As far as the activation of heritage commons is concerned, Cultural H.ID.RA.N.T. builds upon tangible and intangible dimensions of heritage. In particular these last 12 months have been used by the partnership to explore them working on data collection and creation with the delivery of one relevant output of the project: the digital archive. The establishment of a digital tool combining institutional (technical and research based) and everyday knowledge (oral and written history, grassroots memories, individual experience, etc.), collecting, organizing and systematizing raw material into an open access platform has been undertaken since the project's early stages. Especially in the beginning this process went beyond content collection and production, working as a significant and useful opportunity to activate the local network of stakeholders (1).
Guided by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Man (MedINA), which supervised the assemblage of oral history testimonies (on the relationship between residents, water and the aqueduct), historic and archaeological documents (contents coming from official archives), the archive has been designed as a digital platform lasting beyond the UIA financed project duration. The archive sees Halandri as its main thematic horizon, and its people as the main driver for the management, enrichment and development of the platform. With the local community to own and guide it, the archive is brought about as a cultural and educational action that reflects on the past to help understand the present. The goal is that the knowledge collected in the archive can become a common ground for the development of policies and actions that promote environmental sustainability, cultural creation, social inclusion, democratic dialogue and solidarity.
The Local Archive as a content and institution was built from scratch, and the definition of its features and main characters came out from the reflection on a number of questions: "How can an archive collect all kinds of testimony on the past of Halandri but also respond to the contemporary needs of the local community? How can the local system make use of the content, and at the same time enrich it including its "voices"? How can the archive support an educational community, offer scientific validity but also to be easy to use and accessible to the general public? How can the archive be updated and renewed in the long run? How can it be participatory and at the same time sustainable?"
This fruitful conversation has led to the creation of a dynamic digital archive, structured as an open system that can be enriched with new material and organized into individual specific or thematic archival collections, facilitating the production of content. In the easy-to-use database of the OMEKA (2) system, copies of documents of all kinds (texts, images, audiovisuals, etc.), original digital works and secondary literature relating to topics of local interest are collected, classified and made accessible. Archival material can refer to the past (history) as well as the present (cultural heritage) and convey the perspective of the scientific community, local society and civil society. The objective is that the interested party can find and relate traditional testimonies (official documents, newspaper articles, photographs, maps, etc.) with oral testimonies of residents, interviews and texts of researchers, and cultural material of local groups.
The archive has been designed to offer documented information in an understandable and attractive way for the general public. The online platform that hosts it also includes digital multimedia narratives ("stories") that the local community "writes" by opening a dialogue with its contents. It includes material on the history of Hadrian's Aqueduct, as a water and cultural resource, on the relationship of the inhabitants with this (almost) invisible monument and, more generally, with past and present aspects of the water element in their area.
On May 2022, during the second edition of the Hidrant Festival, the local archive data platform was officially and publicly launched. Having the archive online, and testing its use by the enlarged community of practices confirmed the initial idea of not secluding its content only to water or Hadrian related topics, but to imagine (and implement) the archive as a wider permanent repository of collective memories embracing the entire territory of Halandri. To proceed in this direction, and evaluate its feasibility, the ongoing conversation is exploring the sustainability of the platform beyond the project duration. The model currently under study imagines:
- BOARD/COMMUNITY. Establishing a board engaging local organizations to feed contents and initiatives, but also to grant continuity and plan for strategic development. The board could already count on a number of individuals and organizations that supported the archive in its start up, but the idea is to imagine that as space which could be further expanded. The initial nucleus of the Community will be established in the framework of Cultural H.ID.RA.N.T.: through consultation processes, the interested parties will co-sign a Memorandum of Cooperation for its activation. The Community will proceed with the development of the Organization which will specify the common principles, policy procedures and objectives of its work. The "archive community" is intended as a collective management body of the archive: its purpose will be the maintenance and renewal of the digital collections of the archive, their public presence on the website, as well as the implementation of actions related to the history, collective memory and cultural heritage of Halandri.
- STAFF. Employing a handful of structured workers to grant the scientific consistency of future activities, the operability, the update and the expansion of the platform. Managing the relationship between the archive, the local community, the scientific community and civil society (school communities, local associations, artistic groups, cultural or scientific bodies, etc.) will be part of its role. On top of that, the facilitation of cooperative networks and cultural events to feed the local archive with new material, will be a way to open up a space for dialogue, reflection and creativity, in order to feed the ongoing collective sense making process about the local cultural identity.
- FINANCING. Outlining the mechanisms through which the archive could receive funds by the City of Halandri and other public (or private) cultural institutions interested in supporting local memories and cultural heritage (i.e. the Ministry of Culture). In this sense a business and operativity model of the archive has to be prepared, in order to assess the needs and the financial dimensions that have to be taken into account.