Participatory Heritage

Jan 2017 | 240pp

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Participatory Heritage

Edited by Henriette Roued-Cunliffe and Andrea Copeland

This book demonstrates how heritage institutions can work with community-based heritage groups to build broader, more inclusive and culturally relevant collections.

The internet as a platform for facilitating human organization without the need for organizations has, through social media, created new challenges for cultural heritage institutions. Challenges include but are not limited to: how to manage copyright, ownership, orphan works, open data access to heritage representations and artefacts, crowdsourcing, cultural heritage amateurs, information as a commodity or information as public domain, sustainable preservation, attitudes towards openness and much more.

Participatory Heritage uses a selection of international case studies to explore these issues and demonstrates that in order for personal and community-based documentation and artefacts to be preserved and included in social and collective histories, individuals and community groups need the technical and knowledge infrastructures of support that formal cultural institutions can provide. In other words, both groups need each other.

Divided into three core sections, this book explores:

  • Participants in the preservation of cultural heritage; exploring heritage institutions and organizations, community archives and group
  • Challenges; including discussion of giving voices to communities, social inequality, digital archives, data and online sharing
  • Solutions; discussing open access and APIs, digital postcards, the case for collaboration, digital storytelling and co-designing heritage practice.

Readership: This book will be useful reading for individuals working in cultural institutions such as libraries, museums, archives and historical societies. It will also be of interest to students taking library, archive and cultural heritage courses.

List of figures and tables


Introduction: what is participatory heritage

PART 1: Participants

1. A communal rock: sustaining a community archives in Flat Rock, Georgia – JoyEllen Freeman

2. The Bethel AME Church Archive: partners and participants - Andrea Copeland

3. Creating an authentic learning environment for school children: a case study of digital storytelling programs at the Mudgeeraba Light Horse Museum - Janis Hanley

4. Viking re-enactment - Lars Konzack

5. Learning, loving and living at the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame - Sarah Baker

6. The contributions of family and local historians to British history online - Mia Ridge

7. Forgotten history on Wikipedia - Henriette Roued-Cunliffe

PART 2: Challenges

8. Custodianship and online sharing in Australian community archives - Courtney Ruge, Tom Denison, Steve Wright, Graham Willett, Joanne Evans

9. Who is the expert in participatory culture? - Lýsa Westberg Gabriel and Thessa Jensen

10. Social inequalities in the shaping of cultural heritage infrastructure - Noah Lenstra

11. No Gun Ri Digital Archive: challenges in archiving memory for a historically marginalized incident - Donghee Sinn

12. Giving voice to the community: digitizing Jeffco oral histories - Krystyna K. Matusiak, Padma Polepeddi, Allison Tyler, Catherine Newton and Julianne Rist

13. Issues with archiving community data - Lydia Spotts and  Andrea Copeland

PART 3: Solutions

14. Ethiopian stories in an English landscape - Shawn Sobers

15. Having a lovely time: localized crowdsourcing to create a 1930s street view of Bristol from a digitized postcard collection - Nicholas Nourse, Peter Insole and Julian Warren

16. Digital ARChiving in Canadian Artist-Run Centres - Shannon Lucky

17. New approaches to the community recording and preservation of burial space - Gareth Beale, Nicole Smith and St Mary the Virgin Embsay with Eastby Churchyard survey team

18. A case for collaboration: solving practical problems in cultural heritage digitization projects - Craig Harkema and Joel Salt

19. Open heritage data and APIs - Henriette Roued-Cunliffe

Further Reading


Henriette Roued-Cunliffe DPhil is an Assistant Professor at the  Royal School of Library and Information Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She teaches and researches heritage data and information, and in particular how DIY culture is engaging with cultural heritage online and often outside of institutions. Her website is: roued.com.

Andrea Copeland is an Associate Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Indianapolis. Her research focus is public libraries and their relationship with communities, with a current emphasis on connecting the cultural outputs of individuals and community groups to a sustainable preservation infrastructure.



What is participatory heritage? This book aims to help information and heritage professionals to learn from others who are engaging with participatory heritage communities. It focuses on case studies authored by individuals working in the space that combines both formal and informal approaches to documenting and sharing heritage materials. Each chapter provides insights into the social, organizational and intellectual characteristics of participatory heritage and how these characteristics support or conflict with the characteristics of the formal heritage sector. The overarching result is a resource that provides methods for connecting, solutions to challenges and a shared understanding of the phenomenon. All of this is aimed at moving the conversation forward within our different communities of practice.

PART 1: Participants

1. A communal rock: sustaining a community archives in Flat Rock, GeorgiaJoyEllen Freeman

In Chapter 1, JoyEllen Freeman looks at a community archive in Georgia, United States. The archive is an institution built around amateur initiative, like many other GLAM institutions that are now fully professionalized. The archive in this case has become a collecting point for African-American communities and culture in this Southern part of the United States. The goal of this chapter is to explore the issues, considerations and complications that arise when an archival institution serves its community in multiple and often conflicting capacities. This work relies on research from archival holdings at the DeKalb History Center and Flat Rock Archives, a diverse sampling of authoritative archival literature, an interview with the founder and president of the Flat Rock Archives and Freeman’s personal narration.

2. The Bethel AME Church Archive: partners and participantsAndrea Copeland

In Chapter 2 Andrea Copeland works with African-American communities in Indianapolis in this case in relation to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and its 180-year history. The focus here is on working to preserve the community’s archive in collaboration with different institutions such as the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis University Library and the Indiana State Museum.

3. Creating an authentic learning environment for school children: a case study of digital storytelling programmes at the Mudgeeraba Light Horse Museum–Janis Hanley

In Chapter 3 Janis Hanley explores the inclusion of school students in the heritage of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, through technology. The emphasis is on digital storytelling and collection, and this also includes collaboration with teachers. This chapter is a case study of the museum focusing on the authentic learning environment that developed as the DST programme evolved.

4. Viking re-enactmentLars Konzack

In Chapter 4 we meet many different participants such as archaeology students, tradespeople, re-enactors, horseback riders, archers and many more who are all partaking in the same Viking market at Moesgaard Museum, Denmark. The purpose of this chapter is to present Moesgaard Viking Moot as a participatory local heritage event with a diverse range of spectators and participants. Lars Konzack shows how the different participants have developed their interaction with and interpretation of the Viking age through the market’s 40-year history.

5. Learning, loving and living at the Australian Country Music Hall of FameSarah Baker

In Chapter 5 Sarah Baker explores the work of volunteers at the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame (ACMHF), an enthusiast-run archive and museum located in the regional city of Tamworth, Australia’s self-proclaimed ‘Country Music Capital’. Baker introduces different motivations and reasons for volunteering in a DIY institution. The chapter highlights how participatory heritage practice is as much about personal and community enrichment as it is about the collection and preservation of artefacts from the recent past. Recognizing and valuing the cultural, social and affective dimensions of community approaches to archiving will be important if networks between community archives and the mainstream heritage sector are to be productively strengthened

6. The contributions of family and local historians to British history onlineMia Ridge

Mia Ridge explores a very specific and long-running group of amateurs and family historians in Britain in Chapter 6. In particular, this chapter focuses on how these individuals not only participate in heritage but specifically contribute to our collective heritage through both grassroots and institutionally organized digital transcription of historical records. This chapter examines the important contributions of community historians to participatory heritage, discussing how family and local historians have voluntarily organized or contributed to projects to collect, digitize and publish historical sources about British history. This insight into grassroots projects may be useful for staff in cultural heritage institutions who encounter or seek to work with community historians. The questions addressed in this chapter are drawn from research which sought to understand the impact of participatory digital history projects on users.

7. Forgotten history on WikipediaHenriette Roued-Cunliffe

In Chapter 7 Henriette Roued-Cunliffe explores the role of heritage on Wikipedia and how this content is linked closely to the interests of those who participate as editors. The chapter examines different ways to include more marginalized heritage into the platform through WikiProjects, edit-a-thons, student editors and Wikipedians in residence. The chapter seeks to frame the systemic bias of Wikipedia within the wider discourse on the general biases in history and historical archives, and will show examples of methods attempting to correct this.

PART 2: Challenges

8. Custodianship and online sharing in Australian community archivesCourtney Ruge, Tom Denison, Steve Wright, Graham Willett and Joanne Evans

In Chapter 8 Ruge et al. begin discussion of the challenges involved with participation in heritage through their analysis of Australian GLAM institutions, on the one hand, and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, on the other. The two research projects reported on in this chapter explored issues of resourcing and sustaining the practice of sharing materials online, and had the goal of producing findings that can prove useful to community heritage organizations as well as those who seek to work with them. The purpose of the projects was to look not so much at the management of those collections but, rather, how they were to be accessed and how they could be used to engage their audiences; this resulted in a strong focus on social media. The findings of both projects provide valuable insights concerning the issues that community heritage organizations are frequently faced with in relation to the online sharing of collection materials, as well as illustrating how community informatics research can be useful to other community organizations contemplating making use of digitization and online services in order to expand their reach.

9. Who is the expert in participatory culture?Lýsa Westberg Gabriel and Thessa Jensen

In Chapter 9 Lýsa Westberg Gabriel and Thessa Jensen look at Danish community archives and heritage-related Facebook forums. In this chapter they discuss the pitfalls of the ‘cathedralized’ archive and point out the positive aspects of loosening control, hopefully showing how important participation is to everybody involved in the preservation of local heritage. They challenge the concept of expert, curator and participant across online platforms.

10. Social inequalities in the shaping of cultural heritage infrastructureNoah Lenstra

In Chapter 10 Noah Lenstra discusses the challenges that can occur in heritage projects that involve collaboration between well-funded universities, on the one hand, and marginalized African-American communities in the United States, on the other. Lenstra discusses the challenges that arise when well-funded institutions engage in the collaborative production of cultural heritage with marginalized communities. Ten years of university-led research on this topic in the United States shapes this discussion. Based on this experience, Lenstra articulates how social inequalities condition these partnerships and identifies particular techniques that lessen the social inequalities that contextualize this type of work.

11. No Gun Ri Digital Archive: challenges in archiving memory for a historically marginalized incidentDonghee Sinn

Chapter 11 focuses on the challenges in preserving marginalized heritage in relation of the stories from survivors of the No Gun Ri massacre during the Korean War. The chapter challenges the ease of which projects can take advantage of the passion of volunteer participants in heritage, particularly when funds are lacking, which they often are outside of larger institutions.

12. Giving voice to the community: digitizing Jeffco oral historiesKrystyna K. Matusiak,Padma Polepeddi, Allison Tyler, Catherine Newton and Julianne Rist

Chapter 12, by Krystyna Matusiak et al., take a more technical focus, with a look towards the digitization and online presentation of oral histories from Colorado, United States. The authors take a stance on the issue of developing sustainable digital projects in this overview of the project Jeffco Stories, a collection of digitized oral histories created by the Jefferson County Public (JCP) Library in Colorado, in the USA. The project was created in collaboration with local historical societies and with the assistance of faculty and graduate students from the Library and Information Science (LIS) programme at the University of Denver. This chapter contributes to research on the digitization of oral histories at small and mid-sized cultural heritage institutions and is particularly relevant to librarians and archivists who are exploring access and preservation solutions for digital collections.

13. Issues with archiving community dataLydia Spotts and Andrea Copeland

In Chapter 13 Lydia Spotts and Andrea Copeland explore the intangible on- and offline heritage that is constantly being created by the cycling culture in Indianapolis, United States. How to document the impact of an urban landscape in flux from the perspective of a loosely codified community centred on cycling is a considerable challenge worthy of consideration by archivists and information professionals in general. The bicycle movement in Indianapolis presents an ideal issue around which to develop a community heritage collection, as the geographical and mobile nature of the phenomenon will expose the challenges of capturing both place-bound and digital history as it is happening. This case, in particular, emphasizes the substantial technical and ethical challenges we are facing in terms of preserving the ever-growing amounts of new, born-digital heritage material created online each day.

PART 3: Solutions

14. Ethiopian stories in an English landscapeShawn Sobers

In Chapter 14, Shawn Sobers’ explores the Ethiopian heritage in Bath, England, dating back to the period 1935–41. This chapter explores the legacy of this period in Bath’s history and what it means for the people living and visiting there today. Sobers discusses attempts to introduce this alternative historical narrative into the fabric of Bath’s identity and beyond, discussing reflexively through personal experience of working in a voluntary capacity with Fairfield over a period of 17 years. This chapter shows how Fairfield House is a multi-purpose space with very different users. The main success of the place can be ascribed to the inclusion of the different stakeholders in the decision-making process.

15. Having a lovely time: localized crowdsourcing to create a 1930s street view of Bristol from a digitized postcard collectionNicholas Nourse, Peter Insole and Julian Warren

In Chapter 15, by Nicholas Nourse et al., crowdsourcing is presented as a way to encourage and facilitate participation in local heritage in Bristol, England. In this chapter the authors emphasize the importance of understanding the volunteers and their needs and work processes.

16. Digital archiving in Canadian artist-run centresShannon Lucky

Chapter 16 presents three solutions used by artist-run centres in Canada in preserving their digital archives. These include the use of existing web platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and WordPress, developing their own platforms and online databases, and through partnering with larger GLAM institutions. This chapter discusses the value of these archive collections and the challenges that ARCs, lacking an archival mandate, encounter in preserving and making their collections accessible. Based on interviews with the directors of nine ARCs in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Lucky offers three potential solutions that fit the organizational culture and mandate of these non-profit, independent arts organizations: web archiving; independent archives; and post-custodial partnerships.

17. New approaches to the community recording and preservation of burial spaceGareth Beale, Nicole Smith and St Mary the Virgin Embsay with Eastby Churchyard survey team

Gareth Beale et al. explore technological development in a community archaeology project on historical burial spaces in York, England, in Chapter 17. In particular, their account ranges from a description of the development of a specialized recording rig, to the diversity in skills among the participants of the project. In this chapter they describe the latest developments in the Re-reading the British Memorial project, a University of York-based research project which aims to enable the use of open source and low-cost technologies by community groups involved in the archaeological and historical study of burial space in the United Kingdom. This project responds to the urgent need to re-engage communities in the use and management of burial space.

18. A case for collaboration: solving practical problems in cultural heritage digitization
Craig Harkema and Joel Salt

Chapter 18 presents the collaboration between community members and the University Library at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, with the aim to increase the amount of Saskatchewan heritage content online. This chapter provides examples of and solutions to challenges posed by a wide-ranging, interinstitutional collaboration that will help to inform others who may undertake similar collaborative ventures. Among several solutions aimed at particular challenges in the project, one notable solution was their inclusion of heritage Facebook groups like Vintage Saskatoon and how they are making the collection available through download options and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

19.Open heritage data and APIsHenriette Roued-Cunliffe

Digitization of heritage material plays an important role in preserving it for the future.  In Chapter 19, Henriette Roued-Cunliffe argues for open heritage data as a means to facilitating participation in heritage now and in the future, explored through three case studies.

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