This resource contains the full seminar recording, alongside some shorter clips highlighting some of the key and interesting talking points made by the speakers: Julie Nicholson (Managing Director & Founder, Digital Voice for Communities), Kelly Foster (Kelly Foster, open knowledge advocate and public historian) and Matthew Cock (CEO, VocalEyes). It also features a number of useful resources, reports and toolkits to help you with inclusion and equity within your own heritage organisation.
In her presentation, Julie Nicholson shows that teaching digital skills in content creation is a great way to engage audiences that you might not usually reach, and who might not normally visit heritage sites. Through teaching digital skills, you can support the community to learn new skills but also visit heritage sites in ways that are beneficial and engaging for them. Julie also highlights how the content that they create, through the skills that they learn, can work as brilliant advocacy tools for the work that you are doing, to bring in more members of those communities in the future.
Matthew Cock highlighted the significant importance of your organisation’s access page and the information that it provides for your visitors. It should provide disabled visitors with the key information that they need before making a visit to your site. Accurate access information will help them to feel welcome and considered as a person and it will also act as a reassurance that they will be able to visit with confidence. It will also reassure them that your site is worth visiting in the first place as it often acts as the homepage for disabled visitors. VocalEyes has recently released their report and research, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which assess the access information provided by over 300 heritage websites. It is really worth looking through their findings and thinking about your own websites, alongside this useful benchmarking tool.
Matthew closed his presentation by sharing an image of a virtuous circle, which highlights how ensuring that accessibility and inclusivity is at the heart of what you do will kickstart a cycle that brings in more disabled people interested in visiting and working with your organisation. This then ensures that the cycle continues and that a dedication to accessibility and inclusivity is maintained. Your digital channels, platforms, communications and content play a major role in kickstarting this cycle, as they are often the first place that disabled people will encounter barriers. Matthew says that, as a leader, it is your role to be an example and to make sure that accessibility and inclusivity is at the heart of what you do as an individual and as an organisation.
In her presentation, Kelly Foster points out that often times the systems themselves that we are inviting communities to be included in are built on historic harms and sometimes perpetuate present harms as well. Kelly also highlights that equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work is often project funded and that it’s important for us, as a sector, to think beyond EDI as being something to be funded by one-off projects and instead to be something that is core to our services and values.
It is important to remember that there is often a lack of neutrality in digitising our collections, particularly for collections that have roots in Britain’s colonial past. Kelly highlights that usually, when digitising collections, the power remains with the organisation. So we need to think about who has the control and a voice in the process, whose views are being represented in the metadata we create, who has intellectual control over the collection and should it be you or your organisation? When thinking about the data that we are creating and sharing through our digitisation work, Kelly highlighted a really useful resource created by the Global Indigenous Data Alliance which aims to support organisations with the consideration of collective benefit, authority to control, responsibility and ethics in working with research data. These can be applied to the data we create through digitisation and sharing our collections online. As a leader, it is your role to make sure that EDI isn’t an afterthought.
This seminar has shown that there are numerous ways for us to involve our audiences and communities with our organisation through digital tools, platforms and experiences. As heritage organisations, it’s imperative that we are mindful of how accessible we are, not just in the real world, but on digital platforms as well. Not only that, but as a leader you should be championing a position of inclusion and equity for your organisation, through your own actions and through the organisation’s work. A key question to ask ourselves is ‘whose voice is being heard?’ and ‘who is missing from the conversation?’. Below are some useful resources to help you think more deeply about those questions within the context of your organisation.
- VocalEyes’ National Lottery Heritage Funded project researching the accessibility of heritage websites
- Benchmark toolkit of the accessibility of over 300 heritage site websites
- CARE principles for indigenous data
- Informal survey of open access policies in GLAM organisations
- Further information about the IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework)
- Information on Towards a National Collection (TaNC)
- Matthew Cook’s Tweet on VocalEyes’ updated recruitment practices and the thread of replies which followed.
Digital leadership – Inclusion, equity and digital resource (2022) by Culture24 supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0
Please attribute as: "Digital leadership – Inclusion, equity and digital (2022) by Culture24 supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0