Digital Engagement Project Delivers Volunteer Workshops.

The launch of our Digital Engagement programme, funded by the money we received from the first round of the Culture Recovery Fund, started with ten, very successful online workshops for HCT volunteers. The workshops were designed to encourage local volunteer groups to find new and innovative ways in which to engage with audiences long-term, and by doing so, encourage wider public support for individual chapels and the Trust as a whole.

The themes of the workshop sessions included How to record Memorials,Recording Oral Histories, Creating and Editing Digital Content, and Using Social Media. These inclusive workshops ensured that people with either pre-existing knowledge or, with no knowledge at all in digital engagement, increased their skills and felt able to contribute to each session and to the project overall. The success of these workshops was evident from the feedback that was received from all those who attended.

In collaboration with local volunteer group, we will also deliver several new and exciting interactive digital tools that will enable people to explore our chapels from wherever they are. In brief this will include a bespoke on-line digital database of chapel memorials, 360° virtual tours of several our chapels, some with 3D models and short videos, a collection of recorded oral histories, photographs, and stories, and photosets that will contribute to a better understanding of the buildings condition and archaeology, helping to inform the conservation and maintenance works at each site. Look out for all these features that will be added to our website over the next couple of weeks.

At the start of the workshop series, nearly 50% of attendees lacked confidence using digital technology and social media. By the end of the workshops, over 80% of those who attended felt either confident, or very confident engaging with digital technology and social media platforms. A resounding 100% of attendees stated that they were likely to increase the use of digital engagement at their individuals’ chapels- a huge success. All workshop resources can be found here.

We hope that by providing more inclusive resources, it will encourage a more diverse audiance to access these wonderful buildings long-term, and create sustainable ways for local groups to care for and share their chapels.

So what of the next steps? Since the inital workshops, groups have had the opportunity to have one-to-one follow-up sessions with Mike. Many of the volunteers have already shared their new found knowledge and skills with others. Groups have begun to record their chapel’s collection of memorials, and have begun to record either their own or each others oral histories, ( within covid-19 guildines). This element is obviously resticted at the moment, but groups have already identified people that they would like to record from their local communties in the future.. This will create a wonderful collection of peoples memories, and their past associations with the chapels and local areas,that have either been forgotten or untold. They will provide a wealth of invaluable resources that will enhance audiances appreciation and understanding of the history and future of each place.

One of the main outcomes for the overall project is to offer an opportunity for volunteers to feel supported, and part of the HCT wider community. This is especially important since the beginning of Covid-19; chapels have been closed periodically, groups have been unable to meet and for many of our volunteers, they have had to follow months of shielding.

The feedback from our workshop sessions so far indicate that over 90% of volunteers who attended, felt that the social interaction the workshops provided contributed considerable value to their overall sense of well-being.

If this is an indication of things to come- the rest of the project looks to be truly amazing.