Promoting cross-border co-operation between archives and the general public
co:op community as opportunity: the creative archives´ and users´ network
by Mag.a Kerstin Muff
Breaking new ground together
co:op is the youngest child of the ICARUS family: Together, 17 institutions from 12 European countries successfully launched this project to strengthen and promote the co-operation between archives and other institutions preserving our common cultural heritage and to encourage involving the general public. The kick-off meeting in Prague between 27 and 29 April 2015 marked the start of the project activities.
Wanted: an active community!
The co:op project fully reflects the spirit of the ICARUS network: It builds on the already vast experience of the entire community. Actually, co:op goes one step further, beyond making archival records available and documenting our common cultural and historical identity: In the age of digital information technology and the constant availability of information through the Internet, it is not only important to have democratic access to knowledge by means of digital tools, which is more and more taken for granted, but to focus on the amazing potential that lies in the critical production and expansion of knowledge.
It has become more and more important to actively question and include the general public as seismographs and creators of their own socio-cultural dynamics, in order to encourage awareness of individual responsibility and the right to have a say.
One project – many ways
In the course of the project a large number of activities will be initiated with the objective to deliberately include the general public, tap their potentials (crowd sourcing) and promote the close co-operation with archives. The scope of activities ranges from further developing possibilities for the open source description of archival records, to the expansion and deepening of university teachings based on and with the help of digital archive portals such as Monasterium, to the organization of international conferences that invite researchers and users to meet and exchange at eye level.
It will be possible to consolidate historical documents from private individuals digitally, which will serve to enrich our common history with personal details (topotheque). Finally, there will be educational initiatives of the creative kind that aim for encouraging young people to explore „archives“ as such, unbiased and guided by their own curiosity, thus sharpening their awareness of cultural identity.
Adventures in archives
One thing is for sure: archives are the safe-keepers of the real treasures of our joint, European cultural heritage. Exploring an archive, digging into and experiencing our common history first hand based on historic objects guaranties to be a thrill(er)!
Especially, when you are allowed to explore this environment with smartphones and digital cameras on your own. Within the framework of the co:op project we want to bring history to life and explore the sparkling facets of our cultural heritage together. For this purpose we have invented the adventures in archives activity: Pupils will video tape a day in the archive. They will document their experiences and challenges of exploring certain objects and their respective context. They will learn useful ways of making use of their smartphones and digital cameras and on how to edit self-produced video material while exploring the multi-layered world of an archive.
The aim of these kinds of film happening is simple: to connect the modern world of communication with the world of the archives by educational and future-oriented means. Never before has such an activity between archives and schools been realized and it is a truly pioneering pedagogical activity. The everyday use of modern technology is undoubtedly already daily routine for young generations and a creative and sustainable handling of mentioned appliances can be taught playfully, hand in hand with an added educational value.
One the one hand, the archives will have the unique opportunity to make their archival material and responsible function as safe-keepers of cultural heritage known amongst new audience groups through unprecedented means. This will establish a sustainable connection not only between the archives and the general public today but event more between the archives and their future users and employees.
By producing their own content pupils will, one the other hand and furthermore, enhance their media literacy and discover the positive interaction between archives and media. Allowing pupils to approach unknown territory and topics against the backdrop of known, everyday technical tools, fears of contact will be lowered, natural curiosity nourished and thus the connection between archives and users strengthened in the long run.
The pupils are in complete charge of their finished product: from coming up with a story line, acting, shooting scenes, to finally editing their video bits recorded on their own smartphones and/or digital cameras into finished film products.
Through this close cooperation between archives and schools and thus raising public awareness of the role of archives in today’s society, students will have the unique chance to learn about national and European culture and history first hand, outside the classroom and motivated through curiosity to creatively discover and understand social frameworks. Today, the use of omnipresent smartphones, action cameras etc. seems to come naturally to younger generations. By incorporating this inevitable familiarity with modern technology into educational activities can enhance and advance the students’ media literacy. Learning how to apply this kind of technology deliberately and with a concept/idea in mind will let the students experience possible professional work fields for their future. In this case, combining media with the world of archives within the framework of an EU-funded international project, the students will gain insight into such professions as archivist, (art) historian, restauration, acting, screen writing, directing, film editing, international project management and many more.
You can already take a peek into the results of our first creative-educational film happening: Estonian high school students from the Pelgulinna Upper Secondary School took part in our pilot project to explore the archival cosmos behind the walls of the Estonian National Archives in Tallinn (EE).
Their fun and highly creative films are available on our Youtube channel and we are already in the midst of realizing more of such adventures in archives in Sweden, Spain, Hungary and Austria. The story of the pilot film project in Tallinn from the perspective of the colleagues from the Estonian National Archives will be published in April in our upcoming issue of our ICARUS magazine insights.
imagine. tomorrow. dare. today.
Within our project we imagine creative ways to encourage the team work between archives and the general public today. We dare to find unconventional ways to actively engage the community with the world of the archives. We dare tomorrow to make today’s ideas inspirit new ideas. Tomorrow can already happen today, daring in the present will make tomorrow’s imagination become reality.
The Community – consisting of institutions and users, in other words the general public – carries the seed of novelty, of the original, of progress. Let us use and encourage it together!
1 December 2014 – 30 November 2018
Creative Europe Programme, Category 2 – Cooperation Projects