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This innovative project aimed to support local County Durham communities in looking after their heritage collections and to find ways to make these collections more accessible. Exhibitions in community centres or libraries, events being held at shows, projects involving schools, new local history publications or village trails enabled local communities to become more aware of their past heritage.

The Community Heritage Project was supported and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund for 5 years until the end of November 2008. The core of the project was the employment of a Community Heritage Officer to act as a link between community groups and the many people that work in museums, archives, libraries and the arts in County Durham.

This project provided the opportunity to offer support to local history and community groups through:

  • Community based exhibitions using the Project's display equipment

  • The provision of a number of workshops in collections care, project and exhibition planning and oral history.

  • Community heritage newsletter.

  • Help in establishing catalogues of heritage collections through training and on-going support.

  • Advice and support on a number of subjects such as collections care, publications, heritage trails and sourcing funding for individual projects.

In partnership with Beamish Open Air Museum building on and developing links between Cultural and Leisure and the many individuals and groups interested in the heritage of County Durham was an important part of this project. For some time staff in museums, libraries and archives across County Durham have wanted to offer more long-term sustainable support to local groups in the community. One way of doing this was to make community venues a focus for exhibitions, workshops and other heritage activities so that local people, of long-standing or new to the area, could be inspired by their heritage.

This project was the natural follow on from the Durham Community Collections Project which aimed to find out the extent and significance of community held collections, what community groups' needs were, and how best these could be addressed.