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The Digital Romans

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The Digital Romans
Dec 18th 2023 | Thania M Flores

“The Digital Romans” is a project generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is focused on the creation of digital resources, accessibility and inclusion. The project includes fostering and strengthening partnerships and collaboration with UPMO, National Museums Scotland, Live Borders and Heritage Environment Scotland.

Project Aims and Objectives

  • To create a digital archive and catalogue of the Trimontium collections, including the Trimontium Museum collection proper; related artefacts found at the Trimontium site that are part of other organisations such as the National Museums Scotland, Heritage Environment Scotland and Live Borders; Trimontium related papers and publications; James Curle’s notebooks; selected archaeological video footage.
  • To develop inclusive and accessible digital educational resources that will benefit the general public and to develop focused educational and engagement outputs designed for neurodivergent people.
  • To provide volunteering opportunities for people of all ages, providing training in cataloguing and digital skills, involving physical and digital volunteers.

Project Development – Partnership with UPMO

Since the start of the project in Autumn of 2022, we have been successfully engaging with audiences who historically are underrepresented in heritage – people who are neurodivergent. Our ‘mantra’ has been to listen and avoid being prescriptive. Listening to what is needed, to what is effective and co-creating with people with lived experience has been our cornerstone.

In collaboration with UPMO -an organisation based in Edinburgh dedicated to offering programmes, training, and opportunities for people with learning disabilities-, we have used our collection, and the rich Iron Age heritage of the Scottish Borders, to engage with this audience in diverse ways. These have included free visits to the museum for UPMO groups, photography, object handling, dress-up sessions, dance and movement.

Upon the first interactions with UPMO, it was clear that participants particularly enjoyed the Roman Dance workshop. This provided a multifaceted approached to engaging with heritage and sense of wellbeing: Wellbeing of body through movement and dance-exercise; social wellbeing sharing the experience with their peers and carers and being able to enjoy dance and movement in an inclusive environment.

For this reason, we endeavoured to make a digital dance instruction video as the first phase of the learning resources package. This allowed us to offer an output for learning about the Romans, through dance, movement, sound and imagery. At the same time the video format allows to extend the experience of wellbeing to those who may not be able or may not want to participate in the dance workshops in person with others but would like to do it in the comfort of their homes and safe spaces. 

Roman Dance Instructional Video

A dance instructional video series was created in a wonderful collaboration between Trimontium and UPMO. The making and content of the video took deeply into consideration the feedback received during the in-person consultations and museum visit sessions. Trimontium was in charge of the presentation, instructional dance and movement content, filming location and research. UPMO Connect took care of filming and editing. The music was created by Upmo Connect in collaboration with Upmo students with historical advice from Trimontium.

The next phase consisted on delivering the instructional video to the Upmo dance group in Edinburgh. Under the direction of Upmo’s dance teacher, the students studied the video, taking inspiration to create their own dance routine. A first stage of the development of this dance was presented at Upmo for peers and carers in December 2023.

The Roman Dance Workshop series is free to access and use. An official launch will take place in early 2024. It can be accessed on YouTube HERE.

Improving accessibility in the museum

As a result of the recommendations from UPMO and from BANG (Borders Additional Needs Group) the museum has implemented so far large print gallery guides in English, French, Spanish and German, Guides in Braille, Torches and Magnifying glasses in the gallery space, subtitles within the films, seating points and portable stools and induction loops at reception and AV theatre.

“The Digital Romans” is an ongoing project until Autumn 2024. In this time we look to deliver an online digital archive, a package of learning resources for the general public through Museums for Digital Learning and further resources co-created with Upmo.

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