Capturing Lives in Scotland's Communities: An Online Arts Award Explore project

Capturing Lives in Scotland's Communities: An Online Arts Award Explore project

Young people from across Scotland are being asked to get involved a new art project to document life in their communities in the year 2020.

The initiative involving the University of Aberdeen museums teams and others from across Scotland aims to bring together people aged 11-18 years old from widening access backgrounds to help create an ‘archive for the future’.

Participants will be asked to create art in response to art and archival material held in university collections.

The project is hoping to address questions such as, what does life look like today for young people in different communities across Scotland? How do we capture different aspects of life happening in our communities? How has this changed - particularly in light of lockdown and the Covid crisis?

Organised by UMIS (University Museums in Scotland) #CapturingLives2020 will run over the summer and will be particularly targeted at those from more disadvantaged areas throughout Scotland, encouraging them to explore their local communities using different forms of art.

Participants will learn new art skills, have access to and be guided through museums online collections and archives, make new social connections across Scotland and earn an Arts Award Explore qualification – equivalent to an SCQF National 3. In addition, the project will provide mentors for those taking part to further support and encourage them through the programme.

The project brings together online collections and expertise from five different University Museums in Scotland: University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, The Glasgow School of Art, University of Stirling.

Each week will explore a different medium of art including photography, landscape painting and public art. Participants will be introduced to the theme by exploring relevant collections items from across the UMIS members and, using these as inspiration, create art pieces of their own using commonly available household items. Each participant in the project will be assigned a current student as a mentor who will help them to complete the activities and who will participate in the weekly discussion group sessions. The aspiration is to display some of the students’ portfolios from the project on University campuses when it is safe to do so, but in the short term the work will be displayed online.

Susan Curran, Acting Exhibitions and Public Programming Manager at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Each project mentor is an existing university student who has been inspired by our museum art collections and archives, as part of their studies.  The project allows them to expand their own skills and experience, whilst they support the young participants to engage with the collections. For the participants, it will be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, a chance to make new friends, receive a recognised qualification, and create unique art works which we aspire to display.”


Jacky MacBeath, Convenor of UMIS and Head of Museums at the University of Edinburgh, added: “The University of Edinburgh Museums is delighted to have been instrumental in designing and delivering this important programme. Widening participation – or opening up both culture and further/higher education to traditionally under-represented groups - is something that all UMIS members are committed to. Also, by working with our UMIS partners we can contribute a far greater selection of materials from across Scotland and ensure that the participants in the programme can make connections with and learn about a wider network of other young people and their communities.”

“Normally the Arts Award would require physical visits to venues and exhibitions, but by using our digital collections and archives we can offer this opportunity more widely and specifically tailor this programme to audiences who aren’t traditional museum visitors,” adds Sarah Burry-Hayes, Coordinator of UMIS. “We’re aware there are so many amazing resources being offered online from museums and galleries at the moment, but by designing a programme involving specific guided sessions and incorporating mentoring we aim to provide an environment in which the young people feel supported and nurtured to build their confidence and explore their creativity.”

Participants are being invited to apply to the project through selected schools and community groups. For more information on the project, visit the University of Edinburgh website: