We report the findings of a research project funded by the AHRC, with support of the BBC, British Library, and a community museum. This exploits, augments, and exhibits a set of existing archive data by transforming a young woman’s personal testimony of World War II in textual format into a series of sound files, contextualised by contemporaneous news broadcasts, and linked to other online material. Our focus is an evaluation of the ways in which members of the public engage with archives in two digital formats: (1) online text and images uploaded daily to an online journal between August 2019 and January 2021; and (2) a non-fiction podcast series launched in 2022, in which the actor who plays the protagonist is the 25 year-old great-great niece of the diarist, also aged 25 in 1939. We anticipate that those who first encountered the archive through the online journal will report hearing narration of the diary entries to be a different experience from reading them online, e.g. engagement in ‘active listening’ is likely to feel more intimate and immersive, especially given the family link between the performer and the diarist. This contribution adds to the small body of knowledge on podcasts and archives. To date, the podcast format has most readily been used in public engagement and outreach activities, privileging expert interpretation of the physical holdings of heritage organisations. Here we demonstrate that podcasts can also be deployed as a platform to host archival material as a ‘performance’.
Ryan, B., Hall, H., & McGregor, I. (2022, August). Digital options: an assessment of audience engagement with a digitised archive set transformed from online text and images to audio format. Paper presented at Archives and Records Association Annual Conference 2022, Chester, UK