It has been very gratifying to have been invited to join an intriguing project being led by Helen Graham from Leeds University. We are exploring the concept and process of ‘co-design’ in heritage projects, something that has become highly topical as what one might call ‘the heritage industry’ tries to ground itself more firmly in the various localities. The project itself is going to be co-designed by its members, rather than dictated by Helen and her colleagues, which makes it doubly interesting and exciting.
Most of the members are ‘heritage professionals’, so my involvement is somewhat from left field as a radical historian, albeit a retired heritage professional myself. The project is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and it is good to have that kind of public support for what the project is about. Check it out on its own blog.
Personally, this will be something of a learning curve, not least in getting a more nuanced idea of what is meant by ‘co-design’ in this context, as I understand it has something of a provenance in ICT. We get started in the middle of March, basing ourselves for a day at Bede’s World, near Jarrow. I look forward to getting stuck in and also to revisiting a place I last saw around 1959-60 on a school trip to visit Hadrian’s Wall. It had a huge influence on my long-standing self-identity as a Northumbrian with a romantic attachment to its high Anglian period in the 7th and 8th centuries, though I also connect it with a darker side of North-East history – the Jarrow March and the desperate history of suicides in the Jarrow Slacks.