Catalyst 1: Digital Cultural Heritage

This catalyst will explore the transformations that have taken place in the Digital Cultural Heritage sectors: from the research that has taken place in the University environment to the Private, Public and 3rd Sector organisations maintaining and delivering our Heritage. 

This is not just about the Museums & Galleries sector but also how Digital Cultural Heritage affects and impacts on Glasgow and the wider community. Follow us on a journey of exploration of what Digital Cultural Heritage means and how it is changing lives, through inspiration and revelation.

Explore the blogs below to discover the research, insights and challenges facing the ever-evolving landscape of Digital Cultural Heritage. To get in touch about the Digital Cultural Heritage Catalyst or any of the content you find in this blog, please email

Michael Terwey: Turning Theory into Practice

Michael Terwey Video Partnering and being able to work with universities is enormously important to the National Trust for Scotland, asserts Head of Heritage Services and Consultancy, Michael Terwey. “Our ideas of what the past is and what’s interesting are constantly changing” he continues; being able to address and appeal to those perceptions is important. The work of researchers helps the Trust to better understand the significance of their places; how best to conserve them and share their significance. Digital technology has helped to remove the barrier of physical location, allowing NTS to share properties and collections with people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit Scotland. The increased emphasis on digital heritage also allows Michael and his colleagues the opportunity to reconsider and explore what it means to recreate a physical space digitally; what it means to visit it. Partnering with the National Trust for Scotland is an equally valuable opportunity for researchers too. It’s not just a chance to turn theory into practice, but an opportunity to apply knowledge and research.

Find out more about Michael and the National Trust for Scotland at Michael's blog post.

Click on the pop-out to view Michael's video on what Digital Cultural Heritage means to him.

Ellen Fenton: A Conduit for Engagement

Ellen Fenton Video University museums occupy a unique place within their communities, representing a conduit for engagement by providing the expertise and a space in which collaborations between academic and non-academic partners can flourish to great effect. Ellen Fenton, Head of Audience Engagement at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum explains that they can “speak the different languages” of their academic and non-academic partners, negotiating and bridging the gaps between innovation and research, and teaching and the wider community. The Hunterian can bring value to conversations within the museum and heritage sector. Its staff are experienced in collaborating with academic and non-academic partners, and are continuing to build upon their digital skills and capabilities. They can push boundaries and create new connections as they engage audiences not just from around their campus, but across the globe. How can their expertise help you to transform your collection, or find new ways to connect with researchers?

Find out more about Ellen's role and The Hunterian at Ellen's blog post.

Click on the pop-out to view Ellen's video on what Digital Cultural Heritage means to her.

Laurence Grove: The Potential of Digital Culture

Laurence Grove video Laurence Grove, Professor of French and Text/Image Studies recognises the individual value of both comics and digital technology, but it is when they are combined that he sees the greatest potential. Online editions of popular titles have become commonplace, however it is the opportunities for artists to produce and innovate within the genre of the digital graphic novel that is where the biggest impacts are evident. This model becomes all the more powerful when researchers consider the digital graphic novel as a means to educate, whether within our primary and secondary school system or beyond. Combining the research strengths in the University of Glasgow with some of the best digital publishing organisations in the world, which we can find on our doorstep, offers an almost limitless potential for Digital Cultural Heritage. How might this paradigm disrupt your audience engagement strategies?

Find out more about this project on Laurence's blog post.

Click on the pop-out to view Laurence's video and find out what Digital Cultural Heritage means to him.


Zoe Strachan: Connecting With History

Zoe VideoDCHBeing able to source and gather stories about heritage sites and their surrounding local areas plays a key role in Dr Strachan’s work as a Creative Writer. However, the global pandemic brought about significant changes in how Dr Strachan and her colleagues could gather stories, preventing those physical journeys and meetings from taking place. Engaging on the Antonine Wall project allowed Dr Strachan to work in a different way, being able to visit the wall and experience its heritage without leaving her desk.  

Though the pandemic created some challenges, preventing physical visits and connections to the Antonine Wall and its local communities, Dr Strachan describes it as also having led to new and exciting opportunities. She and her colleagues were still able to work and access the Wall digitally. These new digital connections to the Antonine Wall and those close to it were valuable, but also allowed for participation and the sharing of information from further afield. 

Dr Strachan views digital accessibility as playing an increasingly important role in collaborating with non-academic partners and organisations. Universities are not closed repositories but should be considered active parts within their respective communities and further afield.

Find out more about this project on Zoe's blog post. View Zoe's video to find out what Digital Cultural Heritage means to her.

Steven Reid: Digital Evolution and the Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots

Steven Video For Historian Dr Steven Reid, what started out as a plan for an exhibition around a painting (‘The Abdication of Mary, Queen of Scots’) went on to inspire an RSE funded project, from which, online resources, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and an exhibition have been developed. The growth of the project is largely down to close collaboration with his colleague in the Hunterian, Anne Dulau Beveridge, and with other collections relating to Mary Queen of Scots, as well as engaging digital platforms. 

At the time of writing, the project website and blog has had over 40,000 views, and many return visitors. The online course, The Life and After-Life of Mary, Queen of Scots, which had over three and a half thousand people enrolled for its first three-week run, was developed with digital learning platform, FutureLearn. 

For Dr Reid, this collaborative way of working, in particular, through digital media, opened up a new realm of possibilities for both researchers and collections, providing new ways to display and share items and ensuring accessibility to those who would not otherwise have access. 

Read Steven's blog post to find out more.

Tim Barker: Engaging the Generation of Thumbelina and Tom Thumb

Tim VideoA new generation has grown up thinking not just with their heads, nor just in seminar rooms or libraries, but with a collection of external devices connected to the internet. This new generation thinks in new and unique ways, and therefore it makes sense that we need to teach them differently. We need to understand how they experience the world, and what they may lose and gain through their digital interactions. Philosopher Michel Serres has dubbed them the generation of Thumbelina and Tom Thumb.

In relation to this generation, Prof Barker is exploring firstly, how stories, artworks, and objects have been re-imagined within the digital context and secondly, how technologies interrupt older communicative flows, and might provide obstacles to what we usually think of as a narrative of events and historical consciousness. How might this research benefit the Cultural Heritage sector? It could bridge the gap between what these organisations do now and how they might maintain an attraction to this new generation. By understanding how they perceive the world through technology we can ensure that provisions meet with expectations.  

Read more about Tim's work in his blog post.

Neil McDonnell: ARC XR

Neil McDonnell DCH In summer 2022, one of the largest Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality suites in the UK will open in the University of Glasgow. The size of a tennis court, these resources will be available to anyone across the University, but more importantly the space will be available to our non-academic partners. The state-of-the-art labs referred to as ARC XR, which will be located within the Advanced Research Centre (ARC) will open-up the possibility for HEIs and non-HEIs alike to engage with our Cultural Heritage. 

Do you have an idea or proposal for an XR project, or a query about ARC XR? Contact Fraser Rowan to discuss your VR/AR goals.  


Find out more about this project on Neil's blog post.

Gareth Beale: Digital Narratives for Archaeology

Gareth Beale DCH Digital Narratives for Archaeology (DiNAR) was a programme of research based at the University of Glasgow, the University of York and York Museums Trust investigating the creation and use of interactive and immersive media by museums and heritage organisations. It was made up of two major projects, Viking VR and Within the Walls of York Gaol. Both of these projects were about experimenting with new and emerging forms of digital media but they were also about developing new ways of working together both as organisations and as a community.  

VikingVR was a virtual reality installation developed for the Viking: Rediscover the Legend exhibition at York Museums Trust. The project was developed by a joint team of researchers and practitioners from across the partner institutions included (but not limited to) archaeologists, musicians, curators, electronic engineers, computer scientists and Norse and Anglo-Saxon scholars. Around 85,000 visitors attended the exhibition and 70% of visitors surveyed claimed that VikingVR was their first experience of virtual reality. Within the Walls of York Gaol built on VikingVR to experiment with the interplay between augmented reality and historic buildings. The project developed two installations within the cells of the 18th Century prison at York Castle.  

The DiNAR project demonstrates that by working together in ways which are rooted in our communities we can conduct more relevant and engaged research. In this case we have been able to argue that museums have the potential to be hubs for digital innovation and important venues for inclusive, innovative and experimental media work. 

Find out more about this project on Gareth's blog post.

Maria Economou: Engaging the Private, Public and 3rd Sector with EMOTIVE

Maria Economou Video College of Arts researchers, led by Prof Maria Economou, recognised the critical need to combine storytelling with digital technology to engage visitors to heritage attractions in richer, more rewarding ways. In collaboration with industry and sector professionals, they pioneered the use of digital interpretation technology to use storytelling to stimulate emotions as a way to connect with the past. Using a dual design and evaluation methodology, new approaches were developed which have been adopted for UNESCO World Heritage Site management in Scotland and Germany, and by cultural organisations in Glasgow, Barcelona, Athens and Kurdistan. The research team also helped commercial partners in the UK, France and Greece to improve their own authoring tools, leading to product improvement with commercial benefits.

Find out more about this project on Maria's blog post