By Susanne Boersma, Asnath Kambunga, Cassandra Kist, Elina Moraitopoulou, Franziska Mucha, Quoc-Tan Tran, Dydimus Zengenene
That the 7th Knowledge Hub would be about the validation of the toolbox and the model was clear from the beginning of the project, but what exactly that would entail only became clear throughout the project and in preparation for this meeting in July 2021. We – the fellows – started to think about the toolbox about a year ago. Tools as practical outputs of our PhD projects, or our combined research, were an exciting prospect as well as a bit daunting. Because how do you translate your work into something that can be used in practice? How could this be made available? And who will actually use it? Those were the very basic questions that formed the start of the tools, some of which we tested (as prototypes) during a dedicated session. In preparation we decided to focus on a small selection of tools: ones that were already nearly ready for use, and others that we particularly wanted feedback on to help us develop them further. The selected tools were: the Digital Legacy Booklet, the Model for Open Knowledge, the board game ‘Why (NOT) Participate?!’ and the Digital Archive of Forgotten Memories. The tools were validated in individual sessions to which we invited experts or practitioners, or worked with a smaller, internal group. In this contribution, we are happy to share a bit about the different processes and the preliminary outcomes in preparation for what is to come.
Digital Legacy Booklet
Our session unfolded around the validation of the Digital Legacy Booklet, a tool developed by Lorenz Widmaier in the context of his research which asks: ‘What do personal digital legacies mean to the bereaved, and how are the deceased mourned and remembered in the digital society?’. The Digital Legacy Booklet, an ensemble of password sheets that give access to the digital legacy of the bereaved, aims to be a stimulus and an opportunity for one to note what they wish to happen to their digital legacy after they die. Our session explored how digital data (e.g. photographs stored on clouds and social media accounts) can be passed on to loved ones after one’s own death. We (Asnath, Lorenz and Elina) were joined by five participants, non-experts on issues of digital legacy, and one funeral director. Our session was organised around open questions discussed in a safe dialogue space which was complemented by insights into some of Lorenz’s research findings and quotes by his interviewees. After the session, Sean Bellamy co-founder of Sands school, Ashoka Foundation Change Leader and a Varkey Global Teaching Ambassador, reflected in an email to us about digital legacies and we are grateful to share this reflection with you:
I think it will allow us to communicate and be in communion with the ancestors in a way that is more in tune with our hunter gatherer minds than we can believe. A hundred thousand years ago, we did not believe the dead had left us, they sat on the roofs of our huts living off the fat in the smoke from our fires, they watched over us and informed our everyday, and just because they were no longer present in visceral form, they remained everywhere. An intentional use of digital legacy brings the ancestors into our lives and they may influence us in new and better ways, sitting ‘on the roofs of our huts living off the fat in the smoke of our fires’. And in this struggling world, we need to both celebrate the ancestors and honour their memory, so that we can help design a planet that is fit for those yet to come.
How to open up knowledge in an equitable way
This tool’s main idea is that ‘openness’ isn’t only referring to the notion of digitising artworks and making them available online. Using ‘open’ as a way of referring to the creative reusability and remixability of a given asset results in an open knowledge ecosystem. Angeliki Tzouganatou’s tool takes into account not only the economic and legal aspects of the digital ecosystem, but also its social and cultural dimensions. The tool proposes a model for managing, producing, and disseminating cultural knowledge online. A future version of the tool will give cultural heritage professionals guidelines on how to do open knowledge in the GLAM sector in a participatory and equitable manner. It sees GLAM organisations as aligned agencies, or actors with a mission, in larger economic and cultural ecosystems. Ten participants in the validation workshop emphasised two critical aspects of the tool that must be considered: ethical and motivational factors. In terms of ethics, the GLAM experts who took part in the session investigated the know-how point: striking a balance between ethics, openness, and personal rights; in other words, finding a balance between protecting and opening. In terms of motivation, GLAM institutions must consider their own capacity for openness; this is not a mindset, but an everyday situation.
Why (Not) Participate?!
Inspired by the research of POEM Work Package 1 and created by Inge Zwart, Susanne Boersma and Franziska Mucha, this board game titled ‘Why (not) participate?!’ is intended to help practitioners rethink participatory work. The board game puts players in the role of participants of a museum project. A board, action cards, pins, motivation points and dice structure the mechanics of the game. During the game players gain or lose motivation points to take part in an imaginary participatory project. This happens by drawing action cards which describe typical situations in participatory projects, such as ‘the facilitator remembered my name’ which can positively or negatively affect the person’s willingness to take part. The evaluation session held online during Knowledge Hub 7 with a variety of cultural heritage professionals, was used to understand the potential expansion of the game in terms of its ‘action cards’ and format. From participants’ feedback, there was general consensus that the game could be useful in a number of ways: It could be played with colleagues as a form of professional development, it could be used as a way to open up the discussion with participants about their needs when planning projects or as part of project evaluation. The attendees also expressed interest in a digital version of the game and provided a variety of suggestions on how this could be achieved.
The Digital Archive of Forgotten Memories
The Digital Archive of Forgotten Memories was originally developed as a One-Stop-Shop by Anne Chahine and Inge Zwart but was included in this session because of our interest in the concept and how to continue to make it available after the POEM project has come to an end. If we are not there to host the Digital Archive of Forgotten Memories, what elements are most relevant and exciting to keep for use and who might use it? Starting from these questions, the session based the validation on work that had been done beforehand: the Archive was hosted at the Museum Europäischer Kulturen with feedback collected afterwards; the Archive was hosted by Inge Zwart once more in a workshop context with young people; and the Archive was presented as a tool to trainees at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin who filled out a survey on its potential use in cultural institutions or elsewhere. The information gathered led us to question whether the tool is a way of collecting forgotten memories online, or whether it is meant to spark questions on memory and forgetting. In considering its use in museums, during workshops or as a way into a group discussion about related topics, we found that the function, form, and output of the tool might have to change accordingly. It is this flexibility that we will keep in mind in the further development of the Digital Archive of Forgotten Memories.
Inspired by the different sessions, we are now equipped and ready to further develop these and other tools, check out the tools so far on the POEM website in the Tools and Services section. Despite the limited budget available to create elaborate versions that reflect our ideas, we are excited to create practical means for the use of practitioners and researchers, or of people more generally, in the future. In a follow up discussion on the last day of the Knowledge Hub, the fellows decided on an easily accessible and simple format. The tools will be uploaded to the online toolbox on the website and all POEM tools should be available by June 2022!
 An alternative independent school for 11–17-year-olds at the Southwest of England.