Developing an online archive to share knowledge on the history of 'mixed race' Britain
London Southbank University, University of Kent and Mix-d
The Mix-d Museum aimed to develop a research network to explore the translation of knowledge on minority ethnic history in Britain – specifically that relating to ‘mixed race’ people, couples and families – using creative and innovative digital methods. Through a collaboration between academics (Dr Chamion Caballero, London South Bank University and Dr Peter Aspinall, University of Kent) and the third sector (Bradley Lincoln, Mix-d), the project sought to develop an interactive online archive based on research findings from a British Academy funded project on racial mixing and mixedness in 20th century Britain.
The intention was to explore ways of making academic research on the history of mixed race people, couples and families in twentieth century Britain accessible and available to a general audience, particularly to young people and their educators. With the recovery of the history of different ethnic communities increasingly identified as important for schools in both policy and practice terms, alongside the call to exploit the ‘potential of digitisation’ in order to ‘open up’ archives, an interactive online archive was created – the Mix-d Museum – to help address these combined needs.
Aimed primarily at young people and schools, the Mix-d Museum highlights key moments in the history of mixed race Britain throughout the twentieth century, as well as the ‘ordinary’ lived experiences of those from or in mixed race families. The website has had over 40,000 page views from visitors from 152 different countries and feedback has been extremely positive, particularly amongst secondary school pupil trial users who were incredibly enthusiastic about exploring a history they were mostly unfamiliar with through the use of technology that they were highly familiar with. Digital technologies can play a vital role in the translation or transmission of knowledge, particularly to those groups whose interest in particular types of knowledge may be hindered by traditional mechanisms of dissemination.
In its exploration of the sharing of knowledge on minority ethnic history in Britain, the project established a new and exciting collaborative partnership between academics (London South Bank University/University of Kent), the third sector (Mix-d), and private sector (Ivy Park Media), as well as opening up the research to a whole new audience of young people and schools. The collaboration has not only allowed the academic partners to reach a wider audience for their findings, but it has also encouraged them to think more innovatively and creatively about their dissemination processes generally. Under and through the guidance and contacts of Mix-d, the academic partners have been able to access established pathways to young people and schools and receive insightful feedback on their subject knowledge and interests, thus helping shape the content and direction of future research. Secondly, the collaboration has allowed Mix-d – who host the archive – access to rigorous and substantive academic knowledge that has informed the organisation’s working and dissemination practices as well as providing access to a new audience of academics and practitioners. Thirdly, much of the ease of use and impact generated by the digital content is a result of the excellent web design which was outsourced to Ivy Park Media. The private sector partner has benefited from becoming a key member of a partnership at the forefront of using digital technologies to disseminate research to wider audiences. Overall, this partnership has resulted in a new and creative resource that will act as a model to others seeking to share ‘hidden histories’ with a wider audience, as well as a working relationship that continues to seek funding to develop knowledge transfer activities.