UofG Burns expert wins prestigious award

Published: 25 May 2023

A University of Glasgow Robert Burns expert has been awarded the annual Fellows Award by the English Association.

A University of Glasgow Robert Burns expert has been awarded the annual Fellows Award by the English Association, it was announced today (25 May 2023).

The award is presented each year to an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the broad field of English Studies.

This year it has been awarded to Dr Pauline Mackay, Senior Lecturer in Robert Burns Studies at the School of Critical Studies, for her use of XR technology to explore and illuminate Robert Burns’s (1759-1796) literary and cultural legacy.A portrait of Dr Pauline Gray Mackay

The award was announced at the English Association’s Annual General Meeting and awards ceremony on 25 May.

Dr Mackay said: “It’s an honour to receive this award from an Association that does so much to actively promote the discipline of English, and to encourage innovative research, learning, teaching and knowledge exchange. I’m particularly thrilled at this endorsement as we undertake further research into the possibilities of Extended Reality (XR) technology for learners and lovers of literature and literary culture and heritage.”

Dr Mackay receives the Fellows Award for her work to create the first ever Robert Burns Virtual Reality (VR) experience. Burns Beyond Reality, an immersive learning experience designed to elucidate the relationship between literature, location and material culture, was created in collaboration with industry partner Edify.

It uses ‘VR superpowers’ to transport learners ‘back in time’ to experience Alloway Auld Kirk – a famous scene from Burns’s iconic narrative poem ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ – through an ‘eighteenth-century’ environment developed with close reference to the poem’s early appearance alongside a sketch in Francis Grose’s Antiquities of Scotland (1791). Learners are also able to immerse themselves in a parallel fictionalised environment, recreated with close attention to Burns’s imagery and onomatopoeia, while ‘handling’ carefully curated 3D models of related artefacts and memorabilia.

Pauline now collaborates with colleagues from the University of Glasgow’s recently established ARC-XR project board, together with industry and Culture and Heritage partners, on a Levelling Up Innovation Accelerator project to develop a ‘Museums in the Metaverse’ platform.

Her ambition for the coming years is to research and create an XR ‘Land of Burns’, using cutting-edge technology to promote access to Burns’s literature and legacy in the twenty-first century.

Pauline is Senior Lecturer in Robert Burns Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies (CRBS) at the University of Glasgow. She is the Chair of Burns Scotland: The National Burns Collections held in partnership (recognised by Museums Galleries Scotland).

Pauline is CI and Co-Editor on the major AHRC-funded project, 'Editing Robert Burns's Poetry and Correspondence'. She is currently writing a monograph about Burns’s bawdy song and verse, and her most recent book publication is Burns for Every Day of the Year (Edinburgh: Black & White Publishing, 2021). Her research interests extend to Burns’s legacy and cultural commemoration, particularly through material culture, location and digital resources.

First published: 25 May 2023