The Living Legacies 1914-18 WW1 public engagement centre was set up in 2014 and as part of the co-production and public engagement brief from our funders (the Arts and Humanities Research Council), the centre undertook a series of public roadshow events in conjunction with Libraries NI.
From May 2014 through to September 2015 the Living Legacies team designed a programme of outreach events which aimed to develop our links with the communities across NI, and begin a public discussion about commemoration and remembering.
We travelled across the region, and extended our reach to the North East of England in September 2015, digitally sampling and recording the private memorabilia and stories which people collect and preserve. The roadshows were kindly supported and hosted by Libraries NI.
The Living Legacies team led the programme, along with the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis at QUB, whose expertise in scanning and capturing objects was invaluable. National Museums Northern Ireland staff lent their curatorial experience and offered expert object analysis and conservation advice.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
We conducted over ten public roadshow events, travelling to Omagh, Armagh, Londonderry, and further afield to Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
The material we collected is available here and directly inspired and populated the special exhibition in the Ulster Museum detailed here. We captured some unique and compelling stories throughout the roadshows, including the Chinese plait. The roadshows required a lot of planning, commitment and allocation of resources.
We also learnt important lessons about marketing, targeting key audiences and choosing times and venues which encourage relevant publics to attend. Given that one of the primary aims of the WW1 Engagement Centres was to support and work alongside communities as they began to explore and examine the complex histories of WW1 on the island of Ireland and beyond, these roadshows provided direct access to undertake that work.
Connecting research and museum expertise with the publics who already engaged in processes of commemoration allowed us to broaden those conversations and further equip groups as they engaged in their own projects. The roadshows also raised the profile of the Centre, supporting the next phase of our work in co-producing research projects and creative and digital outputs.
Sophie Long, email@example.com, www.livinglegacies1914-18.ac.uk
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