Accepted Paper:

The 'Scotland's sounds' network: exploring the participatory role of sound archives in continuing traditions  


Naomi Harvey (Heriot-Watt University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss the 'Scotland's Sounds' network of sound collections; exploring how this 'distributed archive' model functions through participatory work across the sound archive sector, and looking at how increasing access to archives has an impact on the practice of cultural traditions.

Paper long abstract:

'Scotland's Sounds' is a network of sound collections from across Scotland, ranging from large national institutions to small community groups, from analogue collections to born-digital materials, and everything in between. Based on a 'distributed archive' model, the network engages in participatory practices through sharing expertise and resources, providing training opportunities across the sector, and developing innovative uses of sounds to engage creatively with archive users.

Scotland currently has no national sound archive or repository. From one viewpoint, the adoption of a network model to care for Scotland's sound heritage could be seen as a cost-effective substitute for a national archive in these times of political 'austerity'. However, fundamental to the ethos of the network is the principle that the heritage represented in sound collections should remain in the communities or localities in which it was collected or created. This approach is aligned with current developments in cultural heritage practices which emphasise participatory working.

This paper will describe how this network functions, using data gathered through participant-observation of activities. With a particular focus on sound collections of traditional song, it will explore examples of the use and creative re-use of sound archive materials, through fieldwork interviews with archivists who have engaged in creative projects with Scotland's Sounds. Crucially, it will also present data gathered from traditional performers who make use of sound archive materials, in order to interrogate how current transformations of the concept of what an archive is and does has an impact on contemporary practices of cultural heritage.

Panel Arch01
Participatory archives in a transforming world [SIEF Working Group on Archives] [P+R]