Isle of Jura wins Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year

Scottish island wins for Oral History Project

Jura2606014one webThe Isle of Jura – with a population of about 200 -  has been named ‘Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year’ for its oral history project ‘Jura Lives’, which interviewed people about their memories of the island's unique way of life and created a new sound archive.

The award was announced at the annual conference of the Community Archives and Heritage Group at University College London on 12 June. It will be celebrated with those who worked on the project – on Jura – on 26 June.

‘Jura Lives’, a 2-year Oral History project run by the Jura Development Trust, aimed to collect and preserve the remote island’s heritage and enable easy access to it, using the most modern digital recording equipment and computer-power.  Along the way, focus was on strengthening community confidence and providing learning opportunities based on a shared heritage.

The island’s tiny community now has a searchable, digital catalogue of audio and metadata for nearly 1,000 records from more than 180 sources. A souvenir CD called  'A Landscape of Lives' of 30 selected stories from the catalogue has been produced. While the project initially targeted the residents and visiting community of Jura, others from the wider Jura diaspora were also welcomed and recorded. ‘From landowners to crofters, from shopkeepers to artists to groups of school friends, from those who live on the island now to those who knew it from the 1930s and all decades since… their stories are now preserved in their own voices and own words for all time,’ says Jane Carswell, who led the project. 

Project organisers worked with Jura’s primary school to source contributions to the sound archive from everyone in the crofting community. Pupils invited islanders to come to a weekly café in the school (with its own neon sign!) and be interviewed.

Jane Carswell worked with a 9-member volunteer steering committee. Members included two deer stalkers, an academic, a Council member whose family had been on the island for generations and a lady who had first lived on Jura as a WW2 evacuee. There were also more than 30 volunteers who transcribed passages from the recordings, after learning the necessary techniques. Jane says this combined effort from the community meant that 'their achievements were way beyond the funders’ expectations and everyone’s imagination!’

The project was made possible through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Jura Development Trust and the Argyll and Islands LEADER programme. Funding for a second phase of the project is now being sought, in order to explore practical applications for the newly collected material.

The 2014 CAHG judges were deeply impressed by the way the project had brought together different generations ‘to bond over their shared heritage’ and the range of activities undertaken. The emotional impact of the work of Jura had been profound. ‘This project definitely has the potential to inspire others, particularly in small, isolated communities’ they said.

A cash prize for the Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year is given by Sticks Research Agency.

The judges gave three category awards: for 'Most Inspirational', 'Most innovative' and 'Best New' Community Archive and Heritage Group.


cahg2014graffiti 828x685Winner of the ‘Most Innovative’ Community Archive and Heritage Group is the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey

The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey is a volunteer led project established in 2010 to undertake the first large scale systematic survey of early graffiti inscriptions in English churches. When the project started it was believed that early graffiti inscriptions were relatively rare; now it is clear that such inscriptions are present in over 65% of English churches. The judges were impressed with the significance of the project which has now been copied in four other counties with new surveys planned in a further three counties; the extent of voluntary participation with over 200 volunteers taking part in Norfolk from a range of backgrounds including volunteers with a previous history of mental health problems; and with the accessibility of the group’s website which will be of interest beyond the archaeological community.

The judges praised the real successes of those who had tackled this ‘new line of historical research’. ‘Even with no knowledge of the subject, this work drew us in and inspired us’. ‘It really didn’t all start with Banksy!’ they noted.

cahgmethodists735x603Winner of the ‘Best New’ Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year is My Primitive Methodist Ancestors based at Englesea Brook Museum in Crewe

My Primitive Methodist Ancestors project is based at the Englesea Brook Museum and is supported by the museum’s project director. Launched in June 2012 the project provided a ‘one stop shop’ to bring together and make available information about Primitive Methodism, its buildings, people, and contribution to community life and the trade union movement through a virtual archive. The website now has over 2000 pages and 258 registered users; it has attracted over 31,000 visits from more than 20,000 unique visitors from 65 countries.

The judges noted their admiration for two further entries: Paganel Archives and Pecket Learning Community. Paganel Archives, based in a state primary school is the first such archive to be listed on the national ARCHON register. Pecket Learning Community, whose members have various learning difficulties, have established a web-based archive about their community.

The judges did not this year make an award in the Website of the Year category.