comics from so distant. incredibly close

The stories emerged during the CultureLabs pilot project organised in Pisa, “So Distant. Incredibly Close“, were converted in web-comics and finally they found an appropriate web space thanks to the Sistema Musale di Ateneo of Pisa and Fondazione Sistema Toscana, after a two-year long creative and co-participation process.

The pilot involved people of different ages, coming from various countries of the world and resident in Pisa for more or less time. After the visits to the museums, each person produced a story about their past and to the traditions of their country of origin.

The collected storie were then transcribed and turned into comic for the web by the students of the Liceo Artistico Russoli in Pisa and the cartoonist Alice Milani.
The non-profit association “ORISS” and the cultural association “Casa della Donna” collaborated in the project, providing added value and cultural mediation.

This journey produced nine unique comic strips: nine stories that start from a remote time and touch the antipodes of the Earth, even reaching the Moon: from the sacred crocodiles of Gambia to the legends of Brazil, from the cuisine of Nigeria to nocturnal escapes on a frozen river in China, from Persian myths to the sound of Burkina Faso’s tam tam.

So Distant.Incredibly Close enabled all the participants to take a double journey: one to the heritage preserved in the museums and the other to the places, traditions, legends and customs of distant countries.

Each comic is accompanied by the original story from which it is taken. Each comic is also part of a true story.

In May, the People History Museum opened an exhibition dedicated to Jo Cox which is the culmination of the inclusive More In Common process – a project pilot of CultureLabs – that has involved the Manchester community over the last two and a half years.

The project, inspired by the life and legacy of Jo Cox, involves a group of 30 people from different backgrounds living in Manchester who have developed a co-creative and silent listening process culminating in the ‘virtual Wall of Hope‘, on which visitors to the museum and online can add their personal tribute messages.  Also on display for the first time are the placards, banners and artworks that were created in the aftermath of Jo’s murder.

Visitors to the exhibition can find out more about Jo and her life; her personal story and experiences, what led her to becoming an MP and how her campaigning was driven by a desire to see equality in education, the promotion of closer communities and addressing loneliness.  From her election as an MP, to times enjoying family fun, images and objects help to understand Jo’s story and the way she lived her life.

The exhibition is also designed to have a digital dimension, allowing everyone to learn and explore the details of the work created for Jo Cox and delve into the roots that generated this very important commemoration initiative.

In February, CultureLabs hosted a free one-day symposium entitled: “Cultural heritage and social impact: Digital technologies for social inclusion and participation.” The free event took place online and attracted over 100 attendees from across the globe. 

Organised by consortium partners Danilo Giglitto, Eleanor Lockley (Sheffield Hallam University); Eirini Kaldeli (ICCS, National Technical University of Athens), and Luigina Ciolfi (University College Cork and Sheffield Hallam University), the symposium featured twelve presentations by academics, researchers, and practitioners exploring how digital technologies can support institutions to become more connected and open to different communities in CH-related settings, and considered the challenges and opportunities brought forward by digital interactions in different settings. 

The videos for the event are now available and are divided into four topics:   

Engagement of Disadvantaged and Marginalised Communities:

  • Gillian Robinson  Conflict Textiles Live Collection
  • Vanessa Cesário MEMories and EXperiences for inclusive digital storytelling (MEMEX)
  • Tanis Grandison Unpacking Meaning of Place Through Creative Technology

The first set of presentations showcased cultural heritage work aimed at people who are at risk of social exclusion. Robinson et al. (Ulster University) show how existing collections of textiles can be used for people to tell their stories of conflicts but furthermore how examples of social inclusion have been achieved through online dissemination during Covid. Grandison (Edinburgh Napier University) describes a co-produced Digi-Mapping project with an Edinburgh arts organisation with primary school children from multiple deprived areas. Whilst Cesário (Interactive Technologies Institute – LARSyS) illustrates examples from the  MEMEX project to promote social cohesion through collaborative, heritage-ICT related tools.

Inclusion and Cultural Heritage Institutions:

  • Lara Perry Digital prospects for inclusive civic museums
  • Elisa Bonacini The #iziTRAVELSicilia participatory project
  • Jonas Van Mulder ANGLES – Engaging Multiple Perspectives for Reapproaching and Reappropriating Colonial Audio-Visual Archives Preserved at KU Leuven

The second set of works focus around digital cultural heritage for institutions. Perry (University of Brighton) provides an overview of her work called Digital Prospects for Inclusive Civic Museums UK-US collaboration, which explores digital interfaces for smaller museums. Whilst Bonacini (Universidad de Cordoba) details the #iziTRAVELSicilia project, which focuses upon participatory strategies and co-production of museum audio-guides and city audio-tours published within a large regional-scale process. Van Mulder et al. (KU Leuven) present ANGLES, which aims to create space for collaborative reflection about the future of colonial archives held at KU Leuven.

Digital Innovation in Cultural Heritage Practices:

  • Daniel J. Finnegan Game and Play: A Gateway to the Past?
  • Alan Dix Democratising Digitisation: Empowering Culture From the Community Up
  • Vendela Grundell Gachoud Metadata as a Diversity Tool: Sámi Traces in Institutional Archives Online

The third theme illustrates examples of digital innovation in relation to their impact upon cultural heritage practices.  Finnegan et al. (Cardiff University / Echo Games) provide an overview of three case studies which illustrate how games can encourage strangers, young and old, to play together and reflect on cultural heritage (e.g. past events) through roleplay and adversarial engagement. Whilst Dix et al. (Swansea University) describe new work focused on local musical society archives in Yorkshire and Belfast and also the locally-based audience communities at university venues in York and Illinois which highlights new modes of scholarship rooted in models of social capital and common ownership. Complimenting these, Gachoud (Stockholm University) talks about ‘The Politics of Metadata’ which ex­plores how metadata affects cultural heritage institutions’ image collections online; using Sami images from the Swedish National Heritage Board, the study focuses on how metadata affects diversity within a frame­work of demo­cracy and identity formation. 

Cultural and Digital Heritage Educational opportunities

  • Sally McHugh Learningful Play: Exploring the design of technology, learning and play to enhance children’s engagement with cultural heritage in schools and Museums
  • Sara Eloy Inclusive E-Learning to Understand Collective Memories and Identify New Uses of African Plantations Heritage (Recording not available) 
  • Betül Gaye Dinç Interacting with Museum Content Through Picturebooks: A Study of Children’s Engagement with Orientalist Paintings in Pera Museum, Istanbul

The final theme looks at the educational opportunities for digital cultural heritage. McHugh (National University of Ireland, Galway) presents a Technology-enhanced Cultural Heritage Education (TECHe) learning model to improve children’s engagement with their local heritage and places. Dinç et al. (Koç University) follows by showcasing their study which investigates the possibilities of an interactive picturebook prototype in fostering children’s exposure to artworks featured in a permanent exhibit presenting historic and cultural content.

The event also featured a keynote talk by Dr Jenny Kidd of Cardiff University, entitled ‘Museums, Social Media and Participation in Times of Crisis’. Kidd presents an analysis of the Twitter data shared across two hash tags – #CultureinQuarentine and #Museumathome – to better understand the parameters of engagement between the public and cultural institutions during the crisis caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic.  
Watch the recorded presentations here or read the list of abstracts.

CultureLabs was back in Sheffield!

On 22nd and 23th of May 2019, a new meeting of the CultureLabs consortium has taken place in Sheffield (UK), hosted by the Sheffield Hallam University, one of the partners of the project.

Besides the periodic appointment to monitor the state of the art of the project, the results achieved and the new steps to take, the meeting in Sheffield was a crucial occasion to analyse our four pilots with the help of external stakeholders that cared about actively discussing our methodologies and progress. We invited representatives of cultural institutions, NGOs, civil society organisations, to work with us adopting the Wotify methodology, under the direction of Platoniq.

It was fundamental to compare their strategies and approaches with ours and receive their hints, recommendations that help us to enhance elements of strength and identify possible risks to overcome.

So, special thanks to:

Ronan Brindley – Manchester Art Gallery

Anne Louise Kershaw – HOME – Centre for contemporary theatre, film, art, music

Rachel Drew – Migration, Refugee and the University Group at Sheffield Hallam University

Nick Roscoe – Bishops’ House

Karen Hough – CENTRIC Sheffield Hallam University

Fidel Budy  – CENTRIC Sheffield Hallam University

Ghazaleh Oshaghi – ORAMMA project

During the second day of the meeting, the consortium actively worked on the value chain analysis and how to lay the ground to measure the efficiency and the impact of future recipes. A very fruitful discussion on how to establish a value chain analysis, which matches the needs of stakeholders of the CultureLabs to concrete innovative participatory approaches to social innovations through culture!

This is a just started process, but which has already proved to be a very interesting challenge!

Video interviews with people involved at the Sheffield workshop are coming soon! For further information about Culture Labs project progresses keep following our Magazine section!