Sound, Craft, Vision, Place: Research for Community Heritage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Huddersfield
Department Name: Sch of Music Humanities & Media

Abstract

Sound, Craft, Vision, Place will draw together a team of researchers from the arts and humanities to assist the promotion, development and provision of innovative outreach activities to encourage community groups to explore and articulate their heritage for themselves, and to stimulate projects for HLF funding.

The project themes emphasise the importance of oral history, music, art and design, and digital media at the University of Huddersfield, and our ability to draw on expertise beyond the humanities to provide tools that will attract community interest and prompt project ideas. Community groups themselves will be encouraged to specify the kinds of research areas and methods where collaboration or help would be welcomed. We are especially keen to involve those who have encountered barriers to enjoying the heritage, and an important part of our project will be the role to be played by local and virtual communities in the interpretation of their own backgrounds and surroundings, including web- and digital-based activity to encourage virtual volunteering as a communal activity, undertaken both by people who are connected by place and/or by shared experiences and interests.

Among our partners will be the National Coal Mining Museum for England, English Heritage, the Royal Armouries, as well as local community groups, with all of whom we shall be working to develop ideas for projects involving free access to archive materials.

Planned Impact

The nature of this project is that it seeks to transfer knowledge and skills from the university to wider society, and the 'impact summary' therefore outlines the project as a whole.

Who will benefit?

The aims of the project in regard to who will benefit are twofold. First we intend to enhance the use of high-quality research by our existing partnerships, such as the Royal Armouries, the National Coal Mining Museum for England, the Thackray Museum and Leeds City Museums. In each case, the intention is to encourage active engagement with research by their staff and users. We also wish to encourage previous smaller partners and user groups gained through projects such as Asian Voices (oral history of the first generation of south Asian immigrants) to further explore how to utilise direct research findings (rather than just data) from existing projects (for example by directing them towards similar projects in other parts of the country).

Secondly, we want to extend the range of public engagement and use of academic research to newer groups by offering an attractive and appealing set of resources, showcased through the open days, roadshows and gateway website. These beneficiaries are likely to be local and regional but by providing templates and toolkits for 'how to find out' we expect links to be made further afield and the benefits to be more widely diffused. Such beneficiaries might include family historians and genealogists, youth groups and schools, local historians, those interested in building conservation, amateur archaeologists, metal detector enthusiasts, church and other faith groups, Beaver, Scout and Explorer groups and so on. A further example is the potential of aerial photography as a catalyst for the exploration of community and personal histories - the role to be played by local and virtual communities in the interpretation and exploitation of these images. We will be encouraging virtual volunteers to explore their own heritage through the photographs, helping identify exactly what is shown in each image, and enhancing the collection by uploading their own stories, reminiscences, film and photography. The web-site is designed to support such virtual volunteering as a communal activity, undertaken both by people who are connected by place and/or by shared experiences and interests.

We will use existing databases of community heritage organisations held by Kirklees Metropolitan Council and others to develop the spread of impact but we also intend, through concerted publicity and active strategy, to draw in new, and hopefully, unexpected community groups. We recognize that some community groups will draw benefits not foreseen or developed by the university.

How will they benefit from the research?

The project seeks to stimulate interest in a wide range of aspects of the past. It will seek to show how university research in history, oral history, design, architecture, archaeology, music and digital media can enrich the public's understanding and develop their access to their own areas of interest. It will not seek to prescribe what aspects of the past have significance but will guide people towards application of rigorously researched knowledge and establish and innovate skills for communicating that knowledge to others. To this end it will draw on other parts of the university, including TV and radio broadcast journalism, and computing (for application of advanced new technologies - to explore the possibilities and to encourage the social networking generation into enagement). It will encourage greater knowledge and understanding of resources in museums and archives leading to greater footfall among all types of user. It will enable a sustained conversation between arts and humanities at the university and community heritage groups for mutual benefit.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project put a team of university members at the service of community groups who wished to develop new project proposals. There is a large appetite for such participation, although the form it takes and the ways in which it expresses itself vary from place to place. Hence, while we put much the same effort into promoting open days at Barnsley and Oldham, Barnsley was predisposed to greater participation by its existing tradition of community history, whereas the prevailing view we met at Oldham was that the town offers little or nothing to be interested in. Yet Oldham's potential for community heritage is as rich as anywhere. While great effort was aimed at hard-to-reach groups, there is more to learn about how this can be targeted.

Barnsley taught us that too large a group at an open day can be unwieldy: presenters can find themselves spread thinly if they are much in demand during informal sessions or sub-groups, the researcher contributions run the risk of becoming lectures rather than interactive exchanges, while eager community groups may be vocal and keen to ask questions, perhaps at the expense of others. This was reinforced at Oldham, the second and least well attended open day, which was nonetheless particularly productive because of the scope for extended discussion and exchange that this intimacy enabled. We accordingly factored this into the planning for Huddersfield, where we ran a number of parallel sessions, most of them repeated at intervals through the day, so that visitors could hear about and discuss more than one subject, and informally meet different researchers in between.

Presentations given at two open days told of a previous oral history project on the experience of Anglo-Bangladeshi first generation migrants. The work was clearly important; we heard that those who had consented to take part had done so because the recordings were being made by members of their own community, and there had been scope and time for preliminary confidence-building contact. The results accordingly included material that might not have come to light in any other way. However, the makers of the survey had gathered more material than could be processed under the original grant. Moreover, they were determined to publish the transcriptions in their entirety (and were raising further funds from the Bangladeshi business community to do so) and saw this as taking priority over editing or a strategy for dissemination. While this witnessed impressive commitment, it also suggested that provision of practical guidance at an earlier stage would have been beneficial.
Exploitation Route Our experience suggested that some groups are already well able to engage in the 'hunter gatherer' stages of research and need little advice from academics in doing so. The areas in which the kinds of support we could best provide lie rather in the area of underpinning skills - e.g. editing, indexing of digital images, means of description for databases, publication, and archiving of data. More knowledge of the nature and scale of demand and/or need for such skills would inform support for public engagement.

Two of the successful All Our Stories public engagement community heritage projects engage those who have experienced mental illness and learning disability to enable them to tell their own stories. The findings in this area are important and deserve wider currency.
Sectors Environment,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

 
Description Our project set out to extend public engagement in research for community heritage. The advice and skills it provided have contributed to recent, current and emerging projects in fields that include - heritage and mental health and learning disabilities - Anglo-Asian community experience - young people and dance - oral history
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Battlefield archaeology 
Organisation The Battlefields Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Co-production of project to enlist public involvement in battlefield research
Collaborator Contribution The Trust's development officer joined us for the Huddersfield open day, so helping to improve public knowledge of Britain's historic battlefields and their protection for posterity
Impact Development of new interdisciplinary project to extend and refine knowledge of Wars of the Roses battlefields. Disciplines involved include archaeology, aerial survey, local history, study of medieval written records
Start Year 2010
 
Description Britain from Above 
Organisation English Heritage
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Authorship of book for English Heritage using images from Britain from Above collection
Collaborator Contribution Britain from Above is a project co-led by English Heritage and the Welsh and Scottish Royal Commissions to conserve 95,000 photographs in the Aerofilms Collection dating from 1919 to 1953 and to make a large selection of these web-accessible. The images provide a valuable link with present communities of all kinds, both as prompts for discussion and as resources for projects. Images of places, buildings and business in the region featured in all three open days. Two members of the Britain from Above team participated in the Huddersfield open day.
Impact Forthcoming book
Start Year 2011
 
Description Huddersfield Local History Library 
Organisation Huddersfield Local History Library
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Attention drawn to library's holdings
Collaborator Contribution The library holds a rich collection including records of families, firms, schools, churches and local authorities. Staff of the library assisted both the Huddersfield open day and the archive tour that followed.
Impact Widened public knowledge of archive holdings
Start Year 2012
 
Description Information about archaeology in the region 
Organisation West Yorkshire Archaeology Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Widened awareness of what the Service does and how it can assist historical enquiry
Collaborator Contribution The Service provides information on archaeological sites, findspots, historic buildings and landscapes, and offers an extensive reference library. These assets were made available to the project to assist public engagement.
Impact Widened public knowledge of archaeological assets
Start Year 2012
 
Description National Coal Mining Museum 
Organisation Zuehlke Engineering AG
Department Zuhlke UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Introduction of members of the public to archive
Collaborator Contribution The Museum works to keep public knowledge of England's coalfields alive. The Museum's archivist and librarian contributed to public events in support of public engagement
Impact Widened awareness of archive holdings and wider use of archive
Start Year 2012
 
Description Assistance in developing project proposals and applications 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contact involving visits, meetings or developed written exchange with 30 groups, of which 24 concerned particular projects

Seven submitted All Our Stories proposals emerged from the contacts, of which five succeeded and three more have since been in development
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
 
Description Lecture to Huddersfield Local History Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk prompted extensive discussion and follow-on proposal

Widened awareness of scope for co-produced heritage projects
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Open day (Huddersfield) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Provided a focus for heritage-related PE enquiries and enabled subsequent assistance to 'All Our Stories' project proposals to Heritage Lottery Fund

Five successful 'All Our Stories' project proposals funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, one of which led to a follow-on proposal on 'Mental health and learning disabilities: heritage and stigma'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.dancestry.co.uk
 
Description Open day (Oldham) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Provided focus for heritage-related PE enquiries from local groups

Important insights into Anglo-Bangladeshi oral history project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Open day for community heritage (Barnsley) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Meeting was held to enable cross-departmental panel to provide a focus for heritage-related PE enquiries from individuals and local groups that would otherwise have relied on chance or colleague referral to be addressed.

Successful 'All Our Stories' applications from local groups to Heritage Lottery Fund
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Research into sound heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Important information shared about the extraordinary cultural resources of Norfolk Island

Valuable opportunity to share and compare oral history experience at our institution with that of the Churchill Fellow
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=2013+churchill+fellows+norfolk+island&spell=1
 
Description Workshop (archive of National Coal Mining Museum for England) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Introduction to archive holdings fostered keen interest in their value for projects on social history

Increased use of archive
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Workshop, Kirklees Local History Archive 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Introduced members of public to scope and content of local history archive

Development of local project on WW1 commemoration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012