forum in Aachen as project manager of the research project called ” Training the Archive”, which investigates the use of artificial intelligence in museums.. He chose his headphones as a way to symbolise the way in which the move to online events has allowed him to collaborate despite the need to work remotely:

“I chose my headset as object. Normally I use it to shut myself off a bit and block out the world by listening to music so I can concentrate. But today it’s the exact opposite. Since everything is digital and remote, the headset has become a symbol for my work. Not only is the subject of my research completely digital, but I had to assemble a team entirely online.

I attended many conferences with the headset and also online training. That’s what brought me to this course, which I might not have been able to do otherwise, but here online with my headset it’s uncomplicated.”

Dorothy told us that she had found the Data School sessions engaging despite not having much prior experience with digital methods:

“After the live sessions and hands on experience with interactive tools at the Cambridge Cultural Heritage I obtained digital knowledge and skills through hands on practical experiences and learning by doing. Moreover, the live sessions facilitated collaborative learning through interacting with participants from different continents of the world.”

Aude also found the Data School programme introduced her to new skills in a collaborative environment:

“The program of the CCHDS was very well built to give a panorama of the tools and methods useful in a DH project. Of course the DH are a very large topic, but the School answered my particular needs about indexing and enriching archival documents. I very much appreciated the pragmatic approach of the teaching. Through the Jupyter Notebooks for example was the session on NER also a practical introduction to Python!”