So far in 2021 we've worked with...
- In March the Institute of Historical Research invited us to lead a training session entitled “Taking Public History Online”. This workshop gave advice and practical tips on developing a digital engagement programme, running online events, and promoting activities to a broad and diverse audience. A recording of the event is available to view on YouTube
- Working closely with their team we developed a community engagement strategy for the Cowdray Heritage Trust, the stewards of the beautiful and historic Cowdray Ruins in West Sussex. We lead training sessions for the team, developed activities and resources to engage adults and school children with the history of the ruins, and prepared a comprehensive strategy document to guide the team in their public engagement work over the course of 2021.
- We were delighted to work with Newham Heritage Month, a festival showcasing the heritage of the borough. We delivered training workshops for a range of Newham based organisations on creating accessible digital content and an introduction to the historic maps of Layers of London.
- In a workshop with the Arts Marketing Association we explored what the year of lockdowns taught us about heritage learning and education. We provided advice on how to use these lessons to create a digital offer that can complement in-person sessions and looked at what is possible when it comes to online learning for different audiences.
Some of other work...
This new NLHF project needed the whole lot. A new website with an in-built catalogue for their archived material, social media channels setting up, regular blog material written and researched by volunteers, a Youtube channel to archive past events, eventbrite integration for event bookings, a VMS integration to keep the volunteer manager happy, a way to get access to key analytics and a robust newsletter system. By commissioning Community Sites to build the website functionality to fit our needs, based on their unique experience of building websites for community based arts and heritage projects for a competitive price, we were able to create a bespoke website that meets the needs and budget of the project. By liaising with Hackney Archives where the archive material for the building was kept – we were able to use their archiving system to create a small, online, image focused archive for the project website – as an alternative resource to the text heavy, research-focused on the archives used which was more visually engaging and suitable for the typical user journey on similar websites. Training was undertaken with key volunteers and staff that needed to be able to access the backend of the site to make changes and add content and a wordpress site was chosen specifically for this purpose or multi-user functionality. From them on integration with plug-ins that allow the ability to add features like a stream from social media, event bookings and VMS systems are easy and you can then focus on content, strategy and delivery, taking full advantage of your suite of digital tools.
At Layers of London we always paired our online engagement activities with a programme of in person events and volunteering. We had just finalised a programme of activities for Spring and Summer 2020 when we went into lockdown and everything had to be scrapped. We had made great progress growing our audience in the months prior to this and were nervous that the lockdown would take away this momentum. We set to work completely revising our engagement strategy, now entirely digital. We focused on three strands of activity:
- Online events We replaced our programme of in person events with a series of weekly webinars on Zoom, that covered a wide range of topics including tutorials on how to use and add content to Layers of London, guest lectures from historians and archaeologists, and panel events and conferences. These were very successful, people who would have never been able to travel to our in person events could attend every week. It was also a great opportunity for collaboration with other projects that could use our platform to share their activities.
- Remote volunteering We were keen not to lose our relationship with our volunteers and to keep interesting work going on despite the lockdown. We devised a new series of projects that could be done from home and started using new tools for us to keep in touch with volunteers and for them to keep in touch with each other. We set up an online chat for them on Slack and used Microsoft Teams to host training sessions and get togethers. Using these tools enhanced our volunteering programme, it facilitated increased dialogue and idea sharing between volunteers and the constraints of the lockdown required us to come up with more creative projects.
- Participatory social media Rather than just advertising our activities on social media we were always keen to start a dialogue with our followers and saw opportunities to get people involved during the lockdown by putting out simple challenges and questions like – send us a picture of your local postbox, what’s your favourite London borough, send us a sound recording of your street. By inviting people to participate and share we found our levels of engagement on social media went way up during the lockdown.
What appeared to be a major setback at first turned into an opportunity for us to re-evaluate and revise our digital engagement strategy and come up with new ideas. All of these strands of activity proved very successful and enabled us to reach new audiences, and find new and enthusiastic fans.