Big Data/Small Data: GLAM Collections in the 21st Century

Amelia Abreu, USA


In recent years, big data has become a prevalent issue for GLAM research and practice. In an era of big data, can we contemplate collections that rely more on the context of creation than volume and variety of source? This workshop considers what GLAMs can learn from Big Data, but how they might also contribute to an alternate small data approach. Despite the outpouring of critique and theoretical assertions related to big data, little attention has been paid to the collections, researchers and collecting institutions that get left out the rhetoric of big data. Our investigation will develop criteria for studying small data and explore some of the issues inherent in developing small data research. The workshop will also provide a forum for participants and organizers to develop future directions towards a comprehensive small data research agenda. We thus hope to develop and discuss factors for consideration in context, preservation and access of both big and small data in GLAMs.

Workshop Agenda

Lightning Talks: Big and Small Data

All participants will be invited to give 30 second lightning talks on the challenges of big and small data for GLAMs.

Discussion 1:

Challenges and Limitations of Big Data for GLAMs

In this section, the facilitators will present critiques of big data, followed by case studies of small data. Participants will form small groups for breakout discussions.

Exercise 1: Defining approaches to small data

In small groups, workshop attendees will discuss case studies and identify key issues for approaching small data.

Discussion 2: Making Big Data Smaller: Hybrid approaches

In this discussion, we will explore cases (drawing on Ethnography and Geography) where researchers and practitioners have used both big and small data sets.

Exercise 2: Big/Small Data Use Cases

Drawing on their own professional contexts, participants will develop Use Cases for big and small data research in GLAM institutions.

Discussion 3: Designing small data spaces

In this session, we will develop design requirements for small data.

Exercise 3: Prototyping and Wireframing

In groups, we will design small data tools for use in GLAM institutions for further development during the week of the conference.


Participants will present prototypes and develop action plans for development and presentation at the closing sessions on Saturday.


We invite practitioners working with digital collections in GLAM institutions, as well as designers and researchers from academia and industry. Students are especially welcome.


We hope to foster collaboration amongst participants in the form of design requirements, prototypes, and written analysis. We aim to continue the efforts of the workshop in the form of co-authored journal articles, tool development, and a group blog.