Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage


Melissa Terras is the Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh's Design Informatics in Edinburgh College of Art. She joined the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences in October 2017, leading digital aspects of research within CAHSS at Edinburgh as Founding Director of the Centre for Data, Culture and Society (2018 -), CAHSS Digital Information Officer (2017-2022), as well as building digital capacity in the new Edinburgh Futures Institute as EFI Research Director (2018-2023). Her research focuses on the digitisation of cultural heritage, including its technologies, procedures, and impact, and how this intersects with internet technologies.  She is a Turing Institute Fellow 2018-2023, and serves on the Board of Directors of Transkribus, the Machine-Learning infrastructure for Handwritten Text Recognition. She is the Acting Director of Creative Informatics, the AHRC funded Creative Cluster for Edinburgh and the South East Scotland Region (2018-2024). 

With a background in Classical Art History and English Literature (MA, University of Glasgow), and Computing Science (MSc IT with distinction in Software and Systems, University of Glasgow), her doctorate (Engineering, University of Oxford) examined how to use advanced information engineering technologies to interpret and read Roman texts. Employed at UCL Department of Information Studies from 2003, she was made Honorary Professor of Digital Humanities upon her departure from UCL in 2017, and Honorary Professor in UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, which she directed 2012-2017. Terras was previously Vice Dean of Research in UCL’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities (2014-2017).

Books include “Image to Interpretation: An Intelligent System to Aid Historians in Reading the Vindolanda Texts” (2006, Oxford University Press) and “Digital Images for the Information Professional” (2008, Ashgate), and she has co-edited various volumes such as “Digital Humanities in Practice” (Facet 2012) and “Defining Digital Humanities: A Reader” (Ashgate 2013) which was recently translated into a Russian Edition (Siberian Federal University Press 2017). Her monograph on the representation of academics in children’s literature, Picture Book Professors: Academia and Children's Literature,  was published in open access by Cambridge University Press in 2018, with its companion volume, The Professor in Children's Literature: An Anthology, published simultaneously in open access by Fincham Press. Electronic Legal Deposit: Shaping the library collections of the future, edited with Paul Gooding, was published by Facet in 2020.  Millicent Garrett Fawcett: Selected Writings, edited with Elizabeth Crawford, was published by UCL Press in 2022.  

Terras joined the UK Government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's College of Experts in 2022. Terras is a founding editor of Digital Humanities Quarterly, and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.  She served on the Board of Curators of the University of Oxford Libraries (2013-2019) and had a Scottish Government Appointment on the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland (2013-2022), as well as a being a member of a number of Advisory boards including The British Library Labs, the Scientific Consultative Group of The National Gallery, the Collections and Research Committee of the Science Museum Group, and The Imperial War MuseumsOperation War Diary. Terras is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, is a Chartered IT Professional and Fellow of the British Computer Society, is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters. Terras was the Co-Investigator of the The EPSRC funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA) during its set up period. Terras was program chair of the major international conference Digital Humanities 2014, in Lausanne, Switzerland, vice-chair of DH2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska, and outgoing chair of DH2015 in Sydney, Australia. She served as Secretary of the Association of Literary and Linguistic Computing (now the European Association of Digital Humanities) (2008-2011) and as a Steering committee member of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (2009-2012).

You can generally find her on twitter, at @melissaterras.


Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am interested in hearing from students wishing to undertake doctoral research in any area related to digital cultural heritage including digitisation, digital libraries, user studies, digital editions, digital museums, and the general digital humanities, including text and data mining, any aspects of amateur collecting and online platforms, crowdsourcing, and online public engagement. I am happy to discuss research careers with interested potential PhD students. 

Current PhD students supervised

Topics currently worked on by PhD students include: Understanding best practice in scholarly digital editions; Using data mining methods to understand the impact of the London Library; Using and developing digital interfaces to examine the interconnectedness of museum objects; Information Practices Across The Academic And Non-academic Fields of Oceanography; A pipeline of multispectral imaging for analysing historical texts; and Hyperspectral Imaging for Cultural Heritage Analysis: from books to bricks.  

Past PhD students supervised

Professor Terras has supervised students working on a variety of topics to successful completion, including: User responses to 3D computational models in museum spaces; Imaging the Great Parchment Book; Use and users of large scale digitisation initiatives; Social interpretation and user experience in digital cultural contexts;  Digital Public Archaeology; Multi-spectral imaging of manuscript material; The genesis of the blogging platform: an archival study; The materiality of comic books and digital media; and Building an Interpretation Support System to aid the reading of Ancient Documents.

Research summary

Terras is Co-Investigator on the £10m Creative Informatics AHRC funded Creative Clusters R&D partnership, being undertaken at Edinburgh between 2018 and 2024. She has research interests in a range of funded projects and initiatives applying computational approaches to cultural heritage areas, including Towards Large Scale Cultural Analytics in the Arts and Humanities, Practical applications of IIIF as a building block towards a digital National CollectionTranscriptorium CrosscultOceanic Exchanges, and Digital Library Futures, and numerous unfunded research approaches including the representation of academia in children's literature, and the history of female punchcard operatives in early Digital Humanities projects.  Previous research projects include and Deep Imaging Mummy Cases, Non-Destructive Analysis of Multi-Layered PapyrusQRatorTranscribe Bentham, The Great Parchment Book , The Slade Archive ProjectTextalLog Analysis of Internet Resources in the Arts and HumanitiesVirtual Environments for Research in ArchaeologyeScience and Ancient Documents, and Researching eScience Analysis of Census Holdings.

Research activities

View all 11 activities on Research Explorer

View all 146 publications on Research Explorer