Digitally Democratising Archives was launched through an open call last summer as part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s, Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. 10 projects were selected by a steering group of heritage and culture professionals to take part in the programme starting in September 2021. With training and support, each of their projects has sought to bring communities and archives closer together using digital technology.

Lead consultant on this project, Liam Smyth, talks through what we found about how digital technology can bring archives and communities closer together:

Take a look at how the 10 projects evolved over time and the lessons they learned along the way...

  1. LGBT+ Oral Histories Digital Archive
  2. Mapping Migration: Jewish Temporary Shelter Cards
  3. Places never seen: A youth led, digital exploration of the 1911 Festival of Empire
  4. Podcast: Celebrating Bearwood Women
  5. Preserving Cramlington Camera Club's Digital Archive
  6. Silwood Video Archive Project
  7. Stories from a treasure
  8. Tag L8
  9. The East Riding Blockdown: Contemporary Collecting in Minecraft
  10. Women in Lockdown

‘LGBT+ Oral Histories Digital Archive’

LGBT Foundation LTD, North West

This project created a digital, accessible archive of LGBT+ oral
histories focused on community empowerment and queer
activism in Greater Manchester and beyond. The project
involved training a group of volunteers to conduct a series of
10 one-hour-long interviews with LGBT+ people of a range
of ages across Greater Manchester. The interviews were
transcribed, and the recordings and transcriptions formed the
content of an online exhibition which was launched on LGBT
Foundation’s website to mark LGBT History Month.

Their Story

‘Mapping Migration: Jewish Temporary Shelter Cards’

The Jewish Museum London

Using the newly digitised Jewish Temporary Shelter (JTS)
cards, this project explored how the museum could use
georeferencing technologies to present information in new
ways. The project studied information contained within 242
record cards from the Jewish Temporary Shelter dating from
the 1940s and 1950s which records migrants passing through
the shelter just after WWII. The Jewish Museum employed a
research associate to carry out the task of geo-referencing
the data, promoting the progress of the project through
blogs and social media and presenting outcomes via talks
and workshops. Project outputs included a microsite on the
Jewish Museum London’s website dedicated to the project,
an interactive map, a searchable dataset, and workshops and
talks published on YouTube.

Their Story

‘Places never seen: A youth led, digital exploration of the 1911 Festival of Empire’

South London Gallery, London

This project invited local young people to critically and
creatively examine an example of local colonial history and
to develop open access digital outputs through Wikimedia.
Participants from South London Gallery’s young people’s
forum, the Art Assassins, took the lead in researching and reexamining the 1911 Festival of Empire. Through this project,
the Art Assassins developed archival research and digital
storytelling skills, engaging with online platforms including
Wikimedia and FrameVR.

Their Story

‘Podcast: Celebrating Bearwood Women’

Bearwood Community Hub, West Midlands

With the support of Sandwell Community History and Archive
Service (CHAS), and local community groups, this project
invited women in Bearwood to add their voice to the historic
record and create a new podcast: Celebrating Bearwood
Women. The key aims were to:

  • Grow the representation of Bearwood women in local
  • Increase Bearwood Community Hub’s knowledge and
    capability to contribute to local archives.
  • Learn, as individuals and as an organisation, how to create a
  • Increase awareness of the local archive service, what digital
    archiving is, and how to create one’s own archive.

Their Story

‘Preserving Cramlington Camera Club's Digital Archive’

Northumberland County Council, North East

This project worked with local Cramlington Camera Club
to preserve the Club’s digital archive at Northumberland
Archives and involve community groups with the creation and
preservation of digital photographs. Northumberland Archives
and the Camera Club worked with members of Cramlington
Guides and young people from a local secondary school to
introduce them to what Northumberland Archives does, while
Camera Club members led sessions on photography skills. The
participants then took digital photographs of Cramlington
that were exhibited at Cramlington Community Hub, in an
online exhibition on Northumberland Archives’ website, and
added to the Archives’ collection. This contemporary record of
Cramlington is permanently preserved using Preservica and
accessible via the Archives’ CALM online catalogue.

Their Story

‘Silwood Video Archive Project’

Spectacle Media, London

Two decades ago, Spectacle took a collection of video
cameras, microphones, tripods, and cables to the Silwood
Estate in southeast London. They had been asked to work with
residents for a few weeks - teaching them how to shoot video
and make a short film as part of the planned regeneration
work in the area. After a few months, the funding ended,
but Spectacle never left. For twenty years the Silwood
Community Video Group has been filming in and around the
Silwood Estate, documenting daily life and changes created
by regeneration.
The aim of this project was to open the Silwood video
archive for the first time since filming began and invite the
Silwood community to watch, comment on, and hopefully
begin a participatory editing process to draw out the stories
of Silwood. 17 workshops took place with members of the
Silwood Community and clips from the Silwood archive were
digitised and uploaded onto Vimeo. These clips covered a
variety of themes including: the destruction of the estate,
location shots of buildings which no longer exist, planning
meetings which showcased spaces and buildings which were
never built, promises made and not fulfilled, p

Their Story

‘Stories from a treasure’

Qisetna, London

Qisetna collect stories from the Syrian diaspora living in the
UK. For their project, they set about conducting research
across several UK regions and contexts, both rural and urban,
to understand the current situation of the Syrian diaspora
better, and reach Syrians from the older generation. They
then sought to create new content online by producing a
series of podcasts under themes such as music, food, places
and proverbs, in collaboration with Syrian diaspora in the
UK, particularly those from the older generation. This new
collection was uploaded on a bilingual website to make
it available to younger audiences through social media

Their Story

‘Tag L8’

Cinema Nation CIC, North West

Tag L8 was a research and development initiative involving
community archivists and activists from the Liverpool L8
area. Cinema Nation worked with participants to create
an interactive online platform that could hold community
archive material from the Liverpool L8 area, alongside training
resources. A key aim was to explore how materials could be
made accessible to the residents that they feature. Gathering
local people’s views and interactions on how archives are
preserved and stored, and how material is categorised, was
integral to the project. The platform focuses primarily on film
but also holds photos and voice recordings.

Their Story

‘The East Riding Blockdown: Contemporary Collecting in Minecraft’

East Riding Archives, Yorkshire

The East Riding Blockdown project aimed to capture youth
experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the East Riding
Archives’ collections using the videogame Minecraft as
a creative medium and platform for digital storytelling.
Participants documented their COVID-19 experiences within
Minecraft, using blocks to build and a ‘book and quill’ item to
write. Images of these creations were then exported as digital
files for permanent preservation in the East Riding Archives,
becoming part of 800 years of East Riding history. The project
aimed to empower young people to add their voice to the
archives, and to increase awareness of what archives are
to this demographic. Their contributions also addressed a
collections gap for the East Riding Archives where previously,
there were no young people’s voices in the collections.

Their Story

‘Women in Lockdown’

Sheffield Feminist Archive, Yorkshire

Women in Lockdown aimed to document women’s
experiences of the pandemic - in their own words - through
written, audio, and creative accounts. Through a series
of pop-up events, online events, and postcard boxes in
community spaces, the project engaged new participants
and asked them to contribute their stories. SFA worked with
a socially engaged web design agency to co-design and build
an interactive, open-access digital archive of the submissions
that were collected.

Their Story

Made possible by:

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Digitally Democratising Archive (2022) by The Audience Agency supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 40

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