This is the second post in the Public Engagement Awards series.
Layers of London (https://www.layersoflondon.org) is an online digital mapping project which is engaging thousands of people across London and beyond with the history and heritage of the city, creating valuable heritage assets, and facilitating via public engagement and crowdsourcing the creation of significant new digital heritage content. Layers of London has sought to reach out to many different audiences across London, with the overriding objective to make a difference to the engagement with – as well as the understanding of — heritage via their active participation in projects and content-creation. Audiences have included school pupils; institutions — such as borough archives and libraries who have significant heritage assets as well as deep roots into their communities via engagement and participation; — and different and varied individuals, communities, and groups across the 32 boroughs, reflecting London’s rich ethnic, linguistic, social and economic mix. This project specifically targeted those areas where engagement with heritage has been limited, restricted, or underrepresented in narratives of London’s history.
The huge scale and scope of Layers of London, as well as its unique methodologies, meant that new approaches had to be developed. Of course, the engaging, interactive website played a key role is fostering engagement: it was specifically developed in such a way as to allow heritage content to be created and added easily, with straightforward guides for volunteers and users. Promotion via social media, workshops and events likewise proved highly successful, with Layers of London now counting over 11,000 contributions from the public. Direct engagement activities were also essential, as they allowed the project to recruit volunteers, discover new community groups to work with, and to empower and equip individuals and communities alike to research and curate their own histories. Ad hoc events targeted specific areas, themes, or communities that Professor Davies and the project team felt were underrepresented, such as some of the outer boroughs, LGBTQIA+ groups, migrant communities, or groups involved in recording particular kinds of heritage (such as pubs, housing estates).
The tremendous effort and skill needed to establish and run such a valuable and successful platform was commended by the Birkbeck Public Engagement network, that was proud to recognise Professor Davies’s work with an Award in the category ‘Collaboration’. We warmly congratulate Professor Davies and the Layers of London team, and we thank them this outstanding contribution, in the area of Public Engagement and beyond.
Featured photo: Senate House Library 1932 to 1937 by Nathaniel Telemaque, available on Layers of London