University community heritage project to be showcased at Scotland's History Festival

University community heritage project to be showcased at Scotland's History Festival

The work of a variety of local heritage projects across Scotland that have been supported by a team from the University of Aberdeen will be displayed at 'Previously... Scotland's History Festival' at Adam House, Chamber Street in Edinburgh on Saturday, November 23.

The University's Sharing All Our Stories Scotland team, led by Dr Elizabeth Curtis of the School of Education, has supported diverse communities which are carrying out local heritage projects by providing tailored workshops, fieldwork and training in methods for heritage research. The team has focused on the heritage of place and landscape, including how to run community oral history projects and community empowerment.

Dr Curtis said: "These workshops provided the opportunity for groups to meet, share insights and work face-to-face with University staff. Questions of ownership of and participation in community histories have led to wider discussion within both the University team and project leaders relating to ethical working in this field."

One of the projects supported by the Sharing All Our Stories Scotland project is Theatre Nemo at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. Theatre Nemo works with Barlinnie's Day Care staff to run arts activities, aiming to help the men cope better with their sentences, give them the confidence and life skills to make positive changes on their release, and avoid reoffending.

Dr Adam Hanna, a Research Fellow based at the University's Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, looked into the history of the prison, and also produced a guide to searching archives which supported the charity's workers and volunteers to carry on the research themselves.

Isabel McCue of Theatre Nemo said: "The team from the University of Aberdeen has thrown light on the prison's history and trained our volunteers in research skills. The insights into the past that they have provided have inspired our creative and dramatic work with inmates, which in turn has raised the profile of our charity. The weekly drama sessions involve giving the group some of the historical evidence and asking them to think about how they are going to turn it into a performance."

In Paisley, the 'Gathering Threads' All Our Stories project also had the chance to collaborate with University of Aberdeen staff, including Dr Jo Vergunst and Dr Peter Loovers of the Department of Anthropology and Neil Curtis of the University's Museums as well as Elizabeth Curtis.

Elise Kelly of the Paisley group said: "Gathering Threads is working with pupils in Paisley schools to educate them about the mill heritage, mainly through poetry and drama. Using poet led workshops, direct accounts, Thread Mill Museum visits and personal research to enhance the pupils' work - culminating in a published anthology."

Phil Marston of the Centre for Academic Development and Sarah Cornelius, a senior lecturer at the Univeristy, have supported projects using mobile digital technology, including Tayvallich Primary School in Argyll who have been piloting the use of iPads in the classroom to help explore their personal histories.

The Riverside Music Project in Stirling has been researching archives, talking to living musicians about their music making and composing their own tunes. They had help with this from colleagues at the University, with ethnomusicologist Dr Frances Wilkins visiting to help with fieldwork training and advise on ethics, archiving and writing blogs. Talking about a Sharing All Our Stories Scotland showcase event, Jo Miller of the Riverside Music Project said: "As well as talking (and singing) about what RMP has been up to, it was really interesting to hear about other projects like oral histories of the Paisley thread mills, and a Shetland Primary School recreating an Icelandic-style parliament!"