Community-led Heritage Knowledge Co-Production for Sustainable Development: community archaeology in Ulster and the Western Isles of Scotland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: Sch of Environmental Sciences

Abstract

For centuries the north coast of Ireland and Western Scotland were intrinsically linked by a common set of cultural traditions, language and political structures. This was a maritime province connected by short and easily navigable sea routes that had its high-water mark with the fifteenth-century Century Lordship of the Isles. The shifting political landscape and other socio-economic changes have meant that the shared identities and connections between these communities have all but vanished, and the Scottish Island communities that were once at the centre of this kingdom now experience geographical and social peripherality and the many problems this brings. With the onset of the Troubles Northern Ireland became increasingly isolated as the extended period of conflict closed the country and paralysed economic growth. As Ulster stutters out of conflict sections of the community are looking increasingly to the past to reaffirm and reposition themselves in contemporary society. Large sections of the unionist tradition look towards Scotland to define their identities and histories in an emerging Ulster Scots tradition. The nationalist community remains firmly embedded in a Gaelic Irish tradition that looks southwards for its cultural identities. Simultaneously, a new sense of nationhood is being developed in Scotland as politicians embrace a selective view of the past that sidelines the role the peoples of the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and others. Yet increasingly, archaeology is demonstrating the depth of connections between these communities and recent excavations of the seventeenth-century town at Dunluce Castle, for example, have confirmed vividly that the shared heritage of this region extended well into the early modern period through a linked economy, familial connections and cultural traditions.
We propose a project to develop a researcher network across Ulster and Western Scotland (University of Ulster, Queen's University Belfast, Glasgow University, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Historic Scotland and the Kilmartin House Trust and co-produce this historic resource working with three communities in the project area (Colonsay Heritage Trust and Kilchattan Primary School, Colonsay Bushmills Heritage Group, Ballintoy Community Group and Millstrand Integrated Primary School in Antrim and Tavvallich Village Commnity Group and Tayvallich Primary School in Mid Argyll. This will build an awareness of a shared past and challenge and question contemporary versions of identity and place. It will play a part in economic regeneration and enhanced community well-being by contributing to current proposals to develop a heritage centre on Colonsay.
We will build on established institutional and community links to create a researcher-community partnership between HE institutions, community groups, schools and heritage organisations within the region. We will bring together existing archaeological research and resources within the project area and findings from an initial programme of archaeological survey and investigation to deliver three open days in May/June 2011 (one each in Colonsay, Kilmartin museum and Kinbane, Antrim), a social networking programme for three schools (one each from Colonsay, Mid Argyll and Antrim) and a web site and online blog to support community-researcher interaction, hosted by the University of Ulster. This will stimulate researcher-community dialogue, support future community-led applications for HLF funding and potential applications for co-produced heritage research projects. A round of follow up meetings and workshops with community and research partners in September/October 2012 will further support this process. The project will culminate in the design and production of a poster, artefact and digital exhibit, displayed in each project area before being permanently housed initially at the village hall on Colonsay to directly support the Colonsay Heritage Trust.

Planned Impact

N/A

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
Breen C (2015) Heritage, identity and community engagement at Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland in International Journal of Heritage Studies

 
Description For much of the past 1500 years north Ulster and the western Scotland was a maritime cultural province connected by short and easily navigable sea routes marked historically be the emergence of the Dál Riada in the seventh century and later by the Lordship of the Isles in the medieval period. Subsequently the Macdonnells dominated the region in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries before it was brought under centralized government control. A programme of excavation and survey work was initiated in 2008 examining these past connections. This included a major five year investigation at Dunluce castle. Further investigations took place at Kinbane, Ballylough and Ballyreagh castles in north Ulster and at both Dunstaffnage castle and Dun Mhuirich in Argyll and at Dun Cholla on Colonsay. In tandem with this an extensive programme of community outreach and engagement was initiated. To date over 3000 school children, drawn from 20 different schools in Northern Ireland and Scotland, have participated in this programme while 18 different community groups have also participated.

The shifting political landscape and other socio-economic changes have meant that the shared identities and connections between these communities have dissipated, and the Scottish Island communities that were once at the centre of this kingdom now experience geographical and social peripherality and the many problems this brings. This project examined the built and material culture heritage of this period across this region and investigated the process of societal and landscape change.

With the onset of the Troubles Northern Ireland became increasingly isolated as the extended period of conflict closed the country and paralysed economic growth. As Ulster moves out of conflict sections of the community are looking increasingly to the past to reaffirm and reposition themselves in contemporary society. Large sections of the unionist tradition look towards Scotland to define their identities and histories in an emerging Ulster Scots tradition. The nationalist community remains firmly embedded in a Gaelic Irish tradition that looks southwards for its cultural identities. Simultaneously, a new sense of nationhood is being developed in Scotland as politicians embrace a selective view of the past that sidelines the role the peoples of the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and others. Yet increasingly, archaeology is demonstrating the depth of connections between these communities and recent excavations of the seventeenth-century town at Dunluce Castle, for example, have confirmed vividly that the shared heritage of this region extended well into the early modern period through a linked economy, familial connections and cultural traditions. Until recently the historic built heritage and associated material culture has been a neglected and undervalued resource across the both localities.
Exploitation Route A detailed programme of further intensive fieldwork is now required. We hope to develop this as an IAASC network project in the coming year.
Sectors Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.iaasc.com
 
Description This project has resulted in eight of our partner community and school groups submitting individual applications to the HLF 'All our stories' programme, the results of which will be announced in September. Separately, we are now working with our partner groups on Colonsay to develop a community learning resource and heritage centre, which will be key to the future sustainability of the island. Our work with the Argyll communities and Kilmartin Trust has resulted in the development of a new learning facility for community-based teaching and interpretation. Our work with the Northern Ireland community groups has helped changed attitudes and develop community cohesion as evidenced through a number of public meetings and workshops funded through PEACE 11 (supporting information is available to substantiate all of this).
Sector Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Network for Integrating archaeology and Sustainability (iaasc) 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We established a network of universities, museums, schools and community groups across Ulster and Scotland.
Collaborator Contribution We investigated a series of archaeological landscapes and initiated a series of community heritage projects.
Impact Outcomes listed elsewhere
Start Year 2012
 
Description Integrating Archaology and Sustainable Communities (IAASC) Ulster and Western Scotland: Follow-on Funding for Community Heritage Project Report 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Summary of Communication and Dissemination



45 individual events took place with communities as part of this project across Scotland and Northern Ireland.



Some participant feedback - "Previously, we knew that there were skills within the group, but we had no way to co-ordinate and mobilize those skills. But our confidence and capacity has grown, thanks to the support and guidance of the research team, who were able to break down barriers and treat us as equals. The project has allowed peo

Far greater community engagement and participation in the work of the university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.iaasc.com