CREATING DIGITAL COMMUNITIES: BRINGING TOGETHER NEW GROUPS IN CONVERSATION

This panel explored three very different ways of working in partnership with communities to unlock the meaning of collections, tell new stories and develop new platforms for exchange.


GETTING TO KNOW OUR PLACE:  BRISTOL RECORD OFFICE AND THE KNOW YOUR PLACE WEBSITE
Julian Warren, Bristol Record Office, and Nick Nourse, University of Bristol

Know Your Place is a website that allows visitors to explore Bristol’s neighbourhoods through historic maps, images and linked information (http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/knowyourplace/). Historic scaled maps from Bristol Record Office collections have been added in ‘layers’ onto Bristol City Council’s Geographic Information System (GIS) system. Built to pinpoint the location of city assets and infrastructure, from public toilets to fibre optics, constituency boundaries to wildlife corridors, the platform has also been designed to incorporate digital surrogates from the city’s archives.

This paper will introduce Know Your Place, and how Bristol Record Office image collections are being used in its ongoing development. In particular, it will reflect on a recent 18 month project, developed in partnership with the University of Bristol, in which over 2,500 digitised postcards from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were selected and researched by volunteers; their findings uploaded alongside the postcards to create a detailed, historic ‘street view’ of Bristol. We will touch on the methodological and practical realities of co-producing a complex partnership project with a community of volunteers. And we will also examine the wider impact and implications that the project is now having on the work of the Record Office as it begins to open up collections to these new arrangements. Images can now be found and their context understood via their position on the historic maps, as well as via their position within a structured hierarchical archive catalogue, which is leading to increased use of these collections by neighbourhood community groups and professional planners, architects and archaeologists concerned with the development of the city.


DIGITAL VOICES, REAL LIVES
Caroline Brown and Jan Merchant, University of Dundee

This presentation will look at the evolution of a traditional oral history project based at the University of Dundee Archive Services.

The project began as an attempt to supplement and add value to the Archives by interviewing people with connections to our collections or by targeting topics or organisations that are under represented. It soon became clear that the digital environment raises questions about traditional approaches to oral history but also offers opportunities for recording and engagement which were previously unavailable.

The paper will cover the following issues drawing on the practical experience of the speakers as well as on literature and best practice:

  1. Are oral recordings still sufficient or should video recordings be used?
  2. Is there room for spontaneous recording (for example with iphones)?
  3. How can the recordings be best promoted and used?

A key aim of the project is to avoid the creation of a static digital vault. We want the experience to be a way of engaging with new audiences. Our interviewees contribute to our collections but they are also our ambassadors, reaching out to communities who would otherwise have no connections with the Archive. We are creating recordings to be used and reused, to create and reinforce memories, to be commented on, and to be linked to other projects and sources.

The presentation will discuss how through the digital environment, the Archive website (using a fairly restricted CMS) and other projects, we have created a living archive that is used and engaged with by students, academics and the community.


RE-ANIMATING THE ARCHIVES
Alison Green and Birgitta Hosea, Central Saint Martins

How can digital media augment old spaces and things? Using the exhibition, CUT! (Old Operating Theatre Museum, London, 2014) as a case study, we will present a project that juxtaposed original, auratic objects with reinterpretations in the form of short digital animations. CUT! was a collaboration between the Museum and students from two courses at Central Saint Martins, MA Character Animation and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation.

The aim of the exhibition was to bring back a sense of the people who had once worked or been treated in a space now filled with glass cases and curious objects. Animations inspired by the museum’s quirky range of artefacts from medical history were created by students from MA Character Animation. The forty films were curated by students from MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, placed as interventions into the museum’s permanent collection, like a haunting or re-­animation of the historic objects.

The exhibition, conceived as an experiment and which proved popular with visitors, raised issues about how audiences relate differently to ‘history’ versus ‘the present’ and how different people engage with different types of objects and technology. The paper will theorise these results through discussions of animation and haunting (Cholodenko, 2007 & 2011) and memory as speech versus memory as object (Derrida, 1996). Both presenters have led several collaborative projects with students working with museums. We are interested in exploring what such projects mean for our respective fields—digital animation and curating—and, further, reflecting upon these partnerships as forms of pedagogy.