Moving On

I am delighted to announce that I will be joining the University of Sussex in September as Lecturer in Digital Humanities (Digital History/Archives) at the School of History, Art History & Philosophy and the Sussex Humanities Lab.

It is with mixed emotions that I leave the British Library. When I joined the Digital Research team in March 2013 I was fresh out of a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. On my first day at the BL I was tasked with managing a project on a tight deadline that required more data wrangling than I was then comfortable with, working in partnership with an external company, setting up a NAS device, getting data out of our digital library system (including figuring out who to ask what and how to find who who to ask), gathering user requirements, and building a roadmap to getting our data out to researchers. In short it was a real life, post-interview test of everything I had claimed I was and could be. I think I passed. But I don’t think success or failure was really the point. Rather the task was designed (I see now…) to jog me out of my academic comfort zone and get me working on multiple levels, with multiple collaborators across and beyond the Library, at multiple speeds. That juggling of levels, collaborators, and speeds has pretty much defined my time at the Library since. And it has been a blast. I can honestly say that I can count of the fingers of one hand the days in the last two or so years on which I got up in the morning and didn’t really want to go to work (if pushed, I could probably tell you why and when for each). I know I have been enormously lucky and for that I am enormously grateful.

And yet I willingly move on. I am super excited about my new role and the opportunity it offers to build something, largely from scratch, with a diverse, experienced, and growing team. Even so I leave behind some amazing colleagues from which I have learnt so very much and hope – through collaboration – to learn from again. Non-existent virtual rosettes go to Ben for not telling me the answers (ergo, not just giving me the code) but rather prodding me to figure it out myself. To Adam for leading in such a way that gave me the space to explore, the impetus to take on tricky, innovative projects, and the responsibility for writing lots of funding bids (which wasn’t all fun but did teach me lots and lots). To Jeremy for being a font of knowledge for all things personal digital archives. And, of course, to AquilesNora, and Stella – my awesome and tirelessly enthusiastic fellow ‘Digital Curators’ (as we are awkwardly known) – with whom I have shared much more than just office space, but ideas, successes, frustrations, and a gloriously liberating ‘do first figure out the consequences later’ spirit that has enabled us to do amazing things like put ONE MILLION digitised illustrations online in one dump (like the one above… I should say of course that Ben and Mahendra played their own massive parts in this), run an internal digital scholarship training programme that is (probably) the envy of libraries everywhere, and let you fly through pre-fire London (well, this was all Stella, but I guess we gave her the space to play!). To everyone else, and you are too many to mention, you were awesome as well.

I expect the content on this blog won’t change all that much: work in progress research, reflections on digital practice, and all things late-Georgian satirical prints will remain the focus of my ramblings. My contact details, however, will change. From 13 August I will no longer pick up emails to james{dot}baker{at}bl{dot}uk. Thereafter please direct your correspondence to drjameswbaker{at}gmail{dot}com which, in time, I shall integrate with my a Sussex email address. Failing that, I can be reached day and night (wifi/4g willing) on the twitters.


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