UHI academics set to help islanders share their stories with the world in 'very exciting step forward for cultural history'
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A team of academics from Robert Gordon University (RGU) and University of the Highlands and Islands Institute for Northern Studies are helping Orcadians explore the potential for a digital story platform to celebrate the heritage, culture and identity of the islands.
The Orkney Digital Storytelling project is a collaboration between RGU, the University of the Highlands and Islands Institute for Northern Studies and key stakeholders on the Orkney Islands. It was recently awarded £10,000 from The Royal Society of Edinburgh to explore the most effective way to collect, curate and present stories in a digital format.
Led by Dr Rachael Ironside, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Business; Dr Stewart Massie, Reader at RGU’s School of Computing; and Professor Donna Heddle, Director of the University of the Highlands and Islands Institute for Northern Studies, the project seeks to identify and explore the challenges and opportunities posed in the development of digital platforms, and the curation and presentation of stories.
Dr Ironside said: “The development of digital platforms to present and share stories has become an increasingly popular method of engaging visitors with heritage, landscape and culture. However, the development of digital storytelling platforms is often expensive, time-consuming and requires technical expertise. This can lead to sustainability issues with maintaining platforms, as well as questions related to the most effective way to collect, curate and present stories in a digital format.
“The plan was to deliver three in-person workshops to explore story collection and curation, digital feasibility and sustainability. However, due to Covid we postponed these workshops and instead ran an online symposium in January 2021 called ‘Angles of Vision: Storytelling on the cosmic tide?’. The symposium hosted the same three workshops but in a digital format and attracted over 30 participants to each workshop nationally and internationally.
“It is intended that the findings developed from the workshops will benefit not only this project but have wider reaching impacts for the development and implementation of digital story-based projects locally, nationally and internationally. These challenges concern the collection and representation of stories, and also the sustainability of digital platforms beyond the end of the project. Our findings can be found in a newly published report.”
Professor Donna Heddle, director of the Institute for Northern Studies and co-investigator on the project, said: “Sharing stories is part of the lived experience of communities, past, present, and future. This digital story project will allow us to preserve and promote these stories in new ways which will give more access and indeed more ownership of them to the people who created them. It is a very exciting step forward for cultural history!”
The report, which features the outputs from each of the workshops hosted, provides insight into story collection and curation, digital feasibility and sustainability. The report also reflects on the relevance of these findings for developing a digital story platform in Orkney and is available to view online here: www.orkneydigitalstorytelling.com/