In the recent Context – on the Scottish Highlands and Islands – Dawn McDowell explores the work that the designations team at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) carries out with communities, offering useful insights and perspectives for practitioners undertaking community engagement work.
image: Historic Environment Scotland
- How do you undertake effective community engagement, particularly within locations which involve rural locations, remote communities and perhaps multiple methods of transport to access said communities?
- Dawn invites us to consider the value of face-to-face methods for this, not rejecting online methods but recognising the importance of inviting dialogue and meeting people for early discussion, particularly on heritage designation matters.
- Dawn notes that local knowledge is invaluable when assessing sites and places for designation. This is especially important for vernacular buildings when there are not necessarily ‘traditional’ research source. Good data can enable us to understand and assess areas which are less easily visited.
- How do you carry out your own public community engagement work? Which techniques are useful in your own toolkit?
- Dawn notes that ‘having a cup of tea and a chat with our stakeholders, when we can, remains a key part of our engagement with the communities and people of Scotland’.
- Bilingual engagement has now become a key part of how HES work, following an inaugural Heritage Awareness Day in October 2017 which introduced a public drop-in thatch café on Benbecula, inviting locals to contribute to the statutory review of listed buildings on the island. This resulted in people sharing stories of their own cottages and family life around the thatched buildings, with bilingual Gaelic language and cultural chat being a key part of the contributions. Similar events will take place in the Highlands and Argyll and Bute in the coming year.
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