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Sustainability of digital humanities projects as a publication and documentation challenge

Jennifer Edmond (Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)
Francesca Morselli (Data Archiving and Networked Services, Den Haag, Netherlands)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 27 February 2020

Issue publication date: 10 August 2020




This paper proposes a new perspective on the enormous and unresolved challenge to existing practices of publication and documentation posed by the outputs of digital research projects in the humanities, where much good work is being lost due to resource or technical challenges.


The paper documents and analyses both the existing literature on promoting sustainability for the outputs of digital humanities projects and the innovative approach of a single large-scale project.


The findings of the research presented show that sustainability planning for large-scale research projects needs to consider data and technology but also community, communications and process knowledge simultaneously. In addition, it should focus not only on a project as a collection of tangible and intangible assets, but also on the potential user base for these assets and what these users consider valuable about them.

Research limitations/implications

The conclusions of the paper have been formulated in the context of one specific project. As such, it may amplify the specificities of this project in its results.

Practical implications

An approach to project sustainability following the recommendations outlined in this paper would include a number of uncommon features, such as a longer development horizon, wider perspective on project results, and an audit of tacit and explicit knowledge.

Social Implications

These results can ultimately preserve public investment in projects.


This paper supplements more reductive models for project sustainability with a more holistic approach that others may learn from in mapping and sustaining user value for their projects for the medium to long terms.



Funding: This work was supported by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme [grant number 284432].The authors would also like to recognise the contributions of the CENDARI project team.


Edmond, J. and Morselli, F. (2020), "Sustainability of digital humanities projects as a publication and documentation challenge", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 76 No. 5, pp. 1019-1031.



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