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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Professor Claire Warwick

Rimmer, J., Warwick, C., Blandford, A., Gow, J. & Buchanan, G. (2008). An examination of the physical and the digital qualities of humanities research. Information Processing and Management 44(3): 1374-1392.

Author(s) from Durham


Traditionally humanities scholars have worked in physical environments and with physical artefacts. Libraries are familiar places, built on cultural traditions over thousands of years, and books are comfortable research companions. Digital tools are a more recent addition to the resources available to a researcher. This paper explores both the physical and the digital qualities of modern humanities research, drawing on existing literature and presenting a study of humanities scholars’ perceptions of the research resources they use. We highlight aspects of the physical and digital that can facilitate or hinder the researcher, focusing on three themes that emerge from the data: the working environment; the experience of finding resources; and the experience of working with documents. Rather than aiming to replace physical texts and libraries by digital surrogates, providers need to recognise the complementary roles they play: digital information environments have the potential to provide improved access and analysis features and the facility to exploit the library from any place, while the physical library and resources provide greater authenticity, trustworthiness and the demand to be in a particular place with important material properties.

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