by Mark Merry
Layers of London Project Director
We began work on this project earlier in the year, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In this post, I want to tell you a little more about the project, its aims and objectives and – more importantly – how you can get involved!
This will eventually be one of the largest public engagement projects on London’s history, unique because it involves digital technology to engage people with heritage for the whole of London, over more than 2,000 years of history. What makes it even more unique is that most of the content for our new website will be provided by the public, created by public engagement and schools programmes and by ‘crowd-sourcing’.
Eventually anyone will be able to upload verified historical content to the website, linking it to one of the many ‘layers’ of maps that we will be putting online – from the Romans through to the 21st century. In this way, people will be able to create their own ‘layers’ of heritage, connected to their own parts of London, their own communities, streets and buildings.
We hope to work with many different groups and schools across London over the next three years, with new as well as existing heritage projects, to learn more about the city’s rich history and to provide content for our website. One of the many exciting features of the project is the power of technology to create links between people and groups across London – sharing experiences of engaging with heritage.
We are particularly pleased to be working with some excellent partners who will be providing resources and skills to the project: the British Library, Historic England, The National Archives, London Metropolitan Archives, and Museum of London Archaeology. More partners will be joining the project as it develops over the next few years.
We began work in May 2016, and as part of the Development Phase of the project we will be focussing on the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Over the next few months we will be developing and testing our interactive website with schools, groups and volunteers in the borough so that we can learn more about how people will use it, the projects we can work with, and the kinds of historical content they will be adding.
One of the main activities will be based in the borough’s schools: using a remarkable archive of aerial photographs from the late 1940s we hope that the schools will create a new layer of images for our website, as well as use them as part of history and geography lessons to study the local area. We are already in contact with many groups and individuals in Barking and Dagenham, with a remarkable range of interests in local London heritage, but we want to hear from many others!
As I said at the start, this will be one of the largest projects of its kind – not surprising, perhaps, given the size and diversity of London in the early twenty-first century. London is changing all the time, with important consequences for heritage and how we understand and engage with London’s history. So with our partners we want to open up London’s heritage to Londoners in a unique way, and we hope that you will become involved. There is a simple sign-up form on this website – please fill it out to join our growing numbers of volunteers and groups across London!