The idea for Pararchive comes from previous work that thought about how people can connect with and make use of digital archive resources. We began with two projects in partnership with the BBC. The first, The Open Archive Project (September 2007-August 2008), investigated how the BBC might use its archive holdings of the 1984/5 miners’ strike via an ‘Open Archive’.
Designed to understand the relationships that audiences might have with the archive, the project examined historical representations and how the BBC could digitally facilitate audiences’ ability to interact with, comment on, and contextualise the materials. Participants included former miners, retired police officers, women’s groups, local history groups and political activists, who were tasked with responding to the content of the BBC archive, re-examining the coverage and challenging the ‘official’ version of events.
The wish to translate these findings into something tangible formed the basis of a subsequent project, Fusion (February 2009- June 2009), also funded by the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Partnership. The research explored how communities might take ownership of cultural and historical materials in which they are represented, and how they could use archival sources to give voice to their own stories and construct their own histories. The research resulted in the joint creation of a series of films, under the title Strike Stories that told participants’ own stories and offered new perspectives on the strike.
A subsequent Creative Technology Lab in 2012 built upon this research by exploring how we could turn these aspirations and ideas into a real resource open to anyone. We modelled an online resource we called Pararchive and then secured funding for this project.
What all our research, and the experiences of working with academics, institutions, technologists, creative thinkers and community partners, told us was that to achieve our goal we need to work collaboratively to co-create this new resource. Our collaboration will ensure that the resource we create will be genuinely open, easy to navigate and intuitive to use for all communities, and that it will meet the needs of as many people as possible.
We not only do we want to create the Pararchive resource itself, but also knowledge about how the whole project has functioned, what we feel we have achieved and how we can develop and sustain the resource after this initial project finishes.