Interior of the library at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Russell Square, London.
The library at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornborough Street, Russell Square, London. © Historic England DP138894.
The library at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornborough Street, Russell Square, London. © Historic England DP138894.

Join an online discussion group

Online groups (sometimes called forums, discussion lists, online communities, or communities of practice) are widely used in the heritage sector and related sectors such as planning. They are a good way to stay up to date, share your expertise, seek help, find new opportunities and make professional contacts.

Groups are an alternative to mainstream social media such as Twitter or Facebook. Social media sites are a good source of brief news or updates, and for making connections. The groups listed below generally allow for more in-depth discussion of a specialist topic, either through email or using a dedicated website. They are also a good place to ask questions if you need help with a task or project at work. 

Which groups should I join?

The best online groups are managed by facilitators and are used for planned discussions, or interviews with leading figures, or question and answer  sessions. Look for groups with relevant up-to-date content, and active members. Sometimes a personal recommendation is the best guide. 

Other useful features to look out for are:

  • updates, alerts or digests of activity, so that you don't have to receive a copy of every post made to a group, but can keep in touch with what is going on
  • the ability to share files or links to useful content with your peers
  • online member profiles, so that you can see who is contributing, and can build your own online reputation.

How to join a group

In most cases you need to register and provide an email address to view and participate in groups. You may need to provide information about yourself or your work which will be available for other members of the group to see. This is usually not a problem, but if you are concerned about this, check that there is a privacy policy you can look at first. Most groups are open to all to join. Some limit membership or ask for a reason why you want to join. This is usually straightforward, and is a sign that the discussions in that group may be particularly relevant and useful. Most group facilitators welcome new members, in particular if you are willing to contribute your own experience or to ask questions.

Finding a group

Each of the websites listed below hosts many, sometimes hundreds of, specialist groups so you are likely to find a group of interest to you. Note that groups available on these sites are in most cases not managed by Historic England and we are not responsible for the content posted on them by others. They are listed here as Historic England staff regularly find groups hosted on these sites useful and contribute to them.

Search each of these sites for your specialist area, e.g. archaeology, prehistory, town planning, historic environment etc.

The Knowledge Hub particularly relevant to the work of public sector organisations. Many hundreds of specialist groups use this platform. Provides member profile and file sharing options.

JISCMail run by and for the UK academic sector, though widely used by heritage sector groups as well.  Email based, no member profiles.

LinkedIn professional networking and discussion. Requires setting up a basic 'c.v.-style' profile before finding and joining groups.

Google Groups  a wide range of online groups. Groups can be joined without a Google account if preferred.

Conservation Online directory. A specialist platform with several groups discussing artefact and archive conservation.

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