Continuing with the Aesop’s Tale theme, the Banda thru Time project would best be cast as the tortoise, but hopefully with the same positive outcome as Aesop’s protagonist by the time of our August gathering at MSU.
Scanning of images has continued and Veronique Plante has been placing pilot content into a WordPress template available through the UVic Online Academic Community which will host the site. We’ve been monitoring the template for its compatibility on different devices since many people in Ghana access the web through smart phones.
I had envisioned that we would be farther along than we’ve managed to date in developing content for the heritage webpage, and more particularly in setting up the repository. Progress has been frustrated by a pressing departmental project in which I’ve deeply involved over recent months as department chair. But that particular administrative delay has a silver lining in that I arrived earlier this week in Ghana where I will be consulting with Banda community members regarding priority topics for the web page and seeking input on the specific images and content for the repository. Ideally, had the distance between Vancouver Island and Ghana been less, this consultation would have happened at an early point in our project development. Having only a skeletal outline in hand at this point has the advantage of facilitating conversation while also providing scope for community members to suggest different or modified directions and content.
Currently the skeletal site is configured by a half dozen topics relevant to understanding the histories of daily life: learning about the past; landscapes; feeding the family; housing the family; crafting; and ceremonies. These are the frames through which we’ve shared information as part of Banda Research Project community engagement efforts in 2011 and 2014 and it will be interesting to see if these resonate with community members today in light of changes associated with the Bui Hydroelectric Dam which came on line in recent years and is dramatically affecting local communities. Equally interesting will be the new directions that community members suggest, for which stay tuned!
Inspired by our 2015 gathering at MSU and the projects of other members of our Institute cohort, I’m also devoting time in Ghana to meeting with colleagues at the Ghana National Museum and the University of Ghana’s Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies to initiate conversations around the aim of developing a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development Grant to pilot digital heritage archives for Ghana. Partnership Development Grants provide start-up funding for the development of institutional partnerships that “build institutional capacity and mobilize research knowledge in accessible ways” and can lead to longer-term and more substantial partnership funding. I’m excited about the possibilities to build on what we’ve learned through the Digital Archaeology Institute to work collaboratively with Ghanaian colleagues to build robust research data management strategies, sustainable practices of digital archiving and to contribute to Ghana’s leadership in the area of digital heritage in Africa. The Digital Archaeology Institute sprint is thus shaping up to be a marathon. Tortoise: strap on your running shoes!