Local Electronic Cultural Repositories: Who are the Users and What is the Impact?
23 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2011
Date Written: September 12, 2011
The CURIOS project investigates how digital archives can support local interest in local heritage and, in doing so, can contribute to community regeneration and strengthened community cohesion. Software tools that utilise semantic web/linked data technology are being developed to build a general, flexible and 'future proof' software platform to assist remote rural communities to collaboratively maintain and present information about their cultural heritage. Under this broad programme of research we are investigating how online cultural communities are transforming the ways in which local history is ‘written’ and remembered. Empirically, we focus on digital cultural heritage resources managed by community groups in remote and rural parts of the UK. Researching community-led initiatives enables us to explore how locally managed digital heritage resources can support sustainable rural areas.
This paper will focus on the presentation of findings from the first case study research that has been conducted with a community initiative in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Hebridean Connections, which is an online historical resource. We will critically reflect on the meaning of community heritage, the implications of digital resources for the preservation and communication of cultural heritage and the impact of these resources on engagement both within the local community and the broader range of users from diasporic communities, tourists and other user groups. Using data from interviews with local stakeholders in the Outer Hebrides, we identify and discuss potential tensions between the values of heritage ‘gatekeepers’ and the possibilities of a virtual archive. We argue that digital spaces for storing cultural objects has the potential to reconfigure locally-held understandings of community and place. We then go on to outline some of the challenges encountered in developing electronic cultural respositories for local historical information and, finally, we briefly outline the development of our cultural heritage 'toolkit' which seeks to overcome some of these challenges.
Keywords: digital culture, linked open data, cultural history, rural
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