A place for ‘place’ in rural museums

Although we are only part-way through, we have already begun to disseminate ideas generated through this project and activity that the team have undertaken to date. Last Thursday I spoke briefly about the Sense of Place project at the AGM of the Rural Museums Network (RMN), which was held at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm.

Presentation slide - Sense of Place

Opening slide from Sense of Place presentation

This was an ideal opportunity to guage wider interest in the project and to get an idea of what other approaches were circulating with regards digital approaches to rural collections. I was asked about how successful our experiments with QR codes had been as, perhaps unsurprisingly, other institutions have also begun to dabble in using this technology. I’m afraid to say I didn’t yet have much to report but ‘watch this space’ as they say. As our partnership with iMuse moves forward and our own experiments with Qr codes and other forms of access kick into action, we’ll be able to offer more practical pointers and ideas.

In many respects this was the perfect forum in which to talk about the wider aims of the project and to raise the important question of how best to approach the mapping of rural material culture. Thankfully, nobody voiced concern with our basic approach and the consensus seemed to be that this was an interesting and useful departure for MERL, as well as something that the wider sector might buy-into in the future. The project will certainly have an airing at future RMN events but I was left with the feeling that perhaps this idea might well have legs beyond the lifetime of this project and that maybe our partnership with HistoryPin will generate a portal through which more members of this Subject Specialist Network wiull be able to promote and raise the profile of their own rich collections.

I was suprised how few members had heard of HistoryPin but perhaps this is not so surprising. The ‘street view’ driven aspects of the experience of this resource do arguably preference urban users and, as I’ve noted elsewhere, it can be a little frustrating trying to ‘pin’ items to a rural spot. If anyone in the RMN who heard my presentation was left in the dark about what HistoryPin is and how it works, why not check out this nifty little explanatory video, or this talk by its founder and CEO, Nick Stanhope. The latter film actually reveals the inspiration behind the whole HistoryPin idea which, interestingly enough, actually pertains to a very rural narrative.

In a timely fashion, we actually have a meeting with Nick and his colleagues tomorrow to discuss the direction that we’d like to take our partnership with them in. So keep an eye out here for future developments on this front. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a nice photograph that I took at Acton Scott, and with a small note to myself that I must remember to ask Nick if he is in any way related to Lord Stanhope, inventor of an obscure photographic device known as a Stanhope Peep – I’ve been meaning to ask him this since I first heard his name mentioned. It would seem strangely appropriate if he were linked by more than name to this historical photographic device.

Members of the RMN on the site visit at Acton Scott Working Farm

Members of the RMN on the site visit at Acton Scott Working Farm

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  1. Ollie Douglas’s avatar

    In a brief update, the aforementioned meeting went really well and we have a plan in place for our ongoing partnership with HistoryPin. This is a really exciting departure and a venture that will no doubt bear considerable developmental fruit when it comes to providing better resources concerned with mapping and making accessible rural collections and artefacts.

    We have some work to do in terms of determining the most appropriate metadata and will look forward to welcoming someone from HistoryPin into our midst for some more intensive engagement with the technical and content side of things. It will also be all go for our Bucklebury partnership.

    I asked Nick about the possible connection with the photographic pioneer Lord Stanhope. It is simply a coincidence it seems, as he claims is is in no way related to this line of the family. Oh well, perhaps he’ll be inspired to look into Stanhope Peeps as a source for HistoryPin content, despite the Lord being a namesake and not an ancestor!

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