EViDAnCE - Exploring Value in Digital Archives and the Comainn Eachdraidh

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: School of Social Science

Abstract

Rural areas have strong place identities, formed through the reproduction of traditional cultural practices alongside contemporary influences. These identities are performed and constructed through a repertoire of knowledges, histories, and customs, and include modes of expression such as story-telling, music and song, poetry and literature, dance and drama. Together with material objects, artefacts, sites and cultural spaces, these form dynamic cultural heritages. Both tangible and intangible heritage activity takes place in remote rural areas. Community based initiatives play an important role in such areas in the collation, production and communication of local cultural heritage. The Outer Hebrides contains 14 of Scotland's 28 Comainn Eachdraidh (CE) or historical societies which began in the 1970's with a very specific political and cultural purpose. Within their recent history, there has been a specific turn towards the digitisation of such work but to-date the relationship between the production of lived and virtual heritage is little understood and valued.

Community digital archives represent both a major economic asset and a key community resource, having potential as education tools, for empowerment through co-production of local knowledge, to encourage community engagement in local history, and for recreation and tourism consumption purposes. Yet, the conversion to digital archives is not a neutral process. The interrelationship between volunteers, professionals and digital applications needs further interrogation to understand the fluid practices involved. By comprehending these networks of cultural heritage production the value of such digitisation initiatives will be understood in terms of how they assist or problematize community development and cohesion, cultural preservations, individual identity, wellbeing and finally how they contribute economic value to communities.

Planned Impact

This project seeks to create impact across the stakeholders involved in the research and dissemination. For the Comainn Eachdraidh (CE) and Hebridean Connections (HC) the project seeks to have two primary impacts in terms of how they conduct their work. First, the project will seek to show how digital technology has an effect upon cultural value and is of benefit to the Islander communities. This is central to HC as it is trying to expand its collections into more CE groups. By having an evidence base that backs up the value of their work, this would make their case for joining CE, and improving the collections, much stronger. Second, the project wants to highlight, on a national level, the work of the CE, as a model for embedded heritage production in all communities thus increasing the presence of the CE as cultural entity.

We will give a different perspective in terms of understanding and measuring cultural value from a very different setting to the rest of the UK. With previous focus having primarily been on more urban and institutional perspectives, a key impact of this project is to showcase how non-institutional and bottom-up organisations have the capacity to create real and sustainable cultural value for communities, in terms of their cultural, social and economic benefit to different locations.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description EViDAnCE has shown the different ways in which the collection and production of a local sense of history build cultural value for the communities that undertake these processes. This is specifically connected to the ways in which members of CE position themselves in relation to their history and the associations they make to the landscape in which they are embedded. The research has shown the processes through which this takes place in an everyday sense of collecting practices that are built upon a notion of dwelling, and also extends this sense of dwelling to the ancestral connection many members have to the land and its history. In doing this the project has also shown how these processes move beyond simply the production of history itself. Moreover, the cultural activity and the subsequent human capital this produces provides other benefits for the surrounding communities. In following the processes by which collected materials take on digital form, the project has also highlighted the ways in which the notion of value attached to these materials changes. The process of needing to collaborate has meant that for the individuals involved, the way in which they view their archive changes when it is placed in the digital form. By highlighting the impact of digitisation, the project has represented the ways in which the processes of producing 'lived world' heritage differs from that of building and disseminating such materials in digital form.
The progression of turning heritage materials into digital form is still relatively nascent, especially at the community level. This report therefore offers a snapshot, at this moment in time, into a series of entangled processes which are continuing to progress in different ways. As the report has shown, a number of initial benefits have developed from engaging in digital archives and social media. This has been shown in the way in which the process has brought employment to the islands, expanded social capital and increased the digital skills of participants. But, it has also shown that this is an unfolding process that still has a long way to develop, and that as HC and CE make more materials digitally available, and as the technology for doing this changes over time, so too will the discourses that surround the production of such materials. This will continue to change the nature and sense in which cultural value is produced and constructed. At the present time, for the most part, cultural value is still constructed as an expectant benefit from undertaking these processes, but the labour in producing such digital infrastructure is seen as having future benefits than is currently being produced. As a jumping off point from which this research can then build, the following up of these processes to a more mature stage, particularly the interactions between CE and a broader public and after the new HC web archive goes 'live', will be an exceedingly fertile research are to follow.
Finally, the project has spoken to the concept of cultural value by embracing the different resonances and discourses of cultural value that propagate through the CE movement. In doing this, the authors have aimed to show that as a framing concept, cultural value is an exceedingly useful way to think through and articulate the way in which cultural activity brings benefits to both individuals and communities. This is in terms of how cultural participation can be a constitutive process for those involved and how that activity can then lead to other developments beyond its initial purpose. The role of ethnographic research has been central to this, as the act of being there, 'in place', embedding qualitative research within its context allows for a much stronger sense by which the narratives that produce the discourses can then be captured, analysed and understood.
Exploitation Route See impact section for importance of findings for research partner organisation.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description My findings have been used in a number of ways by the main project partner (Hebridean Connections). They have been used to promote and advertise their current activity. They have been used to evidence the impact they are having as an organisation and to articulate this to funders. They have been used to create future funding bids. For the other project partners (the historical societies) a number of similar impacts have been identified but they have also talked about an increased sense of confidence with regards to the activities they undertake. The project also highlighted to them the importance that digital technologies can have in terms of disseminating their heritage. A number of participants discussed how this has given them an increased sense of confidence to continue with such activities.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Semantic Media Network Small Grants
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation Semantic Media Network 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Global
Start 09/2014 
End 12/2014
 
Description Barvas and Bru 
Organisation Barvas and Brue Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Bernera 
Organisation Bernera Historical Society (Comann Eachdraidh Sgire Bhearnaraigh)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Berneray 
Organisation Berneray Historical Society (Comunn Eachdraidh Bheàrnaraigh)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Carloway 
Organisation Carloway Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Hebridean Connections 
Organisation Hebridean Connections
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research that addressed core aims of HC as well as my own. Research has fed into HC own project reporting.
Collaborator Contribution Helped to provide research connections in the Outer Hebrides with multiple organisations and people. Allowed access to a variety of events, which they were running as part of their project.
Impact Project report, two knowledge dissemination workshops, assistance with future funding applications.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Kinloch 
Organisation Kinloch Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Ness 
Organisation Ness Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description North Lochs 
Organisation North Lochs Historical Society (Comann Eachdraidh Cheann a Tuath nan Loch)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description North Tolsta 
Organisation North Tolsta Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description North Uist 
Organisation North Uist Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Pairc 
Organisation Pairc Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description South Uist 
Organisation South Uist Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Stornoway 
Organisation Stornoway Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description The Digitization of Rural Communities: Media, Communication, Infrasstructures 
Organisation University of Bremen
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Presented at research workshop on title above based upon work from EViDAnCE project
Collaborator Contribution Funded travel, accommodation and subsistence at workshop
Impact This was an initial meeting to consider future research and funding opportunities moving forward.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Uig 
Organisation Uig Historical Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research collaboration with the historical society.
Collaborator Contribution Their time and consent to participate in research.
Impact Project report, knowledge dissemination workshops, RGS-IBG paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Digital Archive Innovation Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards with regards to link data use in digital archives. It also created a discussion around the ways in which cultural value can be an interesting framework for showcasing the work of digital archive users.

None to date.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Hebridean Connections Website Launch - South Uist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Delivered presentation on the cultural value of archives which stimulated talk about the merits of doing such activities and future directions.

The talk has given risen to the potential of a further historical society (South Uist) joining Hebridean Connections. The talk was given to a number of members of local government (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) this has lead to the potential of them becoming a full partner in Hebridean Connections in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.stornowaygazette.co.uk/news/local-headlines/hebridean-connections-launch-new-site-1-35693...
 
Description Hebridean Connections Website Launch - Stornoway 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Delivered presentation on the cultural value of archives which stimulated talk about the merits of doing such activities and future directions.

The talk helped convince a further historical society (Stornoway) to join Hebridean Connections. The talk was given to a number of members of local government (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) this has lead to the potential of them becoming a full partner in Hebridean Connections in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.stornowaygazette.co.uk/news/local-headlines/hebridean-connections-launch-new-site-1-35693...
 
Description Knowledge Dissemination Workshop 1 - South Uist 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Disseminated research findings; stimulated conversation amongst participants; raised a series of questions about the future direction of Hebridean Connections; gave participants the opportunity to think through the cultural value of the work they do.

Keen interest in reading the full project report; new approaches to collecting digital history discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://evidance-ahrc.com/2014/09/10/workshop-reports-design-ethnography/
 
Description Knowledge Dissemination Workshop 1 - Stornoway 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Disseminated research findings; stimulated conversation amongst participants; raised a series of questions about the future direction of Hebridean Connections; gave participants the opportunity to think through the cultural value of the work they do.

Keen interest in reading the full project report; new approaches to collecting digital history discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://evidance-ahrc.com/2014/09/10/workshop-reports-design-ethnography/
 
Description RGS-IBG Locating Value 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The presentation stimulated a number of questions from the audience.

A number of people asked about the potential of future collaboration. An invitation to contribute to a book chapter on Locating Value.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://conference.rgs.org/AC2014/256
 
Description Research Paper at the AAG Annual Conference in San Fransisco 4/1/2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The author delivered a paper presentation on the research findings developed in the EViDaNCE to an international audience of academics. The purpose was to share the research findings and to generate discussion on approaches creating digital heritage. The paper was entitled: 'Gathering the past to reshape the present: history, heritage and digital technology in the on-going production of rural places' The author was also involved in organising the sessions on 'Ordinary Place Making'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/SessionDetail.cfm?SessionID=25323
 
Description The Digitalization of Rural Communities: Media, Communication, Infrastructures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a workshop at the Universitat Bremen. It considered the investigation of current trends of digitalization in the field of media and communication predominantly
focuses on urban centers and media spaces. This, among others, becomes apparent through buzzwords such as
"smart cities" or "networked urban spaces". In turn, "[t]he siginificance of mediatization in countryside settings is
an underresearched topic" (cf. Jansson & Andersson 2012: 173). Furthermore, communication studies still very
much focus on the digital in terms of media communication in a rather narrow sense: topics such as infrastructure,
digital economy or socio-cultural aspects tend to be underrepresented.
However, in the face of growing societal challenges such as digital infrastructure development and rural
deprivation, researching digitalization in general - and mediatization in particular - under rural conditions is a
pressing need. This calls for a research approach that is strongly informed by international and interdisciplinary
exchange. Thus, we aim at bringing together views from geography, sociology, information science as well as
communication studies and combining them with a sensitivity for regional as well as national peculiarities.
The focus of this meeting is directed towards the meanings, the potentials as well as the challenges of digital
media, communication and infrastructures for rural communities. The papers presented contribute to this field of
research through theoretical approaches, reports on empirical endeavors and applied research projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018