“The SierraLeoneHeritage.org digital resource is the main output of a research project entitled ‘Reanimating Cultural Heritage: Digital Repatriation, Knowledge Networks and Civil Society Strengthening in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone’. The project is being funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its Beyond Text programme and is being directed by Dr Paul Basu of University College London. The project’s Informatics team is being led by Dr Martin White of the University of Sussex.
The ‘Reanimating Cultural Heritage’ project is concerned with innovating digital curatorship in relation to Sierra Leonean collections dispersed in the global museumscape. Building on research in anthropology, museum studies, informatics and beyond, the project considers how objects that have become isolated from the oral and performative contexts that originally animated them can be reanimated in digital space alongside associated images, video clips, sounds, texts and other media, and thereby be given new life. At the project’s heart is a series of collaborations between museums including the Sierra Leone National Museum, the British Museum,Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow Museums, the World Museum Liverpool, and the British Library Sound Archive. The project has also engaged in capacity building activities in the cultural sector in Sierra Leone and has commissioned the production of videos on cultural heritage themes from Sierra Leonean partner organisations including Ballanta Academy of Music, iEARN-Sierra Leone, and Talking Drum Studios.
Another key objective of the project has been to integrate web-based social networking technologies into the digital heritage resource in order to (re)connect objects in museum collections with disparate communities and to foster reciprocal knowledge exchange across boundaries. Visitors to SierraLeoneHeritage.org can thus become part of its community, contribute comments, engage in discussions, and upload their own images and videos.
Historically, cultural heritage has been a low priority in Sierra Leone. The hope is that by reanimating these dispersed collections and the differently-situated knowledges that surround them, Sierra Leone’s rich cultural heritage can be better appreciated and contribute to the reanimation of Sierra Leonean society more generally.
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Of particular interest to this site is the wonderful collection of videos, including a good explanation of tripod loom weaving. Also searching for “textiles” or “costume” brings up images of the majority of Sierra Leone country cloths in UK museum collections (although not unfortunately the important group at the Horniman Museum, London.) The pictures are too small but at least it gives a glimpse of the collections online, some for the first time.