By Lacey Trotman, Digital Apprentice
At the beginning of the year, one morning in a staff meeting, it was revealed that Bristol residents speak a total of 91 languages. Now that’s an impressive statistic for a city of just 428,100 people (2011 census). Impressive and yet unknown.
As an organisation which holds objects and collections for the people of Bristol, we felt it our duty to show how reflective we are of the society we live in. This is when the ‘Diverse Bristol: 91 languages’ project started.
With the subject coming to light in a time of division and uncertainty, we wanted to show the beauty of living in a city with such a rich make up. It has to be said, the project started before we were certain we had an object to represent each language, but that was a struggle we’d deal with later!
In short the project uses two forms of social media – Pinterest and Twitter.
After scouring the museum’s collection database, each day an image is pinned to our Pinterest board with a caption including a brief description of the object and which language it represents.
A tweet is then scheduled to advertise the new post to our large Twitter following, with the object image, hashtag and link to the Pinterest board.
It’s a simple yet different way of making our collections accessible to more people and by using social media to celebrate these languages; it invites new conversation in a familiar setting.
The first day we launched the project the response was great. Not only were people from our community getting involved, but those who worked for others museums were too.
And that is still the case now.
Followers have been keen to share their stories in relation to certain languages with others expressing joy that theirs have been recognised.
One of my favourite responses came from a follower in response to the Day 61 post –‘Traveller languages such as Shelta’. She spoke of her Great Uncle Paddy Greene who was one of the few outsiders to learn Shelta in 1930s Ireland. She was even kind enough to include an article about her Uncle, which was a great read.
Not only has this project been interesting, but personally it has been a great learning experience.
I have roamed our collections database, coming across objects I may never have seen and researched countries I had never heard of, learning about their culture and what certain objects mean to them.
However it couldn’t have been completed without the help of supporting staff and curators, somehow managing to find links between objects and languages when it didn’t seem possible- they really know their stuff!