Proactive relationship building
To support the remit of the institute and to cultivate such partnerships, the role of Director of ISWE involves travelling for face to face meetings with a range of outside partners to take time and effort building long term relationships to support research collaboration. Understanding the priorities and objectives of the partner organisations makes it easier to pitch projects that can be mutually beneficial. Therefore, the research centre not only produces successful collaborative projects but develops trust and understanding between other heritage organisations, libraries and archives.
We’ve tried to establish a strategic relationship with these organisations that we can call upon and that they can call upon, as and when it’s seems beneficial to do so.
The relationships between internal partners are just as important and there is an established routine of meetings between the university archivist and Director of ISWE which has developed a mutual understanding and opens opportunities for working together.
Developing projects in partnership
Public engagement and participation are key aspects of the work of the research centre.
The groundwork of building strong interpersonal relationships, understanding priorities and developing trust paid off through an AHRC funded project “ Deep Mapping’ estate archives: A new digital methodology for analysing estate landscapes c.1500–1930”. The initial concept came into being through an informal discussion, about a previous project, between Dr Evans, Director of ISWE and an external partner. The “Deep Mapping” project is an extensive exploration of archived land records of a stated region; its ownership and management from 16th Century until the early 20th century. The project will deliver an online resource for exploration of the history of a place and its people.
..create a geographical and landscape framework for understanding changes in landscape ownership and landscape use and management from the 16th Century, right the way through, through the creation of a GIS (Geographic Information System).
The project partners include academic staff from Bangor University, Aberystwyth University, the National Library of Wales, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and North East Wales Archives, with an external Advisory Board offering further perspectives from relevant stakeholders . The collaborative approach of the research centre and the trust already established meant that each organisation played a role in the design of the project from the start. The strength of the project is that it is “deeply embedded in multiple organisational strategies” which means that each partner has an interest in the outcome and impact of the work because of its relevance to their own objectives.
Achieving such a situation was not easy because it was challenging to justify the amount of time spent with the partners in order to develop the project and its funding bid. Costing the external partners into the project as equal participants proved to be very time consuming as it presented a unique situation for the university procurement system. The effort and investment in time, commitment and trust taken by ISWE and the partners was ultimately rewarded.
Building trust brings long term benefits
The ISWE and Bangor University were awarded substantial grant funding, which benefits the university and the research centre as well as enabling an exciting public facing project to be implemented, with long term potential. There are two key aspects of ISWEs facilitation for the project. These are, on one hand, the role of the institute’s director, being the connection between academic schools and library and archives. On the other hand is the appreciation of the knowledge and understanding of the archivists, heritage professionals and librarians with which it works. Such as their specialisms, qualifications and skills with the understanding and recognition that they have different, useful knowledge and expertise, for example, “latest technological development in GIS”. ISWE firmly believes that collaborative work benefits society because the research has a public outcome.
Ultimately, trust is the basis of good collaboration, developing sustainable relationships with partners that will extend beyond a project, and working on projects that can be built on in the future.
New roles to enhance collaboration
The successful linkage between Bangor University Library and Archive and the university academic schools is facilitated by the role of Director of ISWE which is intentionally designed to cross the boundary of school and service. Bangor University shows that other universities should consider new roles for early career researchers who have learnt a range of capabilities through collaborative doctorships with academia and library and archives. Instead of being faced with a choice of becoming “a librarian, an archivist, a curator or are they going to be an academic” they can be the link bridging the divide between librarian and archivist or “Academic” to negotiate funding and promote collaboration.