Southwell Community Archaeology – Planning an App

Southwell Blog Banner (small)Today we were at with our colleague Dr. Chris King at the University of Nottingham and with representatives of the Southwell Community Archaeology Group (SCAG) with whom the University of Nottingham has had a long and productive relationship working within the historic Minster town of Southwell in Nottinghamshire and its surrounding ecclesiastical district (known as the ‘Peculiar of Southwell’). Their current area of interest is the Burgage, an area to the north of the town which preliminary evidence suggests may have been a medieval planned settlement. It also has the house where Byron lived as teenager and has the remains of the first “House of Correction” in England. The area is steeped in history and SCAG has access to a large amount of currently latent historic material concerning the stories of the buildings and people of the Burgage and more widely of the town of Southwell. As one of our two community heritage partners on our current AHRC funded Connected Communities project (Digital Building Heritage Phase 3 – Grant Ref AHL0132901) this was our first opportunity to discuss with them their real needs and aims within the project –  a process which proved entertaining and enlightening. Through a well-established process of structured discussion that has served the DBHG and our partners well we began to work out the real heritage interpretation needs of this community group. The representatives from SCAG welcomed the opportunity to do this and were open to re-aligning any pre-conceived notions of them where there was a mismatch between stated ambitions and assumed means of achieving them. The workshop allowed us all to set out mutually agreed, specific ways forward for what the research team is going to do for the community heritage group and what the community heritage group is going to do to support the research team’s efforts in a meaningful and very real co-production process. This will focus upon the development of a mobile device app to make available a wide range of information in different media types (text, still images, 3D visualisations, video and audio) relating to the people and buildings of the Burgage in such a way that SCAG have complete and ongoing curatorial control over the selection, interpretation and presentation of the material. In this way they will be genuinely shaping their own interpretations of their own archaeology – a central aim of this project. Examples of other mobile device heritage apps developed by the DBHG at De Montfort University were shown and discussion moved to their advantages limitations and possible development for specific SCAG objectives. It was encouraging that the discussion also looked at other wider community engagement opportunities that might arise during the course of this AHRC funded initiative and we talked about parallel initiatives which could support the development of this innovative mobile device app to enhance its usefulness to the wider heritage community in Southwell and beyond. The Group ended up formulating specific statements of deliverable outcomes of what the research team should seek to develop and what they will be able to offer to the research team in order to do so. These statements were recorded as working documents and were as specific as possible and clearly show how the agreed processes contribute to the long term objectives of the project. This provides a degree of clarity and a shared frame of reference which gives all involved in the project confidence in the process and the expected outcomes. The research team is now embarking on the development and design process of the apps both for SCAG in Nottinghamshire and the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland (Arch and Arch) who we blogged about last month, our other community heritage group partners in this project. Both groups have fascinating archaeology and clear objectives which we will be helping them to achieve over the next nine months. We’ll also be doing some really cool laser scanning and 3D modelling.

The Burgage


About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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