Crowdsourcing for impact – a forum

A crowdCross-posted from the blog for the Engage programme: Digital technologies for public engagement, knowledge exchange and impact (University of Oxford)


Crowdsourcing is an increasingly popular concept, and crowdsourcing projects appear in many areas. As part of the 2016 Engage program, we will be running a panel session around the question of how crowdsourcing can be used for outreach and public engagement.

When: 4 March, 2-4pm
Where: Thames Suite, IT Services, 13 Banbury Rd

In the session, we will be hearing about a range of crowdsourcing projects, from small-scale projects run by a single individul to large projects involving a team of researchers and thousands of contributors. We will explore how projects have engaged with their audiences and what impact that has had. There will be time for discussion and opportunity to share thoughts and experiences, both in the session and over coffee afterwards.

To book a place, please register at the IT Training Courses website


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Working with local museums

Being placed in Oxford, RunCoCo are fortunate to have a number of excellent museums more or less on our doorstep. We do enjoy working with these when the opportunity arises. This summer we had the pleasure to be involved with the Museum of Oxford in their community collection of objects for their 40 years, 40 objects exhibition (see previous post). This autumn we were invited to the Museum of the History of Science to support their First World War community collection. The museum was running a series of events to tie in with their ‘Dear Harry’ exhibition, and decided to go with an idea we have had for a long time: running a community collection event in the Museum.

Community collection event in the gallery

Community collection event in the gallery

The History of Science Museum is based in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building which naturally poses some challenges when it comes to running an event which involves a large number of staff and visitors as well as digitisation equipment and computers. It is not only a question of finding the space for it all, making sure there is room and facilities to receive a potentially large number of visitors, but also the issue of how to incorporate the digital element. Seemingly simple matters like getting access to electric sockets pose a challenge in a 17th Century building. Luckily, the Museum team were able to meet the challenges and put on a very good event.


Digitisation crew at work

For RunCoCo, working with our local museums offers an opportunity to adapt our ideas about procedures and practices to different contexts. That in itself is not different from working with any organisation. What is different, however, is that working locally we can have a more immediate link to the physical space where an event is to take place, and we usually meet with the local team several times over a period of time. When we work with remote organisations, we communicate over email, phone, and online. If we meet, it is only for an intense planning and training session over a couple of days or less. Although that works very well, and offers the organiser an opportunity to focus on planning their event without distractions, it is interesting to also have the opportunity to work in a different way, engaging with the event organiser and their space over a longer period of time.

For the event at the Museum of History of Science, we first met with the organisers on a couple of occasions to discuss their ideas for the event and talk about how to make it all happen. We also provided two training sessions, one for event organisers and one for event volunteers. Although these were held in the Museum, they were open also to participants who were not involved in this particular event. This is part of the strategic plan to spread community collection expertise and encourage further collection initiatives. At the actual event, RunCoCo were there to lend a hand, and as it was a local event it was easy for the organisers to borrow some of our digitisation equipment.

The community collection day at the Museum of the History of Science went very well and both visitors and staff found it a rewarding experience. From RunCoCo’s side, the best feedback is to hear that the Museum may be thinking about doing it again. Next time they will not need our training and support but know exactly what to do and how to make it work for them. That is, of course, exactly how it should be, but I for one must admit that it will be hard to stay away if I hear that there will be another community collection event in one of our local museums. Where is the volunteer sign-up sheet, please?


The first Museum of the History of Science collection event was held on the 26th of September. The RunCoCo training sessions were supported by the Van Houten Bequest through the strategic funding for Oxford’s First World War Centenary

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40 Years, 40 Objects: Celebrating the Stories of a City and its People

Table w 'Welcome desk' sign

All is ready. Welcome!

This weekend, the Museum of Oxford held their first ever Community Collecting Day. The people of Oxford were asked to search their attics and bottom drawers for objects that hold personal memories of the city from the last 40 years and bring these to the event where Museum staff and volunteers were on hand to record the stories and digitise the objects.

The event is one of the activities that the Museum is running to mark its 40th anniversary. All objects brought to the Collecting Day will be included in a digital exhibition. A selection of the objects will also be included in the forthcoming ’40 Years, 40 Objects’ exhibition to open in September. The exhibition will feature everyday objects, historic artefacts and personal mementoes selected by local people and community groups to reflect their experiences and memories of Oxford over the past four decades.

Museum of Oxford Community Engagement Officer, Antonia Harland-Lang says: “This is a new way to bring the history of the city to life. We are excited to see what the people of Oxford will share and are looking forward to creating a new kind of exhibition.”

The range of objects brought to the first collection event was considerable. Some were old, some were new, some were unique and some were mass produced. What they all have in common is that they tell a story about the city and its people, told by the citizens themselves.

Tables and chairs set up in museum

All set for the interviews

For RunCoCo it was interesting to see how the processes and guidelines we have developed were put to use in new context with equally good result. As always, careful planning, competent and efficient staff, and generous, enthusiastic contributors make for an enjoyable and rewarding event. And that is even before considering what has been collected.

People gathering for briefing

Briefing – the most important part of the day?

Woman looking at item from box-file

Exploring a contribution

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Community sourcing at the Museums and the Web 2015

Workshop participants

Workshop in full-swing

The workshop I ran and the professional forum I helped lead at MW2015 earlier this month in Chicago went down very well with the enthusiastic participants.

What follows are photos (in a very low resolution) and some reflections on work done and some work to do. Continue reading

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Museums and the Web 2015 workshop references

These are the references from my workshop “Crowdsourcing user-generated content: using the Oxford Community Collection Model to engage audiences and create collections” (at MW2015, the annual conference of Museums and the Web, April 8-11, 2015, Chicago).

Chicago river front

I will occasionally be tweeting from the conference, especially around the professional forum I’ll be participating in about gathering user-generated content of the US in the First World War. Alun Edwards, Academic IT, University of Oxford

Support for crowdsourcing, community collections and social media:

Continue reading

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Ready for MW15 Workshop, Chicago

Slide from workshop: Marilyn Monroe, Slovenian farmer, Angela Merkel, school pupils in the trenches at the Lancs Museum

Engaging audiences online and in-person

Finally, RunCoCo is ready for the workshop “Crowdsourcing user-generated content: using the Oxford Community Collection Model to engage audiences and create collections” (at MW2015, the annual conference of Museums and the Web, April 8-11, 2015, Chicago).

Alun Edwards, Academic IT, University of Oxford – representing RunCoCo will occasionally be tweeting from the conference, especially around the professional forum he’ll be participating in about gathering user-generated content of the US in the First World War.

Watch this space for the references and links from the workshop, and if time some reflections on the conference itself.

“Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye…!”

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Europeana 1914-1918

For the last four-and-a-half years, much of our time has been spent on the Europeana 1914-1918 project. Using the Oxford Community Collection Model, the project has created a large archive comprising over 13,000 stories and 170,000 digital images relating to the First World War, all freely available online for anyone to use.

Map of Europe

The Europeana 1914-1915 project has run collection events across Europe

Among our roles in the large, multi-national project has been to support those who plan and run the collection activities, both the online component and the 150+ individual collection events that have been held across Europe so far. We have provided advice and support, run training and coaching sessions, created guides and template forms, and taken on different roles at various collection events. Despite short deadlines and long shifts, the work has been stimulating and rewarding. We are very grateful to have been given this opportunity to take what started here at Oxford as a small pilot project in 2007 and help turn it into a large, multi-national initiative that has involved thousands of people from across the Globe.

The Europeana Awareness project, which funded the 1914-1918 activities, finished at the end of 2014. That does not, however, mean the end of Europeana 1914-1918. The archive is available online, and it is still possible to add material to it through the website New collection events are planned, and we expect to see the archive continue to grow. Important activities to come are also the exploration and study of the material in the archive. It is unavoidable that the existence of this collection will inform future research and make possible new types of studies.

The RunCoCo team are happy to support and promote the Europeana 1914-1918 collection and other First-World-War-related activities also in the future. Please contact us if you want to know more about contributing to the archive, running collection events, or if you want to discss using the material for research, teaching or something else.

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Shaping Europe

View from the 'office'

View from ‘our’ window

This week we found ourselves working in a slightly different space. For a few days, crews from Europeana, Facts & Files, and RunCoCo set up camp in the European Parliament in Brussels to run the ‘Shaping Europe’ event. Members of the European Parliament, commissioners, assistants, and anyone working in the building were invited to come along to see what we do and to share their stories, memories and objects from the First World War or 1989. Project staff from Europeana 1914-1918, Europeana 1989 and 89 Voices were on hand to record interviews and digitise matterial and, above all, talk about the work we have been doing over the last few years.

The ‘Shaping Europe’ event ended with a reception where participants were treated to brief presentations by, amongst others, Tibor Navracsics (European Commissioner for Culture, Education, Youth and Sport), Jill Cousins (Executive Director, Europeana), Frank Drauschke (Historian, Co-founder Facts & Files) and Patrick Lefèvre (Director General of the Royal Library of Belgium). After the presentations, visitors and speakers had a chance to mingle and talk to project staff, see the digitisation and interview areas and share their stories and material.

Jill Cousins

Jill Cousins speaking at the evening reception

Picture of two people at a desk

Ready to receive the visitors


Recording and cataloguing material

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Oxfordshire Family History Fair

Getting started with your family history research or looking to add further to your tree? Then why not come along to the Oxfordshire Family History Society’s Family History Fair on Saturday 4th October at The Marlborough School, Woodstock, OX20 1LP between 10 and 4? One of team will be there to discuss how you can contribute to and explore the European First World War archive, Europeana 1914-1918 together with our other projects (Oxford at War, WW1 Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings) There will be a focus on Oxfordshire with books, CDs and search services of parish registers, but also internet access so that our helpers can take you further afield. Neighbouring and local counties including Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, will also be represented at the fair by their history societies with stalls and advisors, and genealogical suppliers, military groups, and booksellers will have stands you can visit too.

Entrance is free as is the parking, and tea, coffee and light refreshments are available. To help you plan your day and see what support and resources are available, please visit:

We hope to see you there!

Oxfordshire Family History Fair: we hope to see you there!

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Reading Roadshow


Stories are shared at the Reading Museum Family History day

On Sunday 10 August, members of the public were invited to Reading Museum to share their family stories and memorabilia from the First World War. Subject experts were on hand to help identify the objects brought in and record the stories that were told. Objects were digitised during the event, and stories and images will be uploaded to the Europeana 1914-1918 website.

Despite heavy rain, a queue of people formed as soon as the doors opened, and the panel of experts were soon very busy looking at the objects and discussing them and the accompanying stories that were brought in. The digitising crew had a mighty task to keep up with the flow of objects. Hundreds of photographs and scans were taken of letters, diaries, photographs, medals, souvenirs and a range of other objects.

IMG_5340sm2A team of staff and volunteers from the museum made sure the event was a success, with a number of interesting stories recorded and objects digitised. Interns from the University of Oxford IT Services filmed various aspects of the event. The film will be used for instruction and information videos to be used by future event organisers and volunteers.

After the event follows a period of intense work when the stories and digitised objects are finalised and added to the Europeana 1914-1918 website where they can be explored together with tens of thousands of other stories from across the globe telling ‘people’s history’ of the war.

Anyone who couldn’t make it to the Family History Day but who wants to share their material can do so online on the Europeana 1914-1918 website. Dates and venues for future roadshows are listed on the Europeana 1914-1918 website.

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