Heriot Watt University

Digital Heritage - Scotland's Sounds

Collecting and preserving access to Intangible Cultural Heritage within the digital environment
Evaluating New Models for Scotland

Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium Scholarship, 2016-19

Researcher: Naomi Harvey

Sound is a valuable form of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) that encompasses music, song, oral histories, soundscapes or spoken word recordings. Such collections play a key role in sustaining community identities, through preserving history, culture and knowledge that is inaccessible through material culture alone. Scotland's public institutions are increasingly engaged in the question of how to collect and provide access to ICH, as evidenced in the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium research themes and Museum Galleries Scotland strategy, through the re-launch of the digital inventory of ICH in Scotland.

Digital platforms create an environment that offers significant opportunities, as well as challenges, in the documentation of ICH sound, both in terms of preserving and providing access to existing material currently held in public institutions, but also as tools for collecting sound material held or created by the public. This research will critically examine issues surrounding digital preservation and access to ICH in Scotland, through the case study of Scotland's Sounds. The project will examine how Scotland's Sounds can ensure the sustainability of ICH sound collections, encompassing issues of: (1) collecting sound in a digital environment (2) digital access and preservation of sound material; (3) sustainable relationships between creators, community organisations and public institutions.

The project aim is to provide a theoretically informed critical analysis of the opportunities and challenges that advances in digital technology present for heritage organisations seeking to enhance the value, profile and understanding of ICH. Using Scotland's Sounds as the core case study the student will:

  • produce a comprehensive and dynamic survey of current debates on social uses of digital technology, with special reference to the creation of a national collection of ICH sound in the digital environment;
  • critically analyse issues of ownership, access to and use of ICH material within the digital environment from the perspectives of creators, donors and heritage organisations; and
  • critically examine how public institutions in Scotland can co-ordinate and collaborate with horizontal and vertical ICH stakeholders utilising digital technology, and situate this practice within wider theoretical debates on co-production within the cultural sector.

Academic supervision at Heriot-Watt University is provided by Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, whose current work focuses on Intangible Cultural Heritage, and Prof. Ullrich Kockel, whose research interests include co-creative approaches, community heritage, and sustainability. Co-supervision from heritage specialists is provided by Alistair Bell, Sound Curator, National Library of Scotland and Scotland's Sounds Project Manager, and Dr Hugh Hagan, National Records of Scotland, whose expertise includes oral history and community heritage.

The project commenced in September 2016.

This award is funded by the AHRC through the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium. 

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