Case Study 6: The ACCORD project, community co-production

Stuart Jeffrey

There have been over two decades of research and development of digital visualisation technologies in archaeology and heritage. Approaches that utilise photogrammetry, laser scanning and 3D modelling have become standard practice in the academic archaeology, commercial archaeology and cultural heritage management. However, there is still little community engagement with digital visualisation technologies, despite community interest in the technologies themselves. Expert forms of knowledge and professional priorities, rather than community ones, invariably inform digital visualisations and the results, when seen from the outside the profession, can seem disconnected, clinical and irrelevant. Furthermore, digital visualisations commissioned in these expert sectors rarely integrate forms of community-based social value relating to the historic environment into the recording exercise. Consequently, the resulting digital objects can fail to engage communities as a means of researching and representing their heritage.

The Archaeological Co-design and Co-production or Research Data (ACCORD) project was funded via the AHRC Digital Transformations programme as a Connected Communities project and ran from 2013-2015. The project was led by the Glasgow School of Art in partnership with Archaeology Scotland, the University of Manchester and the RCAHMS (Jeffrey et al. 2015). The ACCORD project researched the opportunities and implications of digitally modelling heritage places and objects with 10 different communities across Scotland. Core to ACCORD was the notion that the growing accessibility and ubiquity of easy-to-use digital technology means that 3D recording can be deployed as a co-production methodology on projects involving both community groups and heritage professionals. In keeping with this, the choice of heritage sites to be recorded was entirely community defined and in practice ranged from rock art to rock-climbing sites. However, carved stone, whether modern, early medieval or prehistoric featured highly in the site selection process. Working together with visualisation technologists, researchers and practitioners in community engagement, community groups designed and produced their own records of heritage using techniques such as photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging. The results are permanently archived with the Archaeology Data Service and are freely reusable by all. As a research project ACCORD addressed multiple questions addressing co-production, value and the experience of authenticity in relation to these new heritage records. The project clearly demonstrated the value of the technology as a means of rapid ethnographic intervention, the benefits of capturing contemporary social value using this approach and also the ways in which value and forms of authenticity can accrue to the digital record and also the original site via the recording process (full results and analysis in prep.)

The ACCORD blog contains reports and information on each sub-project with articles from project partners and community participants.

A photo of people in a graveyard holding a large green tarpaulin to provide shade, and a woman operating a camera on a tripod

Figure 1: Community RTI in Kirkcudbright graveyard. © CC-NC-BY the ACCORD project

Two people on a grassy hill, one holding a camera on a high pole attempting to take images of a standing stone from many angles

Figure 2: Photography for 3D modelling by photogrammetry at the Crawstane, Rhynie. © CC-NC-BY the ACCORD project

Return to Section 3.3: Recording

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