Artificial Intelligence: Digital Heritage Leadership Briefing

Artificial Intelligence: Digital Heritage Leadership Briefing


Explore Dr. Mathilde Pavis' insightful briefing on the role of AI in the UK heritage sector, commissioned by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Understand how AI can enhance heritage and collections management, visitor experience, and business operations, while also learning about the potential risks and mitigation strategies.

3 figures stand on a pathway through one of the impressive greenhouses at Kew Gardens.

Kew Gardens is working with partners to track the traffic of endangered plants by using AI to identify rare plants from photos.

Executive summary

This briefing has been commissioned by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to provide decision makers with a snapshot of what innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI) looks like across the UK heritage sector.
  • AI refers to advanced computer programs capable of performing tasks usually associated with human intelligence like understanding speech or recognising images.
  • Many heritage organisations are thinking about whether to, how and when to use AI. As with all technology investment, the organisations’ values and strategic aims should be carefully considered. Properly resourced planning should be undertaken, focusing on effective and ethical use of AI.
  • Heritage organisations are using AI in three key areas of their work: heritage and collections management, use and research; visitor experience; and, business operations and management. Organisations use off-the-shelf AI tools for productivity to initiate tasks like generating new ideas for marketing content or producing transcripts of events proofread by staff before publication. Organisations have also adapted open-source AI systems to automate certain work like adding metadata tags into their catalogue to make their collections easier to find online.
  • Heritage organisations with experience using AI stress the need to improve on core digital infrastructure like data management and storage as well as workforce development and volunteer training to use the technology effectively and safely.
  • Experts worldwide have highlighted a range of risks associated with certain AI applications, including bias, discrimination, misinformation and rights infringement. The risks involved will vary depending on the type of AI application. For example, the risk of discrimination can be higher when AI is used to identify people in images or the risk of rights infringement may increase when AI is trained on copyright protected content.
  • AI risks can be managed in different ways depending on the AI application. For example, using open-source AI systems trained on the organisation’s own materials free of rights or with permissions could manage the risk of rights infringement. Reviewing information produced by AI and labelling it as AI-generated content before publication could manage the risk of misinformation.
  • As trusted knowledge institutions, and as stewards of rich collections and datasets, UK heritage organisations are well positioned to contribute to AI innovation and good practice. To do this, they will need to be able to collectively understand and engage critically with legal and technical developments in AI.

Download Artificial Intelligence: Digital Heritage Leadership Briefing (PDF)

‘Digital Heritage Leadership Briefing: Artificial Intelligence’ by Mathilde Pavis (2023) supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, CC BY 4.0

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Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2023