Our Past, Our Future: the project moves from creation to post-production

A month-long participatory digital heritage project by MSL Discover in partnership with Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

Jon Pratty
Dec 3, 2019 · 3 min read
shows a wooden table top with coloured post it notes and a laptop
shows a wooden table top with coloured post it notes and a laptop
Rosanna Lowe runs a creative writing workshop with a Post-It Note exercise that led to creation of a collaborative piece which was read out by everyone at the Show-and-Tell event. (Photo Jon Pratty/MSL)

After four intense weeks of almost daily meetings, Our Past, Our Future, our digital history project, is now moving from it’s creative workshop phase to the moment when we go into ‘post production.’ That’s when the ideas and initial texts developed by our participants and session leaders are made into more finished digital history content. This project was funded by The Space to explore low-cost digital content R&D opportunities.

shows a man in the centre of three people looking at two laptops
shows a man in the centre of three people looking at two laptops
The WikiMedia session led by Roy Penfold, centre. MSL Discover, encouraged by The Space, are keen to create digital content that can reach out to bigger audiences, so we want to put our stories on third-party platforms like Wikipedia, where appropriate. (Photo Jon Pratty/MSL)

So, for the next two December weeks, we’re taking short stories, prose, poetry, digital animations and sound files and weaving them together with visual materials discovered by group members. It’s a complex phase of activity; partly because there’s lots of content, and partly because we need to match the original idea with the best way to show it online.

shows a woman working on a laptop with papers in the foreground
shows a woman working on a laptop with papers in the foreground
Zelly, right, is creating a digital animation project as part of Our Past, Our Future (Photo Jon Pratty/MSL)

Following the workshops, mostly held at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, each member of the group has come up with at least two or three strong ideas, has researched and developed the theme, then written completed drafts of their projects. The ideas range from historical reminiscence to poetry, and digital animation to monologues in costume.

Our next steps involve preparing our online interactive map, previously funded by the RSA, which will be where the stories, media clips and animations will be accessible. We’re also trying to use other platforms to host the content where we can, to take the stories to where audiences are, rather than hoping the audiences come to us. That means taking our media onto YouTube and our sound-clips to SoundCloud, where our last work from This Is For Everyone also went.

shows a man holding an ancient deed or certificate in his hands
shows a man holding an ancient deed or certificate in his hands
Ian, centre, is holding an archive item from his own collection that sparked off a fascinating story (Photo Jon Pratty/MSL)

So what kind of stories have been created during the project? All will be revealed when the digital editing is done, but we can reveal that what started as a digital history project has swiftly become a creative storytelling experience, which has the history of Hastings’ America Ground area as a beginning. Eight or nine people who range in ages from mid-40s to 80 have come together to learn new ways to be creative, and they’ve become friends who want to meet again and continue to work together. That sounds like success!

Read the first project blog

Read more about the Our Past, Our Future project on the MSL website

N.B. The project has been great fun to develop and deliver, mainly because of the expert input from our workshop leaders, and the wonderful MSL backroom team. But special thanks must go to the friendly and helpful staff of Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, including Damian Etherington, Eleanor Lanyon, and the museum’s front of house staff.

Jon Pratty

Written by

Award-winning journalist/editor/producer. Creator, Brighton Digital Festival; Midis Group content manager; MSL Discover Associate. Deaf, green, happy.

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