Scottish National Heritage partnership

Scottish National Heritage partnership

Date – March 1st, 2018
Funding – 74,998

The Scottish Heritage partnership is a nine-month AHRC-funded initiative aiming to address the existing practice and future potential of immersive experiences and technologies in the collections and heritage industry in Scotland. Its key research question revolves around measuring the success of approaches to immersive technologies at major heritage sites in Scotland, both in terms of outcomes against business plan expectations and in terms of visitor response, and the kinds of future development supported by the evidence.

Immersive experiences are means of 'composing' memory (that is, creating the conditions in which the memories which are publicly expressed are those which are formulated within a range of socially acceptable contexts. In the motorized era, trails have fulfilled the same function of embedding preferred memory narratives, while immersive experiences-delivered in part or whole through the medium of technology-strive to present a fusion of memory, place and performance to create a close and lasting relationship of visitor memory to the experience purchased by the visit. Immersive technologies have (although research on this is not yet developed and its development is a key component of the proposed partnership) arguably similar effects to electronic mass media in the composure of memory, but effects which are possibly delivered in stronger and more lasting terms.

The team

The team is led by Professor Murray Pittock (School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow), who is the Principal Investigator, alongside Professor Lorna Hughes and Dr Maria Economou (School of Humanities, University of Glasgow) who are the Co-Investigators. Furthermore, Dr Agiatis Benardou and Dr Leonidas Konstantelos work on the project as Research Associates.


The objectives of the project will be to:

1. Build on and expand existing partnerships to explore the efficacy of immersive technologies at major heritage sites currently, both in terms of outcomes against business plan expectations and in terms of visitor engagement and response.

2. Build a decision-making tool and gather evidence for policy development.

3. Explore how we can best harness and shape cutting-edge digital technology and develop effective, meaningful content into leading edge inclusive and impactful immersive experiences.

4. Define the roles played by immersive technology in expanding audience demographics (including consideration of advisory age limit of 13 for VR), increasing visitor engagement with and understanding of museums, collections and heritage sites, using questionnaires, observations and focus groups.

5. Outline the kind of social/group experiences facilitated or limited by immersive technology (AR/VR), and study how these affect the visitor experience overall.

6. Examine the consequences of service-wide adoption of immersive technology in Scotland's leading heritage and collections resource provider, Glasgow Life.

7. Evaluate how we can best explore the health and wellbeing impacts of both direct and virtual access to cultural heritage.

8. Adumbrate the ways in which changing technology is supporting and challenging audience expectations and future immersive possibilities.

9. Produce a website, a digital decision-making tool, a policy paper and a risk assessment:

a. An evidence-based market model for use with Scottish Government, VisitScotland, local tourist authorities and nongovernmental agencies
b. A route to developing suitable immersive technologies which can be scaled/developed to meet the criteria identified under (a), in the process benefiting our digital partner, Soluis.
c. A risk assessment of the blockers to successful development and exploitation of the findings of (a) and (b) in the creative and cultural economy.

10. Develop the career of the Early Career Researcher engaged with the project.

11. Support the internal policy-making capacity in this area of both HE and non-HE partners.

11. Support National Trust for Scotland, National Library of Scotland and Glasgow Museums' strategic use of their collections in interpretation and exhibitions development.


The National Trust for Scotland, Glasgow Museums and The National Library of Scotland are key parners in the project and so is our industry partner, Soluis Heritage. External research partners include the Smithsonian, with whom a Memorandum of Understanding linked to shared research in Kelvin Hall was signed on 8 April 2016.


  • Evidence based, market model for immersive technology in heritage: for government tourist authorities, and the commercial sector
  • Data driven visualisation exploring the decision making process and value chain of immersive implementation in heritage organisations
  • Risk assessment of blockers to successful development and exploitation of immersive technologies in the creative and cultural economy
  • Reports, papers, conference papers for widest academic and public dissemination

Progress so far

Since its launch in April 2018, the Scottish National Heritage Partnership project has made significant progress in achieving its aims and objectives. Led by Professor Murray Pittock, the project team – consisting of Co-Investigators Prof. Lorna Hughes and Dr. Maria Economou; and Research Associates Dr. Agiatis Benardou and Dr. Leo Konstantelos – has developed a comprehensive methodology to investigate how successful current approaches are to immersive experiences at major heritage sites in Scotland, in terms of outcomes against business plan expectations and in terms of visitor response.

Observation at the Riverside Museum (copyright: Dr. Agiatis Benardou)

With support from our partners at Glasgow Museums, the National Trust for Scotland, and the National Library of Scotland, we have designed, collected and are processing a substantial corpus of evidence. To date, more than 300 questionnaires have been completed by visitors at six major heritage sites across Scotland, including the Battle of Bannockburn; Culloden Battlefield; the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum; the Riverside Museum; the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; and the NLS at Kelvin Hall. We have conducted observations of visitor experience at Riverside and RBBM; and we are using secondary analysis of existing user experience data to answer the project’s research questions.

Development of an evidence-based, decision-making model is currently under-way. Formulated as a policy and risk assessment document, the model is meant to help heritage institutions identify the kinds of future immersive experiences that are supported by our evidence; as well as assess how to develop effective, meaningful content into leading edge inclusive and impactful immersive experiences.

Our digital partner, Soluis Heritage, is currently developing a visualisation of both the model and project findings, as a decision-making tool to illustrate the wider implications for policy and good practice, making the project’s findings accessible and clearly showing the underlying data and empirical evidence used. This output will be made freely available online, as a resource illustrating the creative and critical processes, and key decision points, of developing immersive technologies in a cultural heritage environment.

Find us on Twitter @scotimmersives

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Glasgow Life

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National Trust for Scotland - Culloden

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Glasgow Life

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