Aims

The COREL project has four principal aims:

  1. To gain better understanding of the needs and capacities of a range of creators/users of digital resources, incl. public research institutions (archives, libraries, museums, etc.), heritage organizations, community groups, school and university students, academic researchers and interested members of the general public.
  2. To use insights gained through focus groups and consultations to inform the design of a new open-access digital curation tool that will facilitate public engagement, bringing benefits to both creators and users of online resources.
  3. To engage an active community history group, as well as a number of institutional research partners, in the co-production and testing of this service.
  4. To evaluate a new mechanism for creating and sustaining community collaborations.
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Sample page from preliminary COREL project wireframe.

The project’s specific objectives can be grouped under three ‘strands’:

A. Historical

In order to trial and showcase the digital curation tool, we are using a variety of textual sources of historical interest, including personal documents, official forms and newspapers. Members of Life Lines, a Nottinghamshire community history group, are providing a number of these sources.

We are also using extracts from a First World War diary found in the Buchanan Papers, a collection held in Manuscripts & Special Collections, University of Nottingham, UK (all links open in a new window). This diary, handwritten in English by Meriel Buchanan, daughter of the George Buchanan, British Ambassador to Russia, between 1910 and 1914 in St Petersburg, Russia, provides a fascinating portrait of daily life in the powder keg atmosphere of the pre-war and wartime capital. The diary is to be showcased in the Russian Revolution Centenary Exhibition in 2017 at the British Library, one of the COREL project’s partner organisations.

A Postdoctoral Research Fellow in History, Dr. Aaron McGaughey, is conducting research into the selected historical sources to provide background information and to identify associated materials that will illustrate, illuminate and enrich the presentation of these sources. His research will also inform the BL’s presentation of Meriel Buchanan’s diary.

B. Digital

Drawing on the expertise of the University of Nottingham’s Information Services, and on insights gained through focus groups and consultations with partners, we shall produce (i) a detailed specification and (ii) a graphical (i.e. non-live) prototype of an open-source digital platform designed to enable holders of documents to upload, curate and publish textual materials in an accessible, engaging and informative way. This service will incorporate curatorial ‘affordances’ connecting the text to wider contexts, e.g. transcriptions; biographical and historical information; images; video and audio files; timelines; maps; and links to related online research resources.

The COREL platform will form part of the University of Nottingham’s Multimedia Online Archive Service (MOAS), expanding its functionality to encompass the storage and presentation of texts as well as images (for an example of a current image-based MOAS site, please follow this link – please note that University of Nottingham authentification may be needed for access). The University’s Information Services Division is currently developing MOAS for inclusion in the Omeka package (https://omeka.org/), used globally for online curation. Embedding the COREL tool in the Omeka service will enable us to explore in future the incorporation of new features, such as crowdsourcing.

The COREL platform will ultimately offer public institutions, heritage groups and individuals a simple and flexible means:

  1. to showcase their documentary ‘assets’;
  2. to promote wider public access to and engagement with these holdings;
  3. to create customisable learning resources for a range of end-users (public, community groups, school students at different stages, etc.); and
  4. to generate impact from academic or community research and evaluate the reach and depth of these benefits.

As such, the service will represent a major advance in the digital design of heritage-sector tools, building on the University of Nottingham Information Services’ user experience design expertise (see, for example, its online exhibit Windows on War).

C. Community collaboration

Engagement with local/regional and wider communities is an essential component of the project, both in terms of process and outcome. Through active collaboration with the Life Lines group, managed by Culture Syndicates, we shall:

  1. test and collect feedback on work-in-progress;
  2. enhance the group’s understanding of historical research skills and the technological and organizational aspects of digital product development;
  3. involve them as key stakeholders in further co-development of the service and its eventual roll-out, especially by inviting them to contribute their own textual materials to test and demonstrate its functionalities;
  4. equip them with the know-how to use the service, once it goes live, to showcase their own research/engagement activities, including their research and schools engagement on the First World War, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and to co-develop future projects;
  5. trial and evaluate a new model for working with community partners, to establish and disseminate new forms of ‘best practice’.