Newcastle’s Discovery Museum is the first in the UK to showcase the results of the Science Museum Group’s technology-led research project ‘The Congruence Engine’.
The three year project, which began in 2021, uses digital tools – including AI – to connect industrial history collections held in different locations. It is one of five ‘Discovery Projects’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the ‘Towards a National Collection’ funding stream.
The project has been designed to connect thousands of objects, documents, maps, photographs and films from hundreds of museum collections and archives, with the aim of telling new stories about the nation’s industrial history.
The Congruence Engine display at the Discovery Museum, part of its Powering the Past exhibition, features four films which link together machines, folk songs, photographs and maps from Newcastle, which it said will “[bring] the city’s heritage to life”.
The Science Museum Group said the project utilises “computational and AI techniques – including machine learning and natural language processing – to create and refine datasets, provide routes between records and digital objects such as scans and photographs, and create the tools by which the historian and curator participants will be able to enjoy and employ the sources that are opened to them”.
Research from the Congruence Engine will also be on interactive display at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford in 2024, before the project draws to a close later in the autumn.
Tim Boon, Head of Research for the Science Museum Group, and Congruence Engine Project Leader, said: The display will “show some of the exciting possibilities from using AI to unlock and link together museum and archive collections to tell new stories of our industrial past.”
Kylea Little, Keeper of History at Discovery Museum, added: “We are thrilled to be the first venue to showcase this important work taking place. It highlights the role of the North East and Charles Parsons’ ground-breaking steam- turbine, its place in the world, and the region’s coal mining heritage too.
“We’re very grateful to be part of the project and look forward to sharing these new films with our visitors.”