Last week our Project Officer Nicola represented AddressingHistory at the Edinburgh Beltane Annual Gathering 2010, a workshop and networking event on community engagement.
Last Wednesday afternoon around 40 members of educational, research and cultural organisations from Edinburgh and beyond gathered together at the Engine Shed (native Edinburghers may know it better for it’s delicious tofu than as an events space) for a workshop organised by Edinburgh Beltane, a National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement with partner organisations across – and beyond – Edinburgh.
All of the attendees had signed up for the day with a tweet to the event hashtag (#ebag2010) describing areas of interest and ideas so we knew we would be meeting a really interesting group with a diverse set of ideas for engagement and communication – from mathematical knitters to theatrical chemists. I grabbed a space for AddressingHistory with this tweet:“Social Media evangelist seeks genealogy & local history collaboration and/or expertise for @Addresshistory project and blog”
The idea of the workshop was to develop event ideas and we split between tables representing various possible venues (AddressingHistory joined the National Museum of Scotland’s (NMS) table) and began forming ideas for events using the “Ketso” planning and ideas tool. The goal was to find three viable event ideas for each of six venues that could then be voted on.
Ketso, which I’d not used before, is a tiny bit like Fuzzy Felts for groups of adult brainstormers. A large felt planning area with several “stems” forms a background (which looks like a tree root structure) to add ideas and comments on little leaf shaped cards which you can stick anywhere on the stems. The process involves several rounds of idea sharing and, in this workshop, also several rounds of switching tables to comment on other’s emerging idea boards (adding comments and approval to their ideas, suggesting new event ideas based on their interest areas).
The National Museums of Scotland table attracted a diverse group and, in addition to representatives of NMS and AddressingHistory, there was a scientist working on communicating renewable energy projects, an expert on language and language preservation, a member of the BSLUptake project and a representative from the University of Edinburgh’s sustainability office. Having written our ideas and resources down (on brown leaves), our good ideas and clever solutions to combine lots of ideas (on green leaves), our concerns (on grey leaves), our comments (on white strips) and having picked out our favourite ideas (little yellow ticks and red exclamation marks) we had an enormously fruitful and full Ketso board and three fully formed ideas to take forward.
The ideas that went through from our table were all for possible events to be held in a new area of the National Museum of Scotland (in part of the building being refurbished under the Royal Museum Project):
- LangEvol: Language diversity and diversity in language: origins, evolutions and futures of language
- Meaning: Debunk the jargon! Speed dating exploration of science through sign language, visual arts, dance, etc.
- Idea: Mapping the ideas and innovation of Edinburgh institutions.
I was particularly excited about the potential for AddressingHistory to be a part of either the possible event on the history of ideas in Edinburgh or the possible event on language – since the origins and changes in place-names are a really interesting c0nnection to the historical post office directory data. The history and changes in language over time was an important part of forming the “LangEvol” idea but one of the most interesting contributions that first sparked the idea was from Bob of BSL:Uptake who explained that the sign language for telephone has changed three times since telephones was first invented and that all three signs remain in use. The signs each says something about the type of phone being described and about the signer since they represent either an early mouthpiece/earpiece set, a relatively modern handset or a mobile phone.
The main reason for compiling all of these ideas was to share experience and make new connections but some of the ideas may go on to become real events which is a thrilling prospect as every group came up with superb suggestions any one of which would be huge fun to take part in (all of the ideas are listed on the workshop blog). All eighteen event ideas also went forward to the evening networking event at InSpace where both workshop attendees, and lots of additional communicators and researchers who had joined us, were able to vote on their favourites. The results of the voting have just been released on the Beltane Blog (see the graph below and click on the image to go to the full results) – I am delighted to see that Langevol received the most votes but I think all of the winning ideas sound fantastic!
The remainder of the workshop consisted of presentations from two previous Beltane grant recipients who presented on two very different projects.
The first presentation, from Bob Duncan of Heriot-Watt and BSL:Uptake, was about a Knowledge Exchange Cafe for the deaf community that enabled networking, engagement in public policy – particularly the ability to contribute to a consultation document by being videoed signing their responses – and socialising over tea and cake as well of course.
The second presentation, from Dan Ridley-Ellis of the Centre for Timber Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University, was on “Real Life Science – Wood Biomechanics 3D”. This was a weekend of activities at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh in which various organisations concerned with increasing public awareness of trees and woodland worked with a secondary school student to create engaging displays including a 3D tree exhibition.
The afternoon workshop was followed by a lovely evening meeting others’ working at academic organisations, museums, galleries and similar organisations throughout the city, and also finding out the winner of the Public Engagement Challenge for the year (which was the BSL:Uptake project!). I was able to share AddressingHistory flyers with various researchers and made contact with organisations including the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Hopefully AddressingHistory may feed into the work or events of some of the organisations we met at the Beltane Annual Gathering but we’d also love to hear from you if you your local history groups would like flyers, posters or would like to include AddressingHistory in an event or piece of work of yors or of a community group you are involved in.
Huge thanks to Heather Rea at Beltane and all who organised the Annual Gathering – I had a superb time and was delighted that my fellow attendees were really excited to hear about AddressingHistory and keen to have a play with the website when it launches in November!