The Evolution of Digital Cultural Heritage

Published: 10 January 2022

In this post, Dr Fraser Rowan, College of Arts Knowledge Exchange and Impact Manager, reflects on the evolving meanings of Digital Cultural Heritage, and what to expect from the first Catalyst over the coming months.

As a child, a visit to a museum was a different experience to how it is today. Back then, a physical journey was necessary. It was probably one of the limiting factors regarding which museum you were going to, or perhaps could access. The upside was always the sight of the building. The architecture, the smells and sounds. Nothing compared to the museum setting. 

Fast forward to 2022 and how might a trip to the museum be different to those memories? For a start, travel has changed, a lot. You can get further quicker which means you have more opportunities/options. However, more radically, I might not have to leave my home at all to access the treasures of a museum. Due to the global pandemic, the majority of museums, galleries and the likes have had to provide an element of online access. As such, many exhibitions and collections are now offered digitally. This means we are not limited to a small number of venues on our doorstep. Instead, we can access some of the content of the finest establishments in the world whenever we wish. But how does that experience compare to a walk through the corridors and halls of a museum?  

What about the educational element of a museum 30-40 years ago? It was probably commensurate with how we learned in school. To an extent, it matched our expectations. How does that measure with the experience today? Most would anticipate an element of interaction - a personal experience that doesn’t feel dated. That is a huge challenge to the entire sector, but a challenge that is being tackled head on.   

How is research changing to meet the new interactive demands of Digital Cultural Heritage? 

Over the coming few months, this Catalyst (#AHPCatalyst) will explore how things have changed in the realm of museums and cultural heritage. Here, in the University of Glasgow’s College of Arts our researchers explore how they can assist this evolving Digital Cultural Heritage landscape.  


View of a tablet interpreting dataProfessor of Digital Cultural Heritage, Maria Economou shares her experience of how she led a large-scale European project engaging multiple museums & galleries, universities, and commercial organisations, using pioneering digital interpretation technology to use storytelling to stimulate emotions as a way for visitors to connect with the past. Detailing a different perspective of storytelling, Dr Steven Reid, Senior lecturer in Scottish History will reveal his approach to creating online resources with his AHRC research project Mary Queen of Scots. The challenges to storytelling are not limited to technology, however, as Zoe Strachan, novelist, journalist, and Reader in Creative Writing will explain.   

Audience Engagement 

Tim Barker, Prof of Media Technology and Aesthetics will discuss the challenges of audience engagement. Discover whether that is because younger audiences process information differently, or because the expectation for AR/VR immersion is now anticipated in our technically advanced society. In addition, Ellen Fenton, Head of Audience Engagement from UofG Museum, The Hunterian, will talk about the importance of her role - understanding the audiences of today in order to deliver on expectations, but also to focus on the audiences of the future to ensure relevance and above all sustainability.   

Colleague testing VR softwareImmersive Experiences 

Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR), Dr Neil McDonnell, will share his experience of establishing new platforms for immersive experience, including how VR/AR labs are a presence in one of the University of Glasgow’s newest buildings on campus, the Advanced Research Centre. 

What does Digital Cultural Heritage mean to you? 

Equally as important, we want to hear from you. What is your understanding of Digital Cultural Heritage, and how might it affect your community or organisation? This is not just about the Museums & Galleries sector but 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. 

Do you want to get involved with this Catalyst? Get in touch by emailing Fraser Rowan

First published: 10 January 2022