November 7, 2013 by Amy Ryall
Max Templer, one of our MA Public Humanities students attended a seminar run by Kimberley Marwood, Project Officer on the Faculty of Arts and Humanities’ Researching Community Heritage project. Researching Community Heritage is a project providing support for local organisations who want to research their own heritage. The team, led by Kim, provide expert support for groups on a wide range of subjects including oral history, archival research and archaeology and their aim is to facilitate groups to carry out their own projects. More information about the RCH project can be found here
The seminar is one of a series and further seminars will be held on Tues 12th November, 5-7pm (Stories and Memories) and Tues 10th December, 5-7pm (Heritage and Creative Practice) with a final event on Friday 17 January 2014 at St Mary’s Church and Conference Centre, Bramall Lane, Sheffield from 1-7pm. For more details about these events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Max writes here about the role of sharing in the outcomes of the projects supported by Researching Community Heritage.
Last week the University hosted a ‘Shared Heritage Seminar’ which aimed to inform those running different projects through the University’s Community Heritage programme of the other projects being run by the scheme. During this seminar a number of really interesting points were raised as well as illuminating some key issues and difficulties within these projects.
One issue the seminar highlighted was the dual meaning of ‘shared heritage’ – meaning both a heritage in common and the literal act of sharing individual heritage. It is within this second meaning of ‘shared’ that some of the most interesting ideas were found. As one member of the audience noted at the end, the very act of sharing appeared to be a core feature of a number of the projects and that by sharing, the community itself was somehow transformed or strengthened. This struck me as a particularly compelling and powerful idea and led me to consider how the act of sharing within these projects benefits both the group who are sharing and the general public.
Perhaps most obviously the act of sharing benefits the community doing the sharing and the general public by increasing understanding about that community. One particularly powerful project was the Apna Hood video which gave female members of a Muslim community in Sheffield the opportunity to interview one another about positive aspects of their community. This could potentially help to combat Islamophobic ideas within the wider general public about Muslim communities.
The Apna Hood project also illustrated another key element of why ‘sharing’ is beneficial for the community doing the sharing. Through sharing its heritage a community is able to take control of how the community itself is represented, empowering that community and giving them control (or at least an element of control) about how other people will view their community. In other words through sharing, the community itself takes the initiative and decides how it is going to be represented to those outside the community itself.
Finally sharing can strengthen a community through the very process that sharing requires. Before sharing communities will have to reflect on what they wish to share to the general public and this can lead to them finding out new things about the community itself (both good and bad) and (dependent on whether they are good or bad) either celebrating these things or confronting them.
Sharing, therefore, is in fact a potentially powerful tool for strengthening communities as well as increasing understanding about specific communities. By sharing their specific heritages communities can achieve much more than just the transmission of knowledge, they can empower themselves and they can allow themselves time to reflect on the nature of their communities, strengthening the community as a whole.