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Being 18 in the past and today by Katrina Siliprandi

November 29th, 2011 by gileslane

Being 18 in the past and today: using Bookleteer for a museum-based project with young people
by Katrina Siliprandi
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service

Young people working on ‘Project 18’ carried out and recorded 39 interviews in people’s homes, at Norwich Castle museum and in residential care homes. They amalgamated quotes from these interviews with photographs of selected museum objects to produce both a printed booklet and an e-reader version using Bookleteer.

The project is a partnership between Norwich Castle Museum and the Mancroft Advice Project (MAP), a charity that provides help, education and training for young people through advisors, counsellors, youth workers and a drop-in centre. Project 18 helps young people to learn more about themselves, others and their community through the creation of an accessible small archive of oral history testimony about being 18 in the past and today, inspired by the museum’s collections.

Some people might expect paper copies to be of low importance and relevance to young people who are already comfortably immersed and swimming in the cyber ocean. Conversely, paper copies could be seen as important tools to present to those people who have travelled to positions of influence and governance where a more traditional background might place greater value on well-trodden methods of communication.

We found the reality to be that the young participants placed great store in the tangible form of the printed items. They valued something they could actually hold, see, feel and smell. This multiply dimensioned tangibility was something they could experience wherever and whenever they chose, rather than only when in contact with a screen. Just having something physical to keep, share and treasure was hugely important. In addition young people expressed their gratification about something that was a token, a signifier of their achievement and enhanced status. Of course this enhanced status works both in the way in which others see the young person and in the way in which they see and value themselves.

This effect was re-enforced by the good physical standard of the booklets themselves. The cost of short-run printing was impressive. We were not forced to order a huge bulk run to achieve economy (with concomitant waste), nor did we have to be miserly in distributing the booklets to the young people and their friends, museum and MAP staff, stakeholders and supporters.

At the same time, having the e-booklet available has given an easy flavour of the project and its purpose to outsiders such as funders and government agencies, both national and local. We feel this kind of attention-catching and information giving is much more likely to lead to interaction and positive responses and outcomes than just a paper communication in the general wasteful paper blizzard. In this way, perhaps counter-intuitively, the e-booklet has provided us with a more permanent resource than traditional paper copies for those that we wish to inspire and involve in financially supporting future projects.

Maybe, too, by putting the booklet on the internet we will benefit from some degree of good fortune as people anywhere in the world stumble on the project. One person’s happy discovery could be promulgated world-wide with astonishing rapidity.

More about the project on the MAP site here.

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