Co-Producing Tolerant Futures through Ancient Identities

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Collaboration with Durham University.

Informed by the original Ancient Identities in Modern Britain grant, this Follow-on project will support the development of tolerance in British society by pursuing two core aims:

  1. Raising public awareness of the divisive ways in which Iron Age and Roman heritages (IARHs) have been weaponised in the public sphere over the past ten years, so as to challenge them and recognise opportunities for inclusivity and integration.
  2. Enabling early engagements with IARHs that encourage children (7-11) to open up to and reflect on the theme of ‘encountering otherness’.
    These aims were framed and agreed with eight IARH museums and sites that are located in rural and urban areas of England, Scotland and Wales and who will be our project partners: Great North Museum Hancock and Vindolanda Roman Forth & Museum (Northumberland), Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery (Cumbria), Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds City), Butser Ancient Farm (Hampshire), The Hunterian Museum (Glasgow City), Scottish Crannog Centre (Pertshire) and Castell Henllys (Pembrokeshire). Dialogues with these stakeholders as well as with education professionals and adult members of the public emerged during the Ancient Identities project and highlighted the need for co-designing critical interpretations of IARHs in collaboration with heritage curators, educators, primary school teachers and teacher trainers, in order to advance social justice and cohesion across the three countries of Britain.

The project aims will be achieved over seven months, working through seven objectives: (1) To create a web-based interactive artwork that communicates with adult audiences (18+) how IARHs have been used to generate antagonism between different groups in Britain (e.g. native, civilised and Christian ‘us’ and immigrant, barbaric and Muslim ‘others’). (2) To display the artwork on the Ancient Identities website and integrate it in the gallery and online interpretation offered by four partner organisations: Great North Museum: Hancock, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, The Hunterian Museum and Castell Henllys.
(3) To engage at least 15,000 adults with this artwork during the Follow-on project (of which 7,200 offline and the remaining online) and an additional 100,000 people online minimum in the 24 months after the end of the project. (4) To evaluate the artwork’s effectiveness in increasing understanding of socially polarising uses of IARHs today and for at least 50% of audiences engaging with the artwork. (5) To co-produce and test, with all our project partners and additional stakeholders, a set of web-based storytelling resources and accompanying guidance that can be used to train heritage educators and primary school teachers in Britain so that they can plan new ways of introducing children to ideas of ‘otherness’ through IARHs. (6) To disseminate the storytelling resources and guidance amongst at least 500 heritage educators, teachers and teacher trainers throughout Britain in collaboration with all our project partners and the advisory group. (7) To establish a network on IARHs Futures, which will unite heritage curators, educators and history teachers acting as a light-touch mechanism to support the development of critical interpretations via questions-answers posted through a dedicated mailing list. *7,200 is a figure calculated conservatively based on an average of 20 people interacting with the artwork via an iPad kiosk every day, for 3 months, in each of the four venues that will be hosting it. Online engagement will be substantially boosted via social media promotion and the publication of articles in the national press and high-impact magazines (see Proposed Activities). **Years 3-6 in England (KS2) and Wales, and P4 (1st Level) to P7 (2nd Level) in Scotland.

In short, this project will intervene in children and adult experiences of ‘otherness’ through IARHs. The digital artwork will expose and challenge instrumental uses of heritage aimed at building social barriers. The education training resources will help to deconstruct binary uses of IARHs amongst children and educate them about diversity and inclusivity. The combination of these two pathways to impact is vital to tackle immediate forms of communicating tolerance, but also for the creation of prolonged system change by influencing how early encounters with IARHs are designed and delivered (Bonacchi 2018).

Total award value £79,891.35

Research programmes

Research themes