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Digital volunteers set to make big impact for the University of Exeter thanks to National Lottery funding

The University of Exeter has been awarded £63,246 of National Lottery funding to launch a digital volunteering initiative and break down barriers to heritage. 

Today’s (November 25, 2021) funding is part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, which aims to raise digital skills and confidence across the whole UK heritage sector. 

Seventeen projects have been awarded funding to create digital volunteering opportunities, supporting volunteers to develop and contribute their digital skills. Some opportunities will be offered online – removing barriers such as place, mobility, time commitments and confidence in returning to in-person activities due to the pandemic.  

In turn, heritage organisations will gain the perspectives and skills of ‘at distance’ and on-site digital volunteers including many who may not have had the chance to volunteer before. The impact of the new volunteering opportunities and ways of working will be shared across the heritage sector. 

Ros Kerslake, CEO at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting and sharing the UK’s heritage. Thanks to National Lottery players we are delighted to support these trailblazing projects, including the University of Exeter’s ‘Unlocking Landscapes’, as they create exciting new digital volunteering opportunities, helping to break down barriers and inspire the sector to get even more people involved in the heritage they love.” 

The ‘Unlocking Landscapes’ project, which will run throughout 2022, is to be delivered by a team from the University’s Department of Archaeology. ‘Unlocking Landscapes’ will harness the capacity of ‘citizen science’ to discover and map previously unknown prehistoric, Roman and medieval sites and landscapes across all of Devon and Cornwall using evidence derived from LiDAR data. As a second strand the project will also train volunteers to create dynamic digital versions of historic Tithe maps – using one protected landscape as a case study – the Tamar Valley AONB - from which they can learn about the evolution of the historic countryside. 

Dr Chris Smart of the Department of Archaeology, and project lead, said: “we are hugely grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and to Devon County Council who are also contributors, for enabling us to offer this exciting opportunity to engage a wide and diverse audience in discovering the past hidden within the historic landscapes of Devon and Cornwall. By doing so digitally – and remotely, online – we will be able to reach and work with entirely new communities of volunteers”.  

Date: 25 November 2021

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