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Social media as a vehicle for user engagement with local history: A case study in the North East of Scotland

Caroline Hood (Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Peter Reid (School of Creative and Cultural Business, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 25 April 2018

Issue publication date: 8 May 2018




The purpose of this paper is to examine issues associated with user engagement on social media with local history in the North East of Scotland and to focus on a case study of the Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Society, a small but very successful and professionally-run community-based local heritage organisation.


A qualitative approach using photo elicitation on social media was deployed in conjunction with analysis of the user interactions and the reach insights provided by Facebook to the page manager. Additionally, a focus group was used.


The research, although focussed on an individual case study, offers significant lessons which are more widely applicable in the local history and cultural heritage social media domain. Key aspects include user engagement and how digital storytelling can assist in the documentation of local communities ultimately contributing to local history research and the broader cultural memory. The significance of the image and the photo elicitation methodology is also explored.

Social implications

The research demonstrates new opportunities for engaging users and displaying historical content that can be successfully exploited by community heritage organisations. These are themes which will be developed within the paper. The research also demonstrates the value of photo elicitation in both historical and wider information science fields as a means of obtaining in-depth quality engagement and interaction with users and communities.


The research explored the underutilised method of photo elicitation in a local history context with a community possessed of a strong sense of local identity. In addition to exploring the benefits of this method, it presents transferable lessons for how small, community-based history and heritage organisation can engage effectively with their audience.



Hood, C. and Reid, P. (2018), "Social media as a vehicle for user engagement with local history: A case study in the North East of Scotland", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 4, pp. 741-762.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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