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Discovering cultural heritage through archival research

Keywords: archival research; introduction to ICH; discovering heritage.

Aims and Rationale

Together with the Cultural Wall, this activity aims at providing a practice-based way to consolidate the learning developed around the Introduction to ICH lecture.

After having familiarized with the concept of ICH, the students will have now the chance to apply it into the discovery of the cultural and social practices of a specific community or sub-community they would want to co-design with. The archival research can be preliminary to the students meeting a community so their observations – for instance, during the ICH-HCI workshop – are more refined and on point.

Learning Outcomes and Associated Areas of Knowledge

Assemble a wealth of knowledge about the cultural practices of a community

Identify elements in needs of protection or suitable for documentation

Prepare the ground for more refined ethnography and interview

21st Century skills

  • Self-Direction
  • Research Skills and Practices
  • Public Speaking and Presentation


Note-taking materials (paper-based or electronic).

If available to your students, the use of shared Google Docs (or similar) per group would be beneficial to enable them to work collaboratively on shared documentary outputs.

How to

Pre-arrange a visit to a nearby archive or library that holds enough material to carry out a research about the social and cultural aspects of the chosen community. A preliminary orientation session should also be pre-arranged.

This is a team-based activity. The research should start from exploring the culture of a community in general. This stage enables the student to have an overall impression of ICH. From there, the students may notice a more specific aspect they are interested in which is suitable for documentation or in need of protection (even though the final aspects that will inform the design should be later proposed and agreed with the community).

Students write a report and present their findings to the rest of the class and the instructors.


Students might be at their first archival experience and in need of guidance. This is why the orientation should be thorough and comprehensive. Instructors should prepare themselves in advance about the consultation aspects of the archive/library, so as to offer advices in loco and facilitate the success of the research.

Assessment for Learning

The report and the related class presentation represent the two main tools providing a space for assessment for learning of assembling knowledge about community cultural practices and the further identification of elements for protection or documentation. All the students are required to take an active part into these two outputs. When not presenting, the rest of the students, together with the educators can participate in asking questions about the findings after each presentation. This provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their grounding in a more refined ethnography and interview.

Assessment 'How to'

The peer-review and the questions from educators should primarily focus around the following themes that will help create a focus around a sustainable co-design process:

  • What ICH practice (dance, music, social practices, storytelling, etc.), if any, within the community is changing (or even fading away) due to changes in society (modernisation, urbanisation, globalisations, etc.)?
  • To what extent are these ICH practices suitable for being self-documented by the community members through mobile technology?
  • To what extent are these ICH practices be safeguarded through the mobile technology, and how?

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Download Word File of activity in English
Student Assignment Editable Word File


  • Pre-arrange the visit and an orientation session, and also prepare yourself about how the archive/library consultancy process.
  • Arrange class presentations after the visit.