Digital Tools in the Service of Difficult Heritage: How Recent Research Can Benefit Museums and their Audiences

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Abstract

This proposal sets out to realize unanticipated impacts of the AHRC 'Cultural Value' project AH/L014424/1 'Experiencing the Digital World: the Cultural Value of Digital Engagement with Heritage'. We will work with the National Holocaust Centre, the Thackray Medical Museum and the Science Museum to realize the practical potential of the original project's findings on the ways in which digital tools can support the co-production of museum exhibitions and resources with diverse audiences. While this potential was uncovered during the original project, we now seek to test how this might work in practice. Our three partners, all of which were involved in the original project, are currently redeveloping their digital strategies in the light of our research findings, with the aims of broadening the demographic range of their visitors, and seeking new and better ways to engage visitors, particularly in the exploration of 'difficult' histories, challenging subjects and traumatic experiences. Our follow-on funding project will allow our partners to achieve these aims, ensuring that they realize the full impact potential of our original project in a way that could not be attained on their own. Moreover, it will also generate synergies with other areas of expertise within the academic team, not explicitly invoked in the original project, that will significantly enhance its reach in ways we had not previously envisaged. The National Holocaust Centre is currently focused on working with ethnically-diverse groups of primary-school children to explore the legacy of the Holocaust in contemporary debates on social discrimination and prejudice. The Thackray Medical Museum is developing a new exhibition on childbirth and its attendant risks, which it wishes to be informed by the experience of its visitors. The Science Museum is looking to work with disabilities support groups on an exhibition about the impact of the First World War on our understanding of disability and mental illness. We will work with each museum to exploit the potential of digital engagement to co-produce an online exhibition and supporting digital materials with appropriate community groups that the museums are seeking to reach, while also providing an opportunity for each to learn from the experience of the other museums involved in the project. These cases can provide valuable insight into how digital technologies can transform our engagement with heritage: lessons which can prove useful for other museums, galleries and heritage organisations seeking to open their curatorial strategy to new approaches, ideas and experiences.

Planned Impact

This project will be able to maximise the impact of our original Critical Review (CR), because the planned activities have been designed with our partners and with the needs of the three community groups in mind. This funding will allow us to work with our partners to develop training opportunities and resources around digital engagement. A principle finding of the CR was that there was an urgent demand for better training and more effective and affordable tools through which to engage with different communities. Furthermore, the CR highlighted an important opportunity for heritage professionals to better engage with marginalised communities through digital tools, and thus to close the broken feedback loop originally identified by Simon (2011). This project will help our partners, and other professionals and institutions achieve these aims. It also draws on the wider research expertise of the team on the holocaust (Cooke); childbirth/family (King); and medicine/disability (Stark), thus creating a dual source of impact: the original CR and the wider research of the project team.

The principal beneficiaries for this project are as follows:
1) Our partners
Close collaboration with our three partners in designing and delivering this project will ensure the maximum impact of this research. As outlined in the Case for Support, each of the three investigators will work closely with one of our three partners, with the RA providing support and continuity across all three parts of the wider project. After initial training for those involved, each partner will create a digital exhibition through co-production with a community group, based on a difficult or controversial topic. Each will use the tools developed through the 'Pararchive' digital resource in both the process of engagement and the final outcome. Furthermore, each partner institution will develop their digital and coproduction/engagement strategies in light of their individual projects, which are also designed to be pilots for future work. These partnerships will lead to direct impact from the findings of the CR on our partners' practices, as well as secondary impact on the visitors to, and users of, the exhibitions and resources developed.

2) Three community groups
Each partnership involves co-production work with a local community group, who will also benefit from this project. Cooke and the National Holocaust Centre will work with teachers and students from primary schools in Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham; King and the Thackray Medical Museum will work with local parents from diverse backgrounds who have experienced a range of birth outcomes; and Stark and the Science Museum will work with representatives from military disability groups. In each case, participants in the co-production process will learn about the work of our partner organisation and the Pararchive resource, and have the opportunity to shape the content and practices of the heritage institution in question. In each case, the wider constituency or community group participating in the project will also benefit by being better represented within the partner organisation. Local community groups will also be able to see how their voices are being represented within this setting through the co-production process, which in itself will be publicized, ensuring visitors to these museums, and the community groups particularly, do not come up against the broken feedback loop problem identified by Simon.

3) A wider audience of heritage and museum professionals (and their visitors)
Through the end of project CPD event and production of a briefing paper for heritage professionals, there will also be a benefit for the sector as a whole. The international networks of the project team and our partner organisations means that the best practice of this project can be disseminated globally. Our website will also allow us to disseminate findings and best practice as widely as possible.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Interactive 'Birth Stories' display 
Description A new touchscreen installation was added to the Thackray Medical Museum's having a baby gallery. This will display co-produced birth stories resulting from a series of workshops and engagement activities (including workshops with a migrant women's support group), via the digital storytelling platform Yarn. The display uses a new 'Project' page feature, designed specifically for the collation and curation of Yarn content as an output of this research project. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The display helps to achieve the collaborating museum's aim of diversifying the narrative displayed in it's existing childbirth gallery, by adding stories which relate the experiences of migrant women living in the UK (predominantly from Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt and Iran). The display also adds, significantly, to the museum's digital offering and engagement potential by inviting visitors to contribute their own stories to the Birth Stories project. 
 
Title Pupils films on Vimeo 
Description Paul Cooke and Rosie Wilkinson led film-making workshops at Edna G Olds Academy (17th May 2016) and Webster Primary (27th May). Pupils were introduced to the themes of the project strand involving The National Holocaust Centre and shown materials collated on Yarn. Time was spent developing interview techniques and discussing identity (focused around key objects selected by the pupils) before filming the pupils interviews in groups. The activity prepared pupils for their subsequent visit to the National Holocaust Centre (particularly the element of the trip which involved hearing a Holocaust Survivor's testimony and asking them questions) and also yielded film footage for the pupils to add to their Yarn stories. Cooke and Wilkinson also filmed aspects of both group's visit to the National Holocaust Centre on 8th June 2016, including testimony from Holocaust survivor Susi Bechhöfer and her responses to questions from the pupils. Resulting footage will be made available to the schools to use in the creation of Yarn stories and, ultimately exhibition materials for NHC's new Media Centre. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Pupils' Yarn stories feature resulting footage as do schemes of work created by the National Holocaust Centre, to create a publically available resource, suggested ways of teaching the holocaust in primary settings. 
URL https://vimeo.com/171569856
 
Title Yarn stories 
Description Together with our museum partners and a number of schools and community groups, we have been producing a collection of online exhibition materials in the form of Yarn stories, during the course of the project. These can be accessed directly via Yarn (https://yarncommunity.org/) or by clicking links on the project webpage at http://www.digitalheritage.leeds.ac.uk/project-publications/. The stories feature archive materials form each museum alongside participants own materials and text and content sourced from the web. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact - Stories created as part of the 'Birth Stories' strand were subsequently displayed on a touchscreen within Thackray Medical Museum, to add a dynamic, coproduced, digital element to their 'Having a Baby' gallery. Accompanying display panels invite museum visitors to contribute further stories. - Pupils Yarn stories and schemes of work which quote from these have been used as part of the National Holocaust Centre's teaching training and also made publicly available as a free resource for teachers. It is hoped that this will allow NHC to build more partnerships with primary schools and encourage teaching of this challenging subject matter. - Members of an Afghan Women's Association who helped to co-create Yarn stories for the 'Birth Stories' strand reported that the process had made them think differently about the potential of digital tools to support museum engagement and also more likely to visit Thackray Medical Museum. The groups' leader also stated that participation in the project had increased the womens' confidence and encouraged them to open up about birth experiences which they had previously been shy or ashamed to discuss. - One participant from the Science Museum strand is considering introducing Yarn in her work with Adults in Supported Living accommodation, to develop IT skills, increase confidence and encourage engagement with others. 
URL http://www.digitalheritage.leeds.ac.uk/project-publications/
 
Description This project was follow-on funding. However, through our work we did further develop our thinking. Our main learning was around the process of co-production and in particular the challenge faced by large institutions in 'ceding authority' in creational process.
Exploitation Route We have further developed our work, using the YARN tool in a subsequent project exploring the way digital tools can be used to challenge xenophobia within vulnerable communities in South Africa.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://yarncommunity.com/stories/292
 
Description Digital tools in the service of difficult heritage: Briefing Document Overview In 2016 a team of researchers at the University of Leeds, led by Professor Paul Cooke, collaborated with the Science Museum, the Thackray Medical Museum and the National Holocaust Centre and Museum to explore how digital tools might offer new ways of curating and responding to challenging histories (http://digitalheritage.leeds.ac.uk) using the new online platform Yarn (www.yarncommunity.org), which was developed at Leeds in collaboration with local community organizations. This document summarizes the methods used and outlines impact from three case studies as well as highlighting key recommendations emerging from the project. The main activities in this project comprised three strands: • Strand 1: The first project strand involved the National Holocaust Centre and Museum (NHC) and primary school children from Nottingham and Manchester (a high proportion of whom were from migrant backgrounds) to explore the lessons to be learnt from the Holocaust for the children's lives today. The Centre's main aims were to reach out to a more ethnically diverse audience, establish stronger channels of communication and exchange with schools, and enable those who were unable to visit the museum to access its collections. Pupils took part in a series of workshops and a museum visit over a period of three months to create a series of digital resources (Yarn stories), drawing from the NHC's collection and adding their own text, images and video. These Yarn stories contextualize a variety of historical material, chosen by the students in collaboration with their teachers, the museum and the research team, and highlight the students' individual responses to this material. Artworks, poems, prose, audio files and video created by the children, with the assistance of the research team and their teachers, were used to create a rich resource which showcased their responses and also served as an effective presentation tool at a celebration assembly, combining live performance with prerecorded material. One unanticipated outcome of this project strand was that NHC published a Yarn-based scheme of work designed to guide primary school teachers through the process of teaching children about the Kindertransport and Holocaust. The Centre found that the pupils' work enabled them to share many examples of good practice, and passages of their Yarn stories are quoted within the scheme of work. [create project page in new year and insert link here] • Strand 2: For the second strand, members of a local migrant women's support group (mostly made up of women from Afghanistan, Syrian, Iran and Egypt) shared birth stories in response to the Thackray Medical Museum's 'Having a Baby' exhibition. The Museum's priorities were to attract more ethnically diverse local audiences (particularly by presenting a broader spectrum of experiences in its childbirth gallery), facilitate cost-effective community engagement, find ways of sensitively representing difficult birth stories, explore digital means to develop a more dynamic dialogue with visitors, and consider new ways of incorporating physical digital interfaces within the museum. As well as delivering a number of public-facing events to other community groups and public sector workers, researchers and museum curatorial staff delivered a series of workshops in the migrant group's regular meeting space, which involved handling museum objects, learning more about the museum's collections and discussing experiences of childbirth. As many of the participants spoke limited English, group leaders assisted with translation or discussions were held in participants' first language and subsequently translated. Due to this language barrier and varying levels of literacy (and digital literacy), the information shared was then made into Yarn stories by the research team and published with the participants' consent. A project Facebook page was also created to engage a wider local audience, share the Yarn stories created and invite informal participation. The resulting online exhibition, displayed on an interactive touchscreen within the Museum's 'Having a Baby' gallery, combines materials from the museum's archives with those contributed by workshop participants and other contributors. [Add link to Birth Stories project page, once new version of Yarn is live] • Strand 3: This strand involved working with veterans and their families with connections to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), using the Science Museum's Wounded exhibition as a starting point for constructing alternative narratives and histories about their experience. This took place through a series of workshops and museum visits and culminated in a workshop at the Science Museum to consider digital engagement and co-production strategies. The Science Museum was keen to explore new ways for audiences to respond to their collections, ways to engage audiences in less formal or temporary digital exchanges, and alternative channels for feedback. Yarn stories produced by the participants outlined their own backgrounds and interest in the project and explored their personal reactions to the exhibition's content and presentation, as well as drawing in comparisons to other comparable exhibitions. They also reflected on steps museums might take to ensure that audience engagement, digital or otherwise, around difficult heritage was handled responsibly and with sensitivity. [create project page in new year and insert link here] Major Outputs New 'Project feature for Yarn: In the course of our project, our museum partners expressed a need to add features to the core platform of Yarn that would enable co-produced Yarn stories to be grouped and represented as distinct in the universe of Yarn content. In response, the research team commissioned the development of a new 'Project' feature for Yarn, which affords museums a level of curatorial control over Yarn content displayed within the museum or linked to their exhibitions. A new 'Projects' section has also been added to Yarn, allowing users to browse published projects. Touchscreen display: A new interactive touchscreen display of birth stories was installed in the Thackray Medical Museum's 'Having a Baby' gallery, along with information panels which provide details of the 'Birth Stories' project and introduce museum visitors to the Yarn tool. The new 'Project' feature for Yarn has allowed the museum to assemble stories co-produced by workshop participants and other contributors during the project. The stories produced during our workshops bring a more complex and diverse presentation of childbirth, reflecting the experience of migrant groups engaged by the project and of childbirth in other countries, whilst bringing the voices of Leeds residents into the museum. The touchscreen itself adds significantly to the museum's digital offering. Online exhibition materials: Over thirty original Yarn stories were created during the course of the ten-month project. Full details and links can be found on our project website at http://www.digitalheritage.leeds.ac.uk/project-publications/. Scheme of work for primary schools: The National Holocaust Centre and Museum created a Yarn-based scheme of work for primary school teachers, in response to the Yarn stories created by schools involved in the project (in fact, the package directly quotes passages from the pupils' stories as examples of good practice). The scheme of work is designed to guide Primary teachers through the topic of teaching the Holocaust. It outlines individual lessons and examples of work that focus on the key question 'What can we learn from the Kindertransport?' It includes individual testimonies from survivors who speak at the National Holocaust Centre and explores themes of identity, experience and remembrance. This resource is freely available from the Yarn website at https://yarncommunity.org/stories/348. Impact Due to the short nature of this project it is not possible, at this stage, to fully assess all areas of impact, particularly that stemming from outputs of the latter stages, such as the Thackray Medical Museum's touchscreen display and The National Holocaust Centre and Museum's scheme of work for primary schools, although it is hoped that this will be significant. However, the following key areas of impact have been identified: New opportunities for co-production and co-curation: Whilst it was widely recognised that museums have a responsibility to represent a range of audience views resulting from digital co-production activities, and that it was preferable not to exclude responses published online, it was felt that greater control was necessary for content which was to be displayed within the museum, particularly with regard to sensitive and challenging heritage. The newly created 'Project' feature for Yarn, which is a direct outcome of this project, allows all users to group and collate stories on a unifying home page and thereby also affords museums a level of curatorial control, without editing stories created by its audience. The feature also makes it easier to display a selection of content on digital interfaces within museums, particularly when used in combination with kiosk software or a firewall configured to restrict web browsing beyond the project home page. By linking Yarn project pages to existing museum websites and social media platforms, museums and community groups can also bring a new dimension to their audience engagement, create a platform for temporary or ongoing projects and solicit feedback. Helping museums to meet nationally-agreed standards: By taking forward the findings of our previous Cultural Value report, through this follow-on project, and engaging with the latest academic research, the Thackray Medical Museum has been able to demonstrate innovative, sustainable development and good practice in its recent application to the AHRC's accreditation scheme. Supporting outreach and engagement: Members of a migrant women's association, who helped to co-create Yarn stories for the 'Birth Stories' strand, reported that the process had made them think differently about the potential of digital tools to support museum engagement and also much more likely to visit the Thackray Medical Museum. The group's leader stated that, in her view, participation in the project had increased the women's confidence, broken down barriers and encouraged them to open up about birth experiences which they had previously been afraid or ashamed to discuss. She also noted that the women had been able to share negative and traumatic experiences as well as positive ones and that this was a major personal step for many. Impact such as this does not stem solely from the aspects of our engagement with the group which involved digital tools but also from discussion sessions, informal conversation, object handling sessions and a museum visit. Crucially, the digital element was used to compliment and augment these modes of engagement, rather than being offered as a substitute. Promoting the use of Yarn as a free tool for community groups: By using Yarn, the schools involved in Strand 1 were able to easily collate resources from archive collections and the web alongside pupils' own work. Teachers appreciated the intuitive, tablet-friendly design, the ability to easily link to other platforms (e.g. YouTube and Twitter) and bring a polished finish to presentations of work, whilst also supporting the development of children's IT skills. One participant involved in Strand 3 is considering introducing Yarn in her work with adults in supported living accommodation, to develop IT skills, increase confidence and encourage engagement with others. Recommendations • Digital engagement tools should not be seen as an end in themselves but as part of a suite of tools for engaging diverse audiences in a range of ways. Equally, digital engagement should not be seen as a 'quick-fix' and strategies need to be implemented with the same level of care and consideration as for other forms of engagement. Accessibility needs to be carefully assessed and guidance provided to help audiences to use digital tools. • Platforms such as Yarn offer a more neutral, democratic space for co-production and also reduce the need for organisations to retain control over content. However, it is necessary to recognise that displaying co-produced digital content within museums may require additional consideration, particularly in relation to difficult or challenging heritage. • When inviting a response from audiences, our work suggests that it is important for organisations to assess risk and signpost appropriate sources of help, support or further information. It may be beneficial to suggest a framework for responses when inviting audiences to collaborate. • Digital tools can be an effective way for museums to proactively solicit, collate and display feedback, allowing this to occur in a number of ways (e.g. re-curating digital content or creating personalised histories in relation to collections). • Digital co-production platforms such as Yarn, which allow users to curate web sourced content, do not exacerbate the risk of misuse of material which is already in the public domain. They do offer the potential for museums to mitigate against this by suggesting frameworks for discourse and signposting relevant resources (including their own websites). • The introduction of digital tools can be effective at many different stages of audience engagement with collections. In some case (as we found in Strand 1) the digital platform helps to drive and structure engagement, whereas other users prefer to bring in the technology later, as a space for reflection (Strand 3). The most effective tools are flexible and can be used in a variety of ways. • Linking co-produced digital content to existing museum websites and social media profiles can be a cost-effective way to promote more dynamic , in-depth exchanges between museums and their audiences. Both short- and long-term projects can be enabled in this way by simply adding new links to official webpages. • Encouraging audiences to engage with museums online or participate in co-production processes creates expectation of a response or evidence of how these contributions are being used, or the impact that they have within the museum. Organizations need to be clear and upfront about what they are able to bring to this two-way process.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description AHRC Leadership Fellowship
Amount £250,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/P003478/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Description Digital Community Workspaces
Amount £100,799 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/P005918/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 01/2018
 
Description Using Digital Tools to Challenge Xenophobia and Support International Development in South Africa
Amount £99,973 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/P005268/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 06/2017
 
Description National Holocaust Centre & Museum 
Organisation National Holocaust Centre and Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Paul Cooke and Rosie Wilkinson worked with James Griffiths (Director of Learning at the National Holocaust Centre (NHC)) and NHC educators Marion Hutchinson and Sarah Wetton, and also teachers and students from primary schools in Manchester and Nottingham, meeting regularly with schools individually over a period of 3 months to create a series of digital resources (Yarn stories), drawing from the NHC's collection and adding their own text, images and video. These Yarn stories contextualize a variety of historical material, chosen by the students in collaboration with their teachers, Griffiths and Cooke, and highlight the students" individual responses to this material.
Collaborator Contribution materials and room hire for workshop events, launch event and workshops; staff time (adding resources to Yarn, attending meetings, creating a Yarn-based scheme of work.which draws from stories created by the pupils and is designed to guide Primary School teachers through the topic of teaching the Holocaust.
Impact Pupils' Yarn stories: http://yarncommunity.org/stories/350 http://yarncommunity.org/stories/309 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/342 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/329 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/332 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/336 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/333 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/335 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/334 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/331 Yarn-based scheme of work for teaching the Holocaust in Primary schools, freely available at https://yarncommunity.org/stories/348 Museum visit and workshops Two films produced with/by pupils and posted on vimeo
Start Year 2016
 
Description Science Museum 
Organisation Science Museum Group
Department The Science Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution James Starke and Rosemary Wilkinson worked with members of the North Leeds Veterans Breakfast Club (both of whom have forms of PTSD) to develop responses to the Science Museum's Exhibition 'Wounded: Conflict Casualties and Care', using the platform Yarn. This took place through a series of workshops and museum visits and culminated in a workshop at the Science Museum to consider digital engagement and co-production strategies.
Collaborator Contribution Exhibition Project Manager Lorraine Ward and Research and Public History Manager Alison Hess attended project meetings, facilitated a museum visit, added digital resources to the Yarn platform and discussed project strategy with Starke and Wilkinson.
Impact Four workshops and two museum visits. Yarn stories: http://yarncommunity.org/stories/311 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/361 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/362 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/374 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/368 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/360
Start Year 2016
 
Description Thackray Medical Museum 
Organisation Thackray Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Laura King and Rosie Wilkinson collaborated with Lauren Ryall-Stockton, Curator at the Thackray Medical Museum (TMM) and Assistant Curator Catherine Robbins, as well as members of a Leeds-based Women's association (mostly made up of women from Afghanistan, Syrian, Iran and Egypt) who have experienced a range of birth outcomes. This part of the project will explored how digital materials can help expand the remit and coverage of the museum, to include the histories of difficult and fatal childbirths, but also to help the museum better profile a wide range of birth experiences. This is currently a challenge, because of the necessity for the museum to profile and use materials from its own collection. The resulting online exhibition, displayed on an interactive touchscreen within the museum's 'Having a Baby' gallery, combines materials from the museum"s archives with those contributed by workshop participants and other contributors. The project has helped the museum to engage with parents from diverse ethnic and religious background in areas in the museum"s immediate locality, who are not currently well represented in their visitor demographic. These activities will support the development of the Having a Baby gallery and has augmented the museum"s somewhat limited digital presence.
Collaborator Contribution Lauren Ryall-Stockton and Catherine Robbins helped to deliver a series of workshops and facilitate a museum visit for participants, provided handling objects from the TMM collection, produced digital resources on Yarn and Pinterest, helped to source and integrate a new touchscreen into the museum setting, contributed to project meetings and helped to devise a new 'project' feature for Yarn.
Impact - New 'Project' feature for Yarn - Interactive touchscreen feature added to TMM's 'Having a Baby' gallery, displaying coproduced digital content (Yarn stories). - Seven workshops and one museum visit - Two presentations to community groups and one public facing event. - Helping Thackray Medical Museum to demonstrate good practice and sustainable development in its application to the AHRC accreditation scheme for Museums. - Yarn stories: https://yarncommunity.org/stories/363 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/376 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/377 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/372 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/373 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/375 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/388 http://beta.pararchive.com/stories/338 http://yarncommunity.org/stories/328 http://yarncommunity.org/stories/325 http://yarncommunity.org/stories/323 http://yarncommunity.org/stories/320 http://yarncommunity.org/stories/298 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/366 https://yarncommunity.org/stories/330 http://yarncommunity.org/stories/297
Start Year 2016
 
Title Yarn 'Project' feature 
Description With Yarn being employed for community storytelling research at the Thackray Medical Museum and the National Holocaust Centre, both of these project strands sought to add features to the core platform of Yarn that would enable them to be represented as distinct in the universe of Yarn content. Fundamentally, Yarn needs to be able to allow administrative users to create a Project and select stories from the Yarn universe which become part of that project's theme. This approach allows museums a level of curatorial control over Yarn content displayed within the museum or linked to their exhibitions, which was felt to be necessary, particularly with regard to sensitive and challenging heritage. A new Yarn project feature was commissioned from Carbon Imagineering (who built and maintain Yarn) which would enable all stories within a project to be presented on a unique home page for that project. New features comprised: • Setting up a Project, with metadata, including title, description and some banner images. • Adding existing Stories to a project. • Adding a Projects section to the Yarn home page. • Project home pages may be displayed on large touchscreens in museum installations; 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact This approach allows museums a level of curatorial control over Yarn content displayed within the museum or linked to their exhibitions, which was felt to be necessary, particularly with regard to sensitive and challenging heritage. A project page for the Birth Stories strand will be installed in Thackray Medical Museum's 'Having a Baby' gallery and will feature stories created with participants during the project and by members of the public. 
 
Description 'Having a Baby' gallery visit and workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Seven members of Bahar AFG Afghan Women's Association (accompanied by approximately ten children) visited Thackray Medical Museum's 'Having a Baby' gallery and a follow up Yarn workshop on 22nd October 2016. The women and children viewed a selection of Yarn stories based on their previous contributions (at workshops held at Lincoln Green Community Centre) and shared more birth stories from both their home countries and their time in the UK. Laura King, Rosie Wilkinson and Thackray Curator Lauren Ryall-Stockton worked with the group to demonstrate how their personal stories and images created by the children could be made into Yarn stories, resulting in a new co-produced story to publish online and feature on a touchscreen within the museum.

During this session, the stories shared ranged from light-hearted anecdotes to extremely personal and sometimes distressing accounts of miscarriages and traumatic births. Though some participants were uncertain about sharing these more negative experiences via Yarn stories in the museum, it was felt that the process of the workshops and the act of sharing stories had made significant impact in encouraging the women to open up about their experiences to share them verbally.

The group's leader provided the following feedback on the event and the series of workshops which had preceded it:
"Thank you for providing us with you're informative workshop about some of the issues women face. Some women are usually busy with their lives and families and dont go out much especially to museums and similar places. So this was a good opportunity for them all the experience somewhere new. I feel like the women at our group are embarrassed or shy to talk about their pregnancies or births or may have been raised in this way. I noticed throughout the workshop they started opening up and sharing some stories and experiences so it was kind of a barrier being broken down and a increase in confidence.
Also, they compared their home countries to England and how their hospitals deal with pregnancies and births. Some of the women had positive stories about their pregnancies and births were dealt with in terms of support however there was some ladies who weren't so happy about hospitals had dealt with their pregnancies and births. For example how in this generation, there are many choices along with pregnancy and birth however they were not granted these choices. Personally, i think this workshop was a very good idea, I would like our group to participate in workshops like this again. Once again, Thank you very much for inviting us to the Museum and for the amazing hospitality. The catering was very liked, the children also enjoyed it very much. We had a lot of workshops and visits in the past, but this one was different, new and very popular with the women so thank you for that."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://yarncommunity.org/stories/388
 
Description Birth Stories Facebook Page 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Facebook page was created at : https://www.facebook.com/thackraybirthstories/ to promote the Thackray Medical Museum 'Birth Stories' strand of the project. This was, in part, a response to the realisation that many of the local migrant community groups the team was trying to engage were using Facebook to communicate and organise their activities. Following promotion at a Leeds 'Baby Week' event, and increased number of page 'like's and views, two people added stories to Yarn, in response to the project.

Page statistics as of 18th Nov 2016:
Total 'Like's: 67
Maximum post reach: 1,200
Maximum post engagement: 164
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.facebook.com/thackraybirthstories/
 
Description Birth Stories Workshops 
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 Laura King, Lauren-Ryall Stockton and Rosie Wilkinson held five workshops with an Afghan Women's Association (which meets in the Harehills area of Leeds, close to Thackray Medical Museum) on 23rd May and 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th June. Images and handling objects from the museum's collection were presented and made available and, over the weeks, the group shared stories, recollections, comparisons to UK life, etc. Participants originated mostly from Afghanistan but also Syria and Egypt, ranged in age from approx. 25 to 60 and had been resident in the UK for varying lengths of time. Participants with greater fluency in English translated for the group (in both directions and also helped to translate text on the back of one of the museum's artefacts (a cloth flipchart relating to childbirth) from Pashto to English, thereby adding considerably to TMM's knowledge about this object. King et al. demonstrated the use of Yarn by creating stories based on material shared by the group and proposed how TMM and audiences might use it to facilitate dialogue. The participants contributed to evaluation processes both formally (questionnaire) and informally (responding verbally to questions, in conversation). Through this feedback they attested, almost unanimously that they were subsequently very likely to visit TMM (whilst previously very unlikely), that they felt they had shared information which was important to them and that the project had made them think differently about opportunities for digital engagement with museums. The research team was subsequently invited to the group's forthcoming Eid party, in order to continue discussions and plan a group visit to TMM.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://yarncommunity.org/stories/338
 
Description Black Health Initiative Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Laura King and Rosie Wilkinson made a presentation of the Birth Stories project strand at a 'World Fusion Cafe' event organised by local organisation Black Health Initiative on 16th March. The social event was attended by approx. 40 local residents, most of whom were retired, Afro-Caribbean migrants. A selection of handling objects from Thackray Medical Museum's collection were presented and discussed, along with the project aims of sharing stories, engaging diverse audiences and creating opportunities for dialogue. Several attendees expressed an interest and engaged with the objects but this did not lead to the recruitment of workshop participants. However, the visit was of benefit by suggesting a realignment of the recruitment strategy (i.e. identifying a suitable group and taking workshops to them, rather than inviting participants to workshops at TMM).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Filmmaking workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Paul Cooke and Rosie Wilkinson led film-making workshops at Edna G Olds Academy (17th May 2016) and Webster Primary (27th May). Pupils were introduced to the themes of the project strand involving The National Holocaust Centre and shown materials collated on Yarn. Time was spent developing interview techniques and discussing identity (focused around key objects selected by the pupils) before filming the pupils interviews in groups. The activity prepared pupils for their subsequent visit to the National Holocaust Centre (particularly the element of the trip which involved hearing a Holocaust Survivor's testimony and asking them questions) and also yielded film footage for the pupils to add to their Yarn stories.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://vimeo.com/170095098
 
Description Holocaust education and Yarn workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Paul Cook and Rosie Wilkinson led a selection of activities at Edna G Olds academy (20th June) and Webster Primary school (11th July) to lead a selection of activities building on the pupils' visit to the National Holocaust Centre. Pupils were also taught to use Yarn, enabling them to create stories featuring their work over the course of the day and subsequent activity week. Pupils at each school presented their Yarn stories to the rest of the school at a special assembly, at the end of the week. Yarn offered an effective way for teachers and pupils to collate, present and share the result of all of their Holocaust education activities from that term.

The Yarn stories were subsequently combined and shared with the National Holocaust Centre who were able to draw on them to produce a Yarn-based scheme of work for teaching the Holocaust in primary schools.


The National Holocaust Centre is currently in talks the Shoah foundation about becoming the UK hub for its platform IWitness. As a result of the work on Yarn, NHC have proposed a further funding bid for a project which would link the use of Yarn (particularly to share best practice and 'schemes of work' with schools) with resources available through IWitness.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://yarncommunity.org/stories/350
 
Description Launch Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Launch event at University of Leeds, 29/02/16: Attended by the project's researchers, museum collaborators and teachers from participating schools. Participants learnt about the background of the project and were introduced to the digital storytelling tool 'Yarn', before having a chance to experiment with Yarn and make plans for each stage of the project, as well as identifying their main aims. Collaborators were enthusiastic about the possibilities Yarn presented and were able to suggest how activities might be structured to help achieve their aims. One team created a Yarn story to use in workshops and for recruiting participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Leeds Maternity Strategy Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On 15th Sept 2016 Laura King, Rosie Wilkinson and Catherine Robbins (Assistant Curator, Thackray Medical Museum) presented a stall at a Leeds Maternity Strategy Event as part of Leeds Baby Week. The event was attended by public service users and health professionals. King et al. chatted to attendees about the Birth Stories project and gave out flyers inviting people to contribute stories on Yarn for inclusion in Thackray's 'Having a Baby' gallery. People we spoke to took flyers to share with colleagues and new parents they encounter through their work and also suggested a range of local support groups who might be interested in getting involved. These groups were contacted through social media channels, as a consequence and two people added birth stories to Yarn.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Migrant Access Project Community Networkers Drop-in 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Thackray Medical Museum Curator Lauren Ryall-Stockton and Rosie Wilkinson attended this drop-in session on 19th April, aimed at leaders of migrant community groups, to present the aims of this strand of the project and gauge interest in participation. The attendees were able to provide insights into the types of groups who might wish to participate and also the ways the groups run and communicate. As a consequence of this engagement with Migrant Access Project, it was possible to arrange a series of workshops with a local Afghan Women's Association, thereby furthering Thackray Museum's aim of engaging more ethnically diverse and hard to reach audiences in it's vicinity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Re-thinking Challenging History 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Laura King and Lauren Ryall Stockton gave a presentation about the project at 'Re-thinking Challenging History' conference, Cardiff University / National Museum of Cardiff, June 2016.

Rachael Connelly (Imperial War Museum North) explained that IWMN are currently redeveloping their Holocaust education and expressed an interest in the Yarn stories relating to the National Holocaust Centre strand of the project. Laura King subsequently shared these with her.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description School Inset/training day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The National Holocaust Centre held a workshop on 30th Sept 2016 as part of one school's inset training day, using Yarn to introduce schemes of work for primary settings, developed as a response to work with schools during the project and also drawing on Yarn stories produced by pupils during the project. Teachers provided the following feedback on Yarn and this method of sharing the schemes of work:

- Great idea of having all the resources in the same place available any time.
- Really well pitched with regards to signposting to key resources.
- Yarn is a fantastic tool and I think teachers will use it as a resource.
- The ideas behind Yarn are very well thought out.
- Children able to improve their ICT skills while learning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://yarncommunity.org/stories/348
 
Description Schools visit to National Holocaust Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Paul Cooke and Rosie Wilkinson attended the National Holocaust Centre on 8th June, along with pupils of Edna G Olds Academy and Webster Primary. Cooke and Wilkinson filmed aspects of the visit, including testimony from Holocaust survivor Susi Bechhöfer and her responses to questions from the pupils. Resulting footage was made available to the schools to use in the creation of Yarn stories and, ultimately exhibition materials for NHC's new Media Centre. The visit also consolidated links between the Centre and the two school and the learning experience led to further digital engagement through Yarn.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://vimeo.com/171206882
 
Description Science Museum CPD workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jamie Starke and Rosie Wilkinson organised the workshop 'Wounded: Alternative Narratives of Conflict, Casualties and Care' at the Science Museum on 20th Oct 2016. The event was attended by the two members of Leeds North Veterans Breakfast club who had participated in previous project activities, as well as thirteen delegates from the museums sector. Eight museums were represented, in total, including the Science Museum and Thackray Medical Museum. The workshop featured an introduction to Yarn, an explanation of the process for this project strand and a presentation, by participants, of the stories they had created in response. Delegates also visited the 'Wounded' exhibition before taking part in a discussion session regarding the effectiveness of using free digital tools such as Yarn to engage audiences with difficult heritage and co-produce and co-curate content. One participant commented that Yarn stories provided an effective way to close the broken feedback loop referred to by Nina Simon (Simon 2011, p. 20)*.

Ruth Quinn, who attended from Wakefield's Mental Health Museum subsequently got in touch to enquire about the possibility of future collaboration using Yarn.

Participants made the following comments on feedback forms:
o All participants regarding yarn as a useful tool for engagement
o Most of the museum representatives said that they would consider using Yarn in their future work.
o "Potential for different forms of engagement and collaboration"
o "Yarn has an amazing future ahead!"
o "There needs to be space for story-making, as well as story-telling, in museums"

* Simon, N., 'Participatory Design and the Future of Museums', in Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene and Laura Koloski (eds), Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World (Philadelphia:Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011), pp. 18-33.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Using Digital Tools to Engage Difficult Heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Museum professionals, public sector service providers, community group representatives, software developers and academics from a range of disciplines attended a workshop on 8th December at which the research team gave an account of its activities and findings and engaged delegates in discussions around key questions raised by the project and potential next steps. Alongside this activity several delegates also took part in filmed interviews to evaluate the event, comment on potential impact and highlight further areas of interest. Delegates shared knowledge and expertise and contributed to a number of in-depth discussions, key aspects of which will be captured in a forthcoming briefing document and an academic publication(s). Opportunities for further collaboration using the Yarn platform were also identified. Attendees commented that the event provided a good opportunity to develop useful networks and consider case studies and examples of best practice as well as positive feedback on the potential for using Yarn in their own work, whilst suggesting useful ways in which the platform might be developed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Visit to 'Recovery' exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact On 3rd October 2016 Jamie Starke and Rosie Wilkinson visited Thackray Medical Museum's 'Recovery' exhibition, along with two members of Leeds North Veterans Breakfast Club, in order to draw comparisons with aspects of the Science Museum's 'Wounded' exhibition and consider, further, how digital engagement might compliment (or detract) from the museum experience. Following this series of workshops, the two participants created three Yarn stories which they subsequently presented at a workshop at the Science Museum attended by numerous museum professionals, including key representatives from the Science Museum and Thackray Medical Museum. One of the participants found that the experience of trying to create a personal Yarn story triggered some of her PTSD symptoms but decided to work together with the other participant and create less personal stories, including one which focused specifically on museum's safeguarding responsibilities in regard to collaborative history-making, such as signposting sources of medical help and support.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://yarncommunity.org/stories/385
 
Description Visit to 'Wounded' exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Jamie Starke and Rosie Wilkinson visited the Science Museum's 'Wounded' exhibition, along with two members of Leeds North Veterans Breakfast Club on 19th September 2016. The exhibition's Project Manager, Lorraine Ward, provided an introduction to the exhibition. Both participants took part in discussion after viewing the exhibition and reflected on ways Yarn might be used to respond to it. For instance, the participants expressed views about the structure of the exhibition ("why didn't they put that bit THERE, instead of there") and in doing so anticipated one of our suggestions and hoped for outcomes, this being that Yarn might be an effective way of allowing audiences to re-curate exhibitions digitally.

Both participants agreed to attend a follow-up CPD event at the Science Museum on 20th Oct, attended by other museum professionals from various institutions. Plans were made for a further workshop for the participants and a visit to Thackray Medical Museum's 'Recovery' exhibition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Webster Primary Assembly 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Paul Cook and Rosie Wilkinson attended a celebration assembly at Webster Primary school on 15th July 2016. Pupils used Yarn to present their work on WW2 and the Holocaust. The assembly was also attended by National Holocaust Centre Educator Sarah Wetton, to strengthen links formed through the school's visit to NHC and digital engagement through Yarn.
- One outcome of these activities is that pupils' poems have been featured in the Reception of NHC.
- As a result of reading the Yarn stories created by school pupils in response to this strand of the project, Researcher and Filmmaker Romana Turina added three Yarn stories relating to 'hidden' history of the Holocaust: http://beta.pararchive.com/users/Romana-Turina.
- School teachers, pupils and NHC staff provided the following feedback on the project and Yarn:

Teacher feedback:
- Intuitive design, very easy to use
- Gives a polished finish
- Tablet friendly (a bonus given that these are increasingly used in classrooms)
- An effective way of linking to material on other platforms used by the school (YouTube, Twitter) and assembling content created on commonly used apps like iMovie.

Teacher suggestions
- Make picture captions more visible (so that the reader doesn't have to click on 'item details')
- Introduce Yarn at the beginning of a workshop series, so that participants can add content as they go, rather than retrospectively.

National Holocaust Centre feedback (Sarah Wetton):
- Yarn stories offer a great window onto how the Holocaust is being taught in primary schools and how a visit to NHC might fit into this.
- Quoting schools' stories may be an effective way of sharing examples of best practice, reaching new target audiences and making teaching of this difficult subject seem more feasible. [NB: this strategy was subsequently used to create and share a scheme of work].

Pupil feedback
Which bit of the project did you like best?
- Speaking to Suzi and other Holocaust survivors; hearing their stories
- Visiting Westminster Abbey
- Writing poems

What was the most difficult part of the project?
- Presenting the assembly
- Speaking to the camera when making films

Did any aspect of the project surprise you?
- Delivering lines well in assembly after struggling in rehearsals
- Learning that others have had to survive without all of the things I have

Why should we learn about the Holocaust?
- To stop the same things happening again
- To stop people abusing their power
- To inspire us to realise our own ability to create a positive future

That did you like best about Yarn?
- Being able to assemble everything we've done (i.e. work, trips, workshops etc.)
- Being able to assemble different types of media (especially video)
- "Awesome" to be able to add your own content
Can you think of other possible uses for Yarn?
- Presentations and assemblies
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://yarncommunity.org/stories/342
 
Description Wounded workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Jamie Starke and Rosie Wilkinson led an introductory workshop for participants in the Science Museum's strand of the project on 8th September 2016. Three members of Leeds North Veterans Breakfast Club attended and others expressed an interest in taking part in future events. Participants shared stories and experiences, learnt about Yarn and discussed their aims for participation. Afterwards, one participant (a PTSD sufferer) told us that she had discussed her involvement in the project with her therapist and that they had decided, together, that making notes and writing down thoughts in Yarn (without publishing them) might be an effective strategy for dealing with PTSD symptoms.*

Two of the three participants agreed to take part in a follow-up visit to the Science Museum's 'Wounded' exhibition.

* Unfortunately, this strategy proved to be counter productive for the participant, as the creation of very personal stories actually triggered some PTSD symptoms, but an alternative approach of working together with another participant to create joint stories provided an effective alternative.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://yarncommunity.org/stories/362