Preserving the history of social work

Stories from children’s migration

In 2007, IRISS undertook a digital preservation project to share – and safeguard – the migration story of the 10,000 “orphans, waifs and strays” who emigrated to Canada between 1869 and 1939.

The Golden Bridge was first created as a exhibition at the Heatherbank Museum of Social Work in Glasgow.  When the museum’s public exhibition space closed, IRISS worked with the exhibition’s curator and archivist to digitise the photographs, documents and stories and give them a home on the web. In this new format, the Golden Bridge exhibition is protected from age and damage. It’s also become an interactive tool for learning and sharing this migration story – with the ability to provide new ways of seeing this part of Scotland’s history.

We recently redesigned the Golden Bridge website. Why? Back in 2007, the original website wasn’t designed to be responsive, meaning it wasn’t designed to display on mobile phones or tablets. The advent of the Smartphone changed how people accessed the web, and given the growth in popularity of mobile devices, it was considered important to redesign Golden Bridge to ensure it was fit for purpose and continued to reach a wide audience. This redesign gives us a good excuse to take the lid off our work and share a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at the knowledge and effort that went in to digitising this exhibition.

The Golden Bridge represents the collective effort of our knowledge media and evidence-informed practice teams. It draws on our skills as interactive web developers and designers, as well as our knowledge of digital preservation.  We learned to build a resource that reflects the visual elements of the 19th century and the interactive web developments of the 21st. We made use of tool called Zoomify, typically used for online maps, to enable visitors to zoom in on the detail of these historical photos.  Documents were scanned to capture the original Narratives of Facts which detailed the work of the Orphan Homes of Scotland and we captured the expert knowledge of the original exhibitions’ curator, Alastair Ramage, to ensure this migration story was not lost.

This resource draws on the value of stories to understand Scotland’s social services.  As Alastair Ramage suggests, this is “a story that needs to be told again and again to remind us how easy it is to stigmatise a whole group of vulnerable people – especially children”.

Listen to our episode to hear more about ‘how’ we built this resource and what it has meant to us an organisation.

Related articles:

Preserving and re-presenting Social Work History with New Media: Digitizing the Golden Bridge Exhibition

Retelling the Past Using New Technologies: A Case Study into the Digitization of Social Work Heritage Material and the Creation of a Virtual Exhibition