A plastic toy albatross on an old map of Aberdeen

Joy Diversion Aberdeen at Open Data Camp 6

During the first weekend of November, the Open Data Manchester team travelled to Aberdeen for Open Data Camp 6, an ‘unconference’ for all things open data. Hosted on the University of Aberdeen’s historic Kings College campus, it was suggested that we host a special ‘Joy Diversion Light’.

If you’re unfamiliar with an ‘unconference’, the general idea is that there is no pre-set agenda. Anyone in attendance pitch an idea for a workshop. It might be a sharing of a project, a hands-on workshop or it could be a question or issue you wish to discuss. Attendees then vote to show their interest and a timetable for the day is formed.

On the Sunday morning we pitched Joy Diversion. There had already been a few workshops based around mapping — there was really good session on how to map on Open Street Map — but after the Saturday night celebrations, we felt that a trip outdoors might help to clear some heads and build up a decent appetite before lunch.

We had managed to source some maps of Old Aberdeen dated around 1899/1900, and with a restricted time-scale (a 45 minute session with the choice of continuing into the lunch break) we decided to keep it short and very local. Luckily, the Kings College campus and Old Aberdeen High Street are bursting with history, and the 12 or so people who attended were full of enthusiasm — with some real mapping and local history experts on hand.

Unicorns were spotted

Expeditions were suggested and teams formed, although we actually set out as one big group.

Firstly, I was struck by just how much history was on display. The University was founded in 1495 and some of the oldest parts of the King’s College quad itself date back to around 1500. The King’s College Chapel, in particular, stood out with the rather impressive and iconic Crown Tower. The so-called ‘New Building’ was actually constructed in 1913 and is pretty impressive too.

The quad held various points of interest, with centuries-old history sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with more recent happenings: a masonic mark, a historical ‘student notice of offenses’, and a memorial bench for someone only recently passed. Rather poignantly, someone seemed to have posted photos of new-born grandchildren belonging to the deceased. And in true University fashion, an empty wine glass on the quad’s central well revealed an event more recent event, probably only abandoned the night before.

A short and sweet Joy Diversion, but certainly packed full of enthusiasm and discoveries. A big thanks to all at #ODCamp6 who made the weekend possible, and to everyone who joined us on Sunday.

For a better sense of what we found, check out this Twitter moment.