The research project ”Digital Models. Techno-historical collections, digital humanities & narratives of industrialisation” (funded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, between 2016-19) is a collaboration between the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology, with a national responsibility for technical and industrial heritage, and the digital humanities hub, HUMlab at Umeå University. Based on selected parts of the museum’s collections the project aims to explore the potential of digital technologies to reframe Swedish industrialisation and its stories about society, people and environments. In short, the project uses three different cultural heritage perspectives to examine the specificity of digitisation and its potential to bridge research, institutional heritage and interest from the general public. Material from the museum’s collections selected for digitisation (and research) are all related to different phases of Swedish industrialisation. Hence, the underlying project idea is that heritage institutions should not only devote themselves to digitise their collections, but also make it possible for researchers and visitors to use digital heritage through various kinds of applications, tools and software.
The starting point of the project are three selected categories of material in the museum collections which in various ways mirrors the ”three phases of industrialisation”: (A) parts of the business leader and industry historian, Carl Sahlin’s (1861-1943) extensive collection. (B), all editions of the museum yearbook, Daedalus ( 1931-2014), and (C) 31 so called models from Swedish pre-industrial inventor Christopher Polhem’s ”mechanical alphabet” from the early 1700s. These materials and phases correspond to three methodological approaches: traditional digitisation (A), mass digitisation (B) and critical digitisation (C). Digitisation methods are hence correlated with different industrial-historical periods, and in effect they will result in three sets of digital tools, applications and/or game prototypes focused on various narratives of Swedish industrialisation.