This project will provide significant opportunities for inclusive participation in landscape research, management and appreciation, all key aims of the European Landscape Convention (ELC 2007). In the case study at Bennachie, the project will build on already developing links between the university and an important community group, the Bailies of Bennachie who have an important non-governmental stewardship role in a key landscape of North-East Scotland. The project will support the Bailies' work and aims to expand participation in the conservation and heritage investigation activities that the Bailies undertake.
A core element of impact will be skills training to build capacity amongst the community in techniques for heritage research, including participation from younger generation. Here the training of local school teachers in heritage research and the ways this links with the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is key. We will provide impact through the initiation of a number of local school projects facilitating wide involvement. This process of learning will also be assessed to explore important research topics of interest beyond the academic community, for example in the relationship between formal and informal learning in a schools environment (see Curtis 2007).
The Forestry Commission is the major landowner at Bennachie and we are already working with their staff in our community connections. Our project will enable them to develop new ways of involving communities in the management of forest land with particular reference to heritage, a theme that they are keen to develop. Other public sector organisations with a stake in landscape management in this area include Aberdeenshire Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Scotland, and we will build on our work with them as well as with private landowners to promote community voices.
Varied modes of dissemination will offer significant paths to impact, and here appeal to the wider community is integral to the project through community participation in the fieldwork, training sessions and community talks all geared to a non-academic audience. The resources for the project will also include accessible internet resources and we can utilise our existing links to disseminate information on the open days to a wide audience. Project results will be distributed to the organisations mentioned above for consideration at regional and national levels. In the longer term we hope that the results of our work will provide specific opportunities for exhibition at the Bennachie visitor centre and the University of Aberdeen and new information resources for the Forestry Commission, Aberdeenshire Council and others.
- Curtis, E., 2007. 'Finding the Curriculum in the Environment: Fieldwork approaches to student learning in Initial teacher Education.' International Journal of Learning 14, (5) 179-189
Sustainable Community Heritage in Scotland's North-East: Bennachie and Beyond
North-east Scotland contains landscapes of world-leading importance for history, archaeology and community heritage. This project will focus on the building of heritage-based partnerships between the University of Aberdeen and a variety of communities in the north-east's hinterland. At its heart is a burgeoning interdisciplinary community-centred research project concentrating on the past, present and future significance of one of north-east Scotland's most celebrated cultural and physical landmarks: the hill of Bennachie and its environs. The project will serve to not only facilitate public engagement with and enjoyment of the region's landscape heritage, but will more importantly provide training and development opportunities, which will facilitate proactive and long-term interest in doing local community heritage.
Bennachie plays a time-honoured role as the dominant landmark in the region, an essential touchstone for the distinctive north-eastern identity and represented in art, craft, song, poetry, folklore and literature. Situated within a deeper historical framework, Bennachie also provides a unique opportunity to address the historic relationships between past communities and the landscape: from its significance amongst prehistoric farmers to Roman invaders to 19th century 'colony' communities, Bennachie provides an essential vantage point from which to assess thousands of years of social change and human impact on the local environment.
Through the Bennachie case study, the university's research expertise and its extensive collections in archaeology, history, and ethnology will be made available to the wider community. The proposed initiative will involve 'capacity building', including stimulating interest, expertise and knowledge of local heritage research methodologies with a view to securing a sustainable model for community-led research. Members of the wider community will be directly involved in a current community-centred project run jointly between the University of Aberdeen and a local community group and conservation society, the Bailies of Bennachie. In 2011 the Bailies and the University of Aberdeen commenced the Bennachie Landscapes Project to answer research questions about the landscape history of this iconic landmark and to contribute to enhancing skills and knowledge competencies in the practice of landscape research within the wider community.
The partnership has begun to be an important focus for engendering community-focused research. As such it provides an ideal context for stimulating and providing guidance for new partnerships in the north-east and as well as extending aspects of the current project in novel directions.
The programme of funding will provide for the organization and management of five key themes with associated 'open days':
- Discovering the archives
- Introduction to archaeological research techniques
- Using community oral history as a research tool
- The Curriculum for Excellence: opportunities for learning outdoors with archaeology
- Exploring heritage through the creative arts
These events will provide opportunities to share skills and develop existing community research, leading to the presentation of ideas to a wider public. Most importantly, however, they will provide an interactive environment in which members of a wider community can become involved in projects and learn about opportunities for creating new research ideas. An important objective of this unique initiative will be to seek to engage members of the local community in developing and conducting a long-term landscape history project, which will aim to create a proactive and sustained interest in the region for future generations.