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  • Catherine

Digital Engagement

Hi everyone, It is looking like this bulletin is all about digital stuff online as part our From Panic to Planning mission. It is a sign of the times, but also because some groups have now got funding to develop their digital offer and are starting to gear up. If you are wanting to do digital things, and didn’t get funding or missed the deadline, or indeed aren’t a museum so didn’t qualify, then drop us a wee email. It would be really good to know what further demand there is for digital funding, and if there are a lot of you then we could explore what’s out there – and we can certainly go and ask questions of the funders on your behalf.

So what’s been happening? Xponorth It was good to see a whole collection of familiar faces last week at the ‘virtual tours’ digital heritage workshops currently being offered by Xponorth. It was over-subscribed, and lots of us joined as audience even if we couldn’t get an interactive spot.We have asked if there is a chance of a re-run: that won’t happen any time soon, but the workshop was recorded and together with the presentation it is on their Facebook page called Heritage Studio:

There are a whole series and everything will be uploaded so keep an eye out on he Facebook page.Don’t forget to book in for the rest of them:

Video – opening up after Covid 19: We are continuing to cast our eyes around the world and see how people are tackling the challenges posed by Covid-19. This is a really engaging video made about Aukland Museum as it re-opened. Obviously it is bigger than most independent museums but if you scale it down there are loads of ideas and practical solutions (and what can’t work) – and so much planning. Aside from all this, they wrap everything round with intangible cultural activities which feel like they could have resonances for us in our diverse communities with all our seeds and shoots from different cultures, faiths, practices, languages and dialects in Scotland. When we all reopen or restart, do we want to change how we behave with our heritage?

Leadership: Leadership is developing as a topic among the lead cultural organisations, looking at how you and your boards might start to introduce and then facilitate change in your organisation. It may well be necessary for many museums and heritage sites, and for activity projects which will need to find different ways of delivering what they do. A webinar was posted today by the Museums Association However if you are webinar-weary (and many people are), then how about this set of points which seem like good notes on how to start planning and communicating change for your organisation. It’s all about clarity, evidence of the need for change, and taking people with you.

Planning: Talking of leadership, the Built Environment Forum Scotland has an excellent online programme covering a range of coronavirus reponse online seminars for people who have historic sites and buildings. This is not just museums which is very welcome! Anyone can book on, and the first one is on the 12th June. It is proving quite difficult to find some good thinking around starting to plan the activity-based projects, so if you have interesting links or pointers then please share them with us.

Digital Improvement Districts: This is an interesting idea shared with us by Bill Sadler from the Scottish Local History Forum. He signposted the Cupar Digital Improvement District which was a pilot project launched in September and is now really coming into its own in these Covid times Bill is involved with a similar initiative in Grantown, with the newly formed Grantown Society really getting going with activities. With his permission their latest newsletter is attached – it includes heritage without it being front and centre, and is already thinking ‘post Covid’.

This activity from a new organisation chimes strongly with discussions at workshops last year, where the newest organisations were finding it easier to get young people involved and move things forward: it was suggested several times that this was because they are ‘fit for purpose’ now. Might this prompt some established societies and organisations to think about a revamp or relaunch?

Podcasts: For various reasons I have been exploring podcasts this week and thought I would share some links as some of you are starting to make them or plan them. I am also going to share a few insights as in my chequered past I worked for the BBC and can hear and understand what is going on with content and production.

There are a huge amount of museums and heritage podcasts out there, and with a great variation in presentation and quality. There are many easy podcast tools to make your own, with free software available but also paid versions (not all expensive) which can have more support features such as automatically sorting out volume, background noise and having a simple clipboard. Some of the free ones are actually more tricky to use than paid ones. As ever you get what you pay for. All of them offer something simple enough to make and edit on your smartphone.

Certainly anyone can make a podcast, but do listen to a few first to see what style you think will work for you. The links below give some variety, from short to long, from simple to more complex. The History Scotland magazine has a lot of interesting episodes, and runs a busy list as an adjunct to their printed magazine which is a really interesting model for our museums or heritage society publications. an America-based platform with a great variety of subjects from all round the world. Number 81 is very interesting on being a costumed interpreter as we come out of lockdown. will be extremely interesting to follow in the current discourse around Black Lives Matter and decolonising museums. the National Museum of Scotland have a whole set of podcasts on Soundcloud. they get to some great places, a lot in the States but also Iceland and further afield. this is from Anarchaeologist and there are lots to explore. Again, a lot America-based but not all, such as ‘Between a broch and a hard place’ more edgy than anything here in the subjects they tackle. Very international

If there is a bit of a theme emerging here, which is when you put in ‘best heritage or museum podcasts’ you don’t really get that many from the UK. Podcasts don’t have borders and boundaries, and neither will your audiences once they start listening so trying to find a UK standard isn’t all that useful. There are the big beasts like the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, and they are good if you like your podcast served up pretty plain and simple, but if you want some atmosphere and sense of ‘programme’ you will probably look elsewhere. Both have their place and their audience. The BBC adds whistles and bells but also experienced audio teams so they can be intimidating for a new podcast maker. Generally for the combination of innovation and achievable production the best work generally seems to be coming from further afield, and frankly is more likely to appeal to a younger demographic. Museopunks is clearly one of these! I would advise googling ‘best podcasts’ rather than restricting it to heritage, and you might start to form ideas which think outside the format currently being offered up within the heritage world. A relatively simple format which holds the interest brilliantly is Death in Ice Valley from the BBC World Service and NRK, and which was Podcast of the Year in 2019. With some training and imagination, this format could be reproduced with a decent microphone, a smartphone and free or cheap software. (Warning – you might get hooked once you start listening!)

As ever – innovate, and come up with an approach and style which expresses who you are. If you feel you need training, try and get it rather than be disappointed with what you come out with.

As for your audience – think about who you want to capture and captivate. Podcasts are massively popular with the under 40’s (and increasingly with the over 40’s too) but they will expect a certain approach. Young people are constantly mentioned by community heritage groups and people as hard to engage with, and hard to understand. Have a read of this: a fantastic article written by a millennial about millennials and is perfect for our digital bulletin.

Looking ahead – some funding news:- As you know pretty much every funder has diverted their budgets to dealing with coronavirus. But not all. The Architectural Heritage Fund is one of the most inspiring small teams in the sector led by Gordon Barr, and they have kept their ‘getting going’ fund of up to £10k open. If you were right at the start of planning a community project around a local building and had been leaving it fallow for now, then check out their website and funding page.

The timescales might be good, because Historic Environment Scotland, who could well be a subsequent funder, have updated their website on grants for building work and the main focus seems to be on a December deadline.

As for regeneration projects and funding to activities – all quiet, although there is a rustling in the bushes from various quarters. Communities and other heritage practitioners want to get planning and active, and the funders know we do. We have no blinding insights as to what is happening under the surface, but we hope that some useful funding will come onstream.

Final reminder: register for the EU-LAC online webinar ‘Community-based museums in times of crisis’ to be held on Friday 12 June, 15:00 (UTC). time we might well have the conference proceedings from last November to share – it looks amazing and is undergoing final tweaks. That’s all for this week, as we live our lives in the strange virtual world floating above the earth.

Stay well and keep exploring,


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