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July 30, 2014

Looking backwards

Interest in history projects and finding ways to preserve the local heritage and traditions of an area has never been higher.  Having an awareness and understanding of your local history seems to be just as important as it is to have the capacity to plan into the future.  Jura Development Trust have just scooped a top national award for its work on an oral history project – ‘Jura Lives’ – and have created a unique sound archive along the way.




A PROJECT aimed at preserving a remote Scottish island’s heritage has won a major national award.

The Isle of Jura, which has a population of around 200, has been named ‘Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year’.

The award is for its oral history project ‘Jura Lives’, which interviewed people about their memories of the island’s unique way of life and created a new sound archive.

The two-year project, run by the Jura Development Trust, aimed to collect and preserve the remote island’s heritage and enable easy access to it, using the most modern digital recording equipment.

Along the way, focus was on strengthening community confidence and providing learning opportunities based on a shared heritage.

The island’s tiny community now has a searchable, digital catalogue of audio and data for nearly 1,000 records from more than 180 sources.

A souvenir CD called ‘A Landscape of Lives’ of 30 selected stories from the catalogue has been produced.

While the project initially targeted the residents and visiting community of Jura, others from the wider Jura diaspora were also welcomed and recorded.

Jane Carswell, who led the initiative, said: “From landowners to crofters, from shopkeepers to artists to groups of school friends, from those who live on the island now to those who knew it from the 1930s and all decades since… their stories are now preserved in their own voices and own words for all time.”

Project organisers worked with Jura’s primary school to source contributions to the sound archive from everyone in the crofting community.

Pupils invited islanders to come to a weekly café in the school and be interviewed.

There was a nine-member volunteer steering committee who led the project.

Members included two deer stalkers, an academic, a council member whose family had been on the island for generations and a lady who had first lived on Jura as a WW2 evacuee.

There were also more than 30 volunteers who transcribed passages from the recordings, after learning the necessary techniques.

Jane says this combined effort from the community meant that ‘their achievements were way beyond the funders’ expectations and everyone’s imagination.’

The project was made possible through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Jura Development Trust and the Argyll and Islands LEADER programme.

Funding for a second phase of the project is now being sought, in order to explore practical applications for the newly collected material.

The award was presented by the Community Archives and Heritage Group, which is supported by the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland).

The 2014 CAHG judges said they were deeply impressed by the way the project had brought together different generations ‘to bond over their shared heritage’ and the range of activities undertaken.

A spokesman said: “The emotional impact of the work of Jura had been profound. This project definitely has the potential to inspire others, particularly in small, isolated communities.”