The aim of the project is to co-produce a new ‘open’ digital resource that will allow anyone to search and collect on-line resources and to combine them with their own media (film, photographs and other ephemera) in order to tell their own stories, make new archives, be creative, start new projects and do their own research.

It will, for example, allow communities to research and document their histories via the creative linking of their own digital content with archival material from public institutions such as the BBC and the Science Museum.  While there are many existing websites and tools that allow people to use public archival material, they are usually either commercial or institutional, which means that they are hosted within controlled spaces that constrain what and how digital content can be used.

We want to work with communities to develop new resources from the ‘bottom-up’ (instead of the conventional ‘top-down’), and hope to co-produce a more open resource that functions effectively for a diverse range of users and communities, and which facilitates creative use of public archival content.

Pararchive will be a resource that, we hope, will become the ‘go-to’ place for community research, a one-stop-shop which both draws together existing online resources and tools in one place and allows us to think beyond existing provision and develop innovative new tools.  We think the only way to achieve this is through collaborative working and that is why we are so pleased to be collectively researching and designing the resource.

How we will develop the Pararchive resource

The project will take place in four overlapping stages and will culminate in the production and launch of the Pararchive resource at a Community Showcase and conference in March 2015.

Phase One

Will involve communities, designers and digital developers working together through a Community Technology Lab project that will allow the identification of user needs, functionality and model the resource before we start to develop and prototype tools and co-develop a specification.  This will begin with an introductory session to explain the project in more detail, followed by Community Technology Labs and an exploratory session to begin thinking about potential group research topics.

Phase Two

Using the specifications developed in phase one the design concept team and a web developer will construct prototype tools and a beta version of the resource and test its suitability in conjunction with all users as it is developed so that it meets the needs the various research projects.  They will be considering the development process and how it will enable the community research projects.  At the same time each group will be developing a research project to run through the prototype.  Group facilitators will help design the project, discuss what research approach and tools might be needed and help with any training or resources and content that might be  needed, for example materials from BBC and Science Museum collections.

Phase Three

Will involve testing the beta version of the platform by communities running their own projects through the platform.  It will also be the period in which the technical evaluation process begins.

Phase Four

The stage in which we draw together our reflections on the project and will involve all of us in conversations about our experiences, what we have learned, and how we can develop ongoing and sustainable relationships and new projects.  We will also be revisiting the Pararchive resource, doing final design work and working on its launch and our conference and Community Showcase.