Not all research data are digital or born-digital. All the physical materials that underpin your published research outputs are research data: from photographs of archival documents, reading notes and reflective journals, to the documentation of your artistic practice or creative process in practice-as-research.

On this page you’ll find some tips to help you start thinking about digitising and preserving your visual arts, practice-based, and non-digital research content.

Visual arts and practice-based research

Visual arts and practice-based research often produces complex multimedia research content, including:

  • preparatory, unfinished, developmental or processual materials
  • trials or tests of materials and working methods
  • physical artefacts
  • cultural probes or diary studies
  • digital and physical records of time-based one-off events, such as exhibitions, musical improvisations, installations, or performances

Good portfolio curation practices ensure that the documentation of your creative process and artistic practice can be preserved, and that the impact and reach of your work is maximised, helping you to build your profile as a practitioner-researcher and demonstrate your rigour as an artist.

Building a personal archive will also save you time and effort when you come to reappraise past work, and it can maximise the potential for re-use of your work by others.

Writing a curation or digitisation plan (or a ‘data management plan’) at the beginning of a new piece of work can help you think about how you will visualise and document your creative process, and how you will create or acquire, curate, store, digitise, and preserve this research content.  For further guidance on this, please see our write a data management plan page.

If you use websites or platforms such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Flikr to share your creative outputs and disseminate your research, you should also think about how you will preserve this material more securely long-term, for example, by depositing copies of these materials in a repository.

When sharing and preserving your research materials, you may wish to think about how you will protect your intellectual property. For more information about copyright for researchers and assigning Creative Commons licenses to your work, please see our copyright for researchers introduction on the library webpages.

You can also read our guidance on making your practice-based arts research open and creating a digital portfolio in the Virtual Research Environment on the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office blog.

Non-digital data

Most researchers keep hand-written laboratory notebooks, journals and other materials which are not created or stored on a computer at all.

Writing a digitisation plan (or a ‘data management plan’) at the beginning of a new piece of research can help you to think about how you will create, store, digitise, and preserve your physical and non-digital research data.

You should think about how you will make digital copies of non-digital data, for example, by taking digital photographs, scanning documents to your University e-mail account, or transcribing audio and video files.

You should also think about how you will keep track of which materials you have digitised, and which still need to be backed-up digitally. You can find guidance on writing a data management on our write a data management plan page.

You should also think about how you will protect physical materials or artefacts that cannot be digitised. These unique materials are at particular risk of loss, so you should make sure that they are protected some other way. A fireproof safe could be a good investment.

For further information and advice on physical storage and off-site storage, contact the University Records and Archives team at [email protected].

More information

For ideas and tools for beginning to work digitally, see The Digital Humanities Toolbox created by Purdue University.

If you are a researcher with CREAM, you can find guidance on creating and updating portfolios and other practice-based research outputs in the VRE.

Researchers in architecture can find guidance on creating and updating portfolios and other practice-based research outputs for researchers in architecture in the VRE.

For further information on digitisation and storage, see:

Contact us

For further guidance and support, contact the research data management officer at [email protected].