Computer Vision for Digital Heritage

A Special Interest Group at The Alan Turing Institute

View the Project on GitHub ComputerVision4DigitalHeritage/sig


Organizers: Katherine McDonough, Daniel van Strien, Kasra Hosseini, Daniel Wilson –> We are members of the Living with Machines digital history project

This group unites international researchers and heritage professionals who have an interest in using digitised image collections (maps, photographs, newspapers, books) in computer vision tasks. Applying CV to historical datasets raises issues of provenance and bias as well as processing challenges distinct from the recent or born digital images used in most computer vision work. We offer researchers at the Turing and beyond an opportunity to establish connections and build this new interdisciplinary field together. We focus on shared practices in data science around computer vision, providing a much needed center of gravity for a growing, otherwise disparate community.

Computer vision refers to a range of tasks and methods aimed at allowing computers to work effectively with images. Common computer vision tasks include the classification of images into different categories and segmenting images into smaller parts based on image content, for example, detecting which parts of an image contains a person. Computer vision methods have been applied across a broad range of scientific and engineering domains including application in self-driving vehicles, processing medical images and to process digitised documents to recognise text content (optical-character-recognition). Increasingly there is a growing interest in applying and expanding these techniques to work with heritage materials including maps, books, newspapers and paintings, which have been digitised. This raises questions about how well computer vision methods developed for other types of images perform on digitised heritage content as well as questions about how we effectively and responsibility work with collections at scale through automated methods.

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Past Presentations

We introduce humanities scholars, data scientists who have never worked with historical data, as well as researchers based in libraries, archives, and museums (the ‘GLAM’ sector) to a distinctively ‘Turing’ approach to computer vision methods. We do this by showcasing inter- and multidisciplinary projects led by Turing and external colleagues already invested in these methods. Recent presentations at our monthly meetings have featured work from:

Participants (in alphbetical order)


Suggest a new resource here!


Key Papers


Map collections