9 months ago New Deal of the Mind launched the Digital Domesday Project: a national initiative to create employment opportunities in arts and heritage organisations. Since then we've created over 100 work placements with an emphasis on digitising cultural archives, creating new oral histories and producing artistic responses to our cultural heritage: work creation with a cultural legacy. This post is an update on the Digital Domesday Project, and what has been achieved so far under its banner.
Along with the cultish leanings of our name (“is that a mental health charity, or a sect?” runs the oft-repeated retort to “I work for New Deal of the Mind”) – and tendency to describe ourselves as Arts Activists – you could be forgiven for thinking that here was a niche millennial group prophesying the online end of days. Fortunately, that would be wrong. This post is an update on what the Digital Domesday Project is, and what has been achieved so far under its banner.
The Digital Domesday project is a national initiative to create employment opportunities in arts and heritage organisations. These opportunities place an emphasis on digitising cultural archives, creating new oral histories and producing artistic responses to our cultural heritage. It’s work creation with a cultural legacy.
In the UK we have a vast wealth of cultural archives – in the form of films, photographs, documents, artworks, and memories – but the vast majority of this material, which contains within it the strands of identity and history that make up the fabric of the society we live in, is inaccessible.
In recent years, with new technologies, the digitisation agenda has been driven forward by many with delightful results: from Google’s push to bring everyone connected to the net books by the million; through History Pin and StoryVault open-sourcing the digitisation of our cultural memory; to the myriad art organisations, museums and archives developing ingenious digital strategies to bring us culture in new forms – but still – the mass of the UK’s cultural archives remains untapped.
The Digital Domesday project recognises this as an opportunity. An opportunity to create jobs, just as un-built roads presented an opportunity for work creation stateside in the 1930s.
Since October 2011, New Deal of the Mind has successfully placed over 100 unemployed young people into six month work placements across the UK focused on digital heritage projects, at organisations such as the British Council, Screen Yorkshire, London Metropolitan Archives, Eastside Community Heritage, Northern Region Film and Television Archive, The Margate Theatre Royal, History Pin, the Mayhem Theatre Company, and StoryVault.
The work that Digital Domesday placements have done has: digitised hundreds of thousands of photos of London; made films celebrating life in Leeds; recorded oral histories in boxing clubs that form the basis of a play (showing at the Festival of Britain celebrations at the Southbank Centre); got unseen films of British life in the 40s online; and much more. You can read more about our partners and projects here.
Collaborative creativity can make a change
As must already be plain this concept has only flourished in the hands of the Digital Domesday placements themselves, and the UK’s brilliant creative institutions, to whom thanks is due for also seeing the opportunity, and running with the idea. Acting as a broker for projects of all shapes and sizes, it has been remarkable to see the creativity and productivity that stems from putting young people together with digital technologies, our cultural heritage, and the expertise of the UK’s creative professionals.
New Deal of the Mind cares about the arts, and about justice – about life and art if you will – and what we’re trying to achieve with the Digital Domesday project is effectively a blurring of the two. It’s as simple as this: we want to enable young people to fulfil their creative potential while making a living, no matter what their background, and we know that this combination can produce a cultural legacy for the UK.
Watch the films, browse the photos, book yourself a ticket to a play, and generally check out the projects – here
For more information or if you’d like to be involved message: firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s. The innovators at the helm of that irreducible bunker of riches the BBC Archives have been a great support to New Deal of the Mind, and their own Domesday Reloaded project is a fantastic example of why it’s useful, and fascinating, to corral and curate digital records of life in the UK. Check it out here.