Digitally Democratising Archives: Case Study 4

East Riding of Yorkshire Council: The East Riding Blockdown: Contemporary Collecting in Minecraft — this project aimed to capture youth experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the East Riding Archives’ collections using the videogame Minecraft as a creative medium and platform for digital storytelling.

Digitally Democratising Archives: Case Study 4

1. Project overview

The East Riding Blockdown project aimed to capture youth experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the East Riding Archives’ collections using the videogame Minecraft as a creative medium and platform for digital storytelling. Participants documented their COVID-19 experiences within Minecraft, using blocks to build and a ‘book and quill’ item to write. Images of these creations were then exported as digital files for permanent preservation in the East Riding Archives, becoming part of 800 years of East Riding history. The project aimed to empower young people to add their voice to the archives, and to increase awareness of what archives are to this demographic. Their contributions also addressed a collections gap for the East Riding Archives where previously, there were no young people’s voices in the collections.


2. Project stats

Data accurate as of April 2022:

  • 50 young people from East Riding took part remotely and in-person through Archiverse Minecraft events.
  • 48 individual records were added to the East Riding Archives Catalogue by young participants.
  • 3,177 page visits to the East Riding Blockdown website.
  • East Riding Archives collaborated with 7 organisations, including Libraries and Museums, schools and voluntary services.


3. Key successes

  • The project reached a new audience of young people, particularly primary-aged children, who hadn’t engaged with archives before.
  • For the first time in the history of East Riding Archives, young people created a collection of records and added them to the archive collection.
  • East Riding Archives developed their approach to community engagement and audience development.
  • A pilot was created for using a video game for contemporary collecting with young people. East Riding Archives are planning to use this creative approach in an upcoming oral history project with migrants and refugees in East Riding.


4. Key learnings

  • Young people are interested in the concept of archives and particularly enjoyed the possibility of having their voice permeate through the generations.
  • Different methods of participation extended the project’s reach. A blended approach, where young people visited the archive building physically and virtually, was particularly successful in engaging participants.
  • The project opened up East Riding’s Archive to new ways of thinking: ‘If we want to reach out to new diverse audiences, we have to be willing to experiment with non-traditional technologies’ (Project Lead).


5. Top tip

Always make a plan for how people will access your ‘digital archive’ in 5, 50, and 100 years’ time. This includes considerations of how the records are described, arranged and preserved, and by whom.


6. Link to digital outputs


7. Attribution

Digitally Democratising Archives (2022) by The Audience Agency supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Digitally Democratising Archives (Opening Archives) was an action research project, designed and led by The Audience Agency, supporting 10 organisations to explore archives, community engagement and digital tools. It was funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2021/22 as part of the as part of the Digital Skills for Heritage’s Connect Heritage programme.

More help here

Using Minecraft to engage young people with archive services

The East Riding Blockdown project invited 11-16 year olds based in the East Riding of Yorkshire to contribute their thoughts and memories of life during lockdown in the Covid-19 pandemic using the Minecraft videogame. The purpose of the project was to record contemporary responses to a historically significant period and preserve the contributions as digital image files whilst introducing a new audience to the East Riding Archives.


Digitally Democratising Archives: Case Study 3

South London Gallery: Places Never Seen: A youth-led, digital exploration of the 1911 Festival of Empire — this project invited local young people to critically and creatively examine an example of local colonial history and to develop open access digital outputs through Wikimedia.


Digitally Democratising Archives: Case Study 1

The Jewish Museum London: Mapping Migration: Jewish Temporary Shelter Cards — using the newly digitised Jewish Temporary Shelter (JTS) cards, this project explored how the museum could use georeferencing technologies to present information in new ways.


Browse related resources by smart tags:

Archive Digital archive Digital Heritage Heritage Young people
Published: 2022
Resource type: Case studies

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Digitally Democratising Archives: Case Study 4 (2022) by The Audience Agency supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

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