Lizzie Glithero-West, Chief Executive, The Heritage Alliance
Image: © Wessex Archaeology
The Heritage Alliance are delighted to launch the National Lottery Heritage Funded Heritage Digital project alongside skills specialists Media Trust, Charity Digital and Naomi Korn Associates. Until the end of July 2021, free digital skills training will be available as part of this partnership project, producing a programme based around the themes of digital communications, digital marketing strategy, digital rights and digital technology.
Webinars, digital guides and in-depth masterclasses will be available, alongside peer networking opportunities and both virtual and face-to-face conference days (the latter coming in 2021). Staff, volunteers, Trustees and freelancers associated with heritage organisations across the UK are eligible to take part.
This challenging period of lockdown has highlighted the crucial role of heritage in people’s lives and wellbeing and as the bedrock of a strong economy. Surveys demonstrate how much we crave physically accessing these spaces again, and lockdown has brought into clear relief how much local environments matter and are integral in placemaking. It was no surprise to learn that The National Trust’s #BlossomWatch campaign on social media during lockdown, which encouraged the public to send in or post pictures of spring blossom they had seen in their local area, received over 4 million views of shared images within two weeks. You may indeed have participated in the Twitter initiative #MuseumsUnlocked, started by Professor Dan Hicks, which encouraged museums and the public to share collection images under pre-released themes over 100 days of lockdown so that users could explore our heritage without needing to leave their home.
Many heritage organisations have demonstrated generosity and ingenuity in making their collections and experiences available digitally over this period, despite serious staffing and funding challenges, and they will continue to have an important role in sharing their knowledge and expertise to inspire and support a wider public to engage with and care for the historic environment in the future. This will also provide new opportunities and mechanisms for engaging volunteers and friends. We know that the heritage sector has a small army of volunteers and friends (more indeed than the number of people living in Sheffield or Glasgow), but the Covid crisis has left many people in this group shielding and unable to support the organisations they love through traditional volunteering. Digital literacy will diversify the ways in which people can become involved in the future.
We have been encouraged by the creativity of our members in stepping up to meet this challenge. For example, National Historic Ships UK took up the offer of a free virtual gallery provided by virtual experiences specialist Arcade and pivoted their annual photographic competition into an online gallery showcasing entries from the previous decade. Visitors to the online gallery used their device to move around the virtual space and listen to audio of the Curator’s tour. Chawton House hosted a virtual Garden Festival at the end of May, with a virtual tour of the gardens, speakers and writing workshops presented over Zoom. Heritage Open Days and the Festival of Archaeology are going digital this year and SPAB, the 20th Century Society and others have been delivering virtual lectures and training, accessible anywhere. English Heritage’s Summer Solstice stream from Stonehenge attracted over 5 million viewers and a host of organisations have been providing home-schooling resources to frazzled parents. These new ways of expressing the value of heritage are needed more than ever in order to attract new investment and audiences into the sector.
Above: National Historic Ships showcased winners from their annual photographic competition over the last decade via a virtual gallery provided by Arcade. Image: © Arcade.
The pace of technological change can seem daunting, yet digital channels are providing new and inclusive ways of showcasing heritage to both existing and new audiences. The first two Heritage Digital webinars will cover How to Grow Your Audience Online and How to Use Data and Analytics to Evidence Impact; two vitally important skills for both visitor or public facing organisations and those whose work is vital but currently less well known, from archaeology and conservation to steam trains.
We hope that you will participate in the Heritage Digital programme whatever your digital skill starting point, and help our sector to equip ourselves to harness the opportunities ahead. Sign up to be kept up to date about the project and be first to know about upcoming training and events.
Heritage Digital is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund under the Digital Skills for Heritage initiative.