Tom Dawson highly commended for benefitting society

Friday 26 March 2021

Learn from loss – Tom Dawson involves communities and upskills students and local young people in film-making. This Wednesday, Dawson was highly commended at the Green Gown Awards for his research benefitting societies.

Community excavating an eroding site prior to moving it to their local Heritage Centre on Islands of Sanday, Orkney

Loss of coastal heritage sites is inevitable due to climate change. It is therefore crucial to engage with them while we can – and to support the local community to do so as well. Because his pioneering work, Tom Dawson was highly commended in the category Benefitting Society at the Green Gown Awards this Wednesday 24th March.

In a collection of research projects, Dawson has led citizen-based research to learn more about these sites. The benefits are not only academic. While helping each other to crowd-sourcing data, the research projects have sparked communities to open visitors centers and build online visiting websites. The collection of research projects has increased our understanding of the history and future coastal sites, raised awareness of the threats of the climate emergency, and increased locally pride in the heritage of the sites.

Film-making is another innovative element on the research projects. University history students are brought to the sites to develop film-making skills. This encourages students to think of their research in a new and creative way. It broadens their career options and invites a wider audience to understand how coastal heritage sites are threatened by climate change.

Not only University students are invited to make films. In a project by Wig Bay, young people from local schools were engaged to make a film about the Flying Boat base. Making the film, using video equipment, exploring the site freely and interviewing community members boosted confidence in the group and helped them bond with the site.

“By engaging communities to protect our heritage sites from the effects of climate change, Tom has established a fantastically valuable and rewarding approach to preservation. Future generations will thank him, and I am glad that a historian from St Andrews is leading the way”
– Professor Sally Mapstone, FRSE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at University of St Andrews.

This year’s UK and Ireland Green Gown Awards Finalists represented over 850,000 students and 130,000 staff. They are leading the way with their commitment to the global sustainability agenda and proving the value that universities and colleges bring to the wellbeing of society.

Tom Dawson was announced Highly Commended in the category Benefitting Society.

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