Professor Maria Economou
- Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage (Information Studies)
Maria Economou is Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage. She holds a British Academy/Wolfson Research Professorship (2022-2025). She returned in 2013 to the University of Glasgow, where she originally started her academic career as Lecturer in New Technologies for the Humanities at the then newly created Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII, 1997-2000). She has a joint appointment shared between Information Studies at the School of Humanities and The Hunterian, helping to make use of the University’s Museum and Art Gallery for teaching and research. She designed The Hunterian's Digital Strategy (2017-2020) and leads on digital initiatives. She previously worked at the University of the Aegean (as Assistant and Associate Professor in Museology and New Technologies, 2003-13), the University of Manchester (as Lecturer in Art Gallery and Museum Studies, 2000-2003), and the Pitt Rivers Museum of the University of Oxford (as Assistant Curator responsible for Information Technology, 1995-1997).
Professor Economou's research lies at the nexus of two key Information Studies research themes: Cultural Heritage and Digital Humanities. She is interested in the use of all forms of digital technology and new media in the field of cultural heritage and museums. A particular expertise is visitor studies and evaluation research with different groups of users (ranging from schoolchildren using museum mobile apps to visitors to real or virtual exhibitions or users of online catalogues). She is also interested in the effect of ICT on museum staff and the working practices of cultural organisations. Another of her research interests is the documentation and management of cultural collections, the organisation of cultural information, and digitisation practices.
She holds a British Academy/Wolfson Research Professorship (2022-2025) on 'Emotional engagement with museum collections through digital storytelling and participatory approaches'. She co-ordinated the Scottish Network for Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation (2015-2016) with funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was partner (Co-Investigator) in the following research projects: a) the €3.4-million H2020 POEM Participatory Memory Practices MCSA European Training Network (2018-2022); and b) the AHRC COVID-19 Urgency response grant Online teaching with digitised museum collections (2021-22) led by the St Andews University Museums in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, Glasgow School of Art, and the University Museums in Scotland group (UMIS). Other recent research projects include: a) the AHRC Follow-on Project for Impact & Engagement A living tradition: Expanding engagement with Pacific barkcloth (1-9/2020, £93,263); b) the €2.6-million EMOTIVE project, 2016-2019 (H2020, Cult-Coop 8 Virtual Museums, Research and Innovation Action) Emotive virtual cultural experiences through personalized storytelling, which received a University of Glasgow Engagement Award in 2021 for best Arts & Culture Collaboration; and c) the AHRC/EPSRC Immersive Technologies Scottish National Heritage Partnership pilot (Feb-Oct 2018). She is a founding co-director of the Glasgow Digital Cultural Heritage Arts Lab.
Some of the digital initiatives she has led at The Hunterian include the Digital Trail for The Kangaroo & The Moose exhibition in 2015-16 (part of the Travellers' Tails collaborative project with the Royal Museums Greenwich, The Horniman, The Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL and the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby) and the virtual exhibition Beauty in Hell: Culture in the Gulag (from September 2017).
She has been elected Vice President of the Executive Committee of UNIVERSEUM, the European Academic Heritage Nework (2017-2020 & 2021-2024). She was the University of Glasgow member at the SGSAH Discipline+ Catalyst on Cultural/Museum Studies (2019-2022) designing and delivering training for doctoral reserachers in the Arts and Humanities across Scottish HEIs (including a training event she co-ordinated on the use Immersive Technologies in Cultural Heritage Research and Practice in April 2021). Professor Economou is a member of the editorial board of several international peer reviewed journals, such as the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH), Museum Worlds, and Memory, Mind, and Media.
Professor Economou has been collaborating with several cultural institutions around the world. She designed the evaluation strategy for Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (2000, funding from Glasgow Museums), advised for the set up the Museum of School Life of the Chania Perfecture in Crete (museological study, education and digital applications for first and second exhibition, 2006 and 2009, funding from Chania Perfecture and Chania Regional Company), designed the multimedia educational games for the Natural History Museum at Axioupolis in Northern Greece (2008, Interreg III), consulted on the creation of a digital audio guide by Museum of Traditional Life of Crete «Lychnostatis» (2008, Friends of the Museum and Information Society EU programe), and curated with a team of Aegean University students she co-ordinated the exhibition “Museums: The World inside” with cartoons by Geir Helgen, in collaboration with ICOM’s International Committee for Regional Museums and the Piraeus Bank Cultural Foundation, which was exhibited at the Museum of Olive Oil Production in Lesvos (2013, Pireaeus Bank Cultural Foundation).
Professor Economou was part of the CHIRON (Cultural Heritage Informatics Research Oriented Network) project (Marie Curie FP6) and received matching funds for her research from the Greek General Secretariat for Research and Technology. She collaborated with the Computer Science Institute, Foundation for Research and Technology in Greece on ‘Cultural Documentation Standards and Support Technologies for the Interchange of Digital Cultural Resource and Interoperability of Systems’ (2004-5, Information Society EU programme). She was responsible for the evaluation of the UK National Archives Network website (2002, National Council on Archives). She was part of the research team of the study which produced the ‘Guide to Good Practice in Digital Representation and Management of Cultural Heritage Material’ for the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage, USA (1999 – 2001, Getty Institute).
Recent publications include:
- 09/2022-08/2025 British Academy/Wolfson Research Professorship on 'Emotional engagement with museum collections through digital storytelling and participatory approaches'. The project examines how digital storytelling and participatory approaches can be used to encourage in-depth engagement with cultural heritage collections, working with The Hunterian Antonine Wall collections. The project explores how co-designing and evaluating collections interpretation with diverse users and stakeholders can support emotional connection and critical reflection. The research investigates both onsite and online engagement, which has been pushed to the fore during the pandemic while physical access to collections and sites has been curtailed, forcing us to re-define traditional museum visiting models. The study will draw a set of recommendations for effective digital interpretation for both researchers and cultural heritage practitioners." overall & UofG budget: £180,000 (two half-time 3-year posts funded for ECRs)
- 10/2021-02/2022 Increasing Engagement with the Hunterian’s Collections (IDEA), Museums Galleries Scotland, overall & UofG budget: £60,000 (new one-year post for Hunterian Digital Engagement Officer created)
- 12/2020-11/2021 Online teaching with digitised museum collections - AHRC COVID-19 Urgency response grant (£111,000). Led by the St Andews University Museums in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, Glasgow School of Art, and the University Museums in Scotland group (UMIS). The project explores the opportunities, capacity, and barriers for digital engagement with collections and evaluates the impact of collections-based university teaching that has been pushed to online and digital delivery due to the pandemic.
1-9/2020 A living tradition: Expanding engagement with Pacific barkcloth - AHRC Follow-on Project for Impact & Engagement (£93,263). Original plans to host a series of innovative workshops in which Pacific-based barkcloth makers, museum staff, students, UK-based Pacific communities and the general public would come together to share and exchange knowledge and stories to raise awareness, appreciation and understanding of Pacific barkcloth. Post-COVID19, these engagements have been transfered to online workshops, use of social media and material on the project's website.
- 4/2018-3/2022 POEM- Participatory Memory Practices. H2020 MCSA ETN. Concepts, strategies, and media infrastructures for envisioning socially inclusive potential futures of European societies through culture. UoG: two PhD projects:
- a) one (ESR2 - Franziska Mucha) on “Crowds, communities and co-creativity: User's motivations for crowdsourcing cultural heritage digital”, which will use the Kelvin Hall Open Collections as a case study to investigate participatory practices, co-curation and co-creation by diverse users, and
- b) the second (ESR3 - Cassandra Kist) on “Social Media for Encouraging Engagement with Arts and Culture in Museums” in collaboration with Glasgow Museums, which will analyse the discourse and type of engagement that is supported by the museums’ social media platforms.
- POEM is co-ordinated by the University of Hamburg, and includes in the consortium apart from the University of Glasgow’s Information Studies, the University of Uppsala, Aarhus University, the Technological University of Cyprus, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, the NGO Ashoka UK and the SME Atomatic, Ltd, as well as a long list of cultural heritage, creative industry and other organisations as partners where the PhD students will undertake placements. Grant agreement number 764859. Overall budget: €3,431,000 / UoG: €546,000
As part of the POEM training network, the UofG team hosted Knowledge Hub II in March 2019 (POEM KH2 timetable)
4/2018-1/2019 - "Scottish National Heritage Partnership" project. AHRC/EPSRC Immersive Technologies pilot HE-industry partnership. - PI Prof Murray Pittock, Co-I Prof Lorna Hughes & Co-I Dr Maria Economou. Investigate how to optimise immersive technologies in Scotland's heritage and tourism sectors and look into the next generation of immersive experiences. Collaboration with Dr Neil McDonnell, UoG Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow in Virtual and Augmented Reality; external partners: National Library of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Glasgow Museums; Heritage section of Soluis Digital.
The project will develop:
- an evidence based market model for use with Scottish Government, VisitScotland, local tourist authorities and non-governmental agencies
- a visualisation exploring the decision-making process and value chain of immersive implementation in heritage organisations
- a risk assessment of the blockers to successful development and exploitation of the findings in the creative and cultural economy. It will begin to create the infrastructure for optimal design and procurement in this area in support of the economic targets for tourist numbers in the Glasgow 2023 tourism strategy and in the economic planning of the Scottish Government.
- 11/2016-10/2019 EMOTIVE - Εmotive virtual cultural experiences through personalized storytelling. H2020–Social Sciences & Humanities Cult-coop 8 Virtual Museums call. Research and Innovation Action. Proposal ranked 1st of 90 (success rate 4.4%). HATII & Hunterian role: use of Antonine Wall displays as one of the case studies to test project's approach and tools and overseeing evaluation work. Partners: EXUS Software Ltd-SME, UK; ATHENA RC-Research Centre, Greece; University of York, UK; INRIA Sophia-Antipolis-Research Centre, France; CNR-Research Centre, Italy; DIGINEXT-Company, France; Noho-SME, Ireland - Overall budget: €2.6-million / UoG: €241,891 (University of Glasgow Engagement Award in 2021 for best Arts & Culture Collaboration)
EMOTIVE aims to use emotional storytelling to dramatically change how we experience heritage sites. For heritage professionals, the Emotive application will provide a powerful storytelling engine and a set of rich digital media assets that can be used to create detailed characters and narratives featuring archaeological sites or collections of artefacts. For visitors, Emotive will offer dramatic, emotionally engaging stories that can be experienced while at a cultural site or remotely. Wherever visitors are, they can follow characters, look for clues and explore environments alone or with family and friends. The University of Glasgow team brings to EMOTIVE in-depth understanding of the needs of both cultural heritage professionals, as well as diverse visitor groups and end users. It will contribute numerous research, user-centred design and production, and evaluation activities to the project, taking advantage of the real cultural heritage context of The Hunterian’s Antonine Wall display (one of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites used at EMOTIVE case studies) to collect user requirements and evaluate EMOTIVE prototype tools.
- 1/2015-12/2016 Scottish Network for the Evaluation of Digital Cultural Resources, Royal Society of Edinburgh - £20.000 ScotDigiCH
The Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation brings together academics and cultural heritage professionals to investigate the use of digital cultural resources by diverse user groups. Coordinated by Dr Maria Economou, the network examines how digital cultural resources impact learning, research and public engagement within cultural heritage organisations. What is the impact of these resources, and how can this be quantified and recorded in order to help organisations use them to their fullest potential?
The project’s main case study is the re-development of the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, which opened in 2016 and will house the collections of Glasgow Life, The Hunterian of the University of Glasgow and the Moving Image Archive of the National Library of Scotland. The network considered the applicability of digital technologies to the Kelvin Hall project, and also studied the characteristics of Glasgow’s wider cultural landscape. By using a variety of methodologies and perspectives drawn from museology, computing science, the digital humanities and the social sciences, the project placed Glasgow’s cultural offerings within a wider, international discussion concerning how and why digital cultural resources are used by both cultural heritage organisations and their diverse audiences.
Over the two years of the project, network partners organised a variety of events including four workshops, a knowledge exchange forum for cultural professionals, an international symposium and a public open day for exploring the digital collections at the re-opened Kelvin Hall.
Professor Economou has supervised many doctoral and postgraduate-level dissertations related to her research. She is especially interested in supervising students in the following areas:
- the use of digital technologies in the cultural sector and in museums in particular
- visitor studies and evaluation in cultural contexts (including the study of the users’ experience of different computer applications and online systems)
- museum education and informal learning
- participatory practices in museums and heritage
- citizen science, crowdsourcing, co-curation, co-creation models
- representation of the past (for example, in exhibitions but also computer games for children)
She is currently:
PRIMARY PhD SUPERVISOR
- Thomas Hanson (AHRC SGSAH DTP scholarship) (2022-) on"Remembering ‘The Troubles’: Contextualisation Practices in Archiving of Conflict Photography"
- Aimee Fletcher (LKAS scholarship) (2020-) on "Autism in Museums: Co-Creation Strategies for Making Museums Autism-Accessible" co-supervised with Dr David Simmons, UofG Psychology, - since Oct 2020.
- Lynn Verschuren (ARCS scholarship) (2017-) on "Multisensory Engagement with Medieval Museum Collections: Evaluating the Use of Digital at the Burrell" (Applied Research Collaborative Scholarship from Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities) in collaboration with the Burell Collection, Glasgow Museums and the University of Strathclyde, Computer and Information Sciences Department - since Oct 2017.
CO-SUPERVISOR of PhD STUDENTS
- Alison Hadfield, University of St Andrews (AHRC SGAH DTP Scholarship), (2019-) on "In Touch with the Past: A Sensory Approach to Objects, Memory and Wellbeing"
- Ahmed El Shaer, Abertay University (ARCS) (2021-) on "Investigating the potential of Extended Reality for alternative understandings of forced migration and devastated Middle Eastern Cultural Heritage Sites"
- Fletcher, Aimee
Autism in Museums: Co-Creation Strategies for Making Museums
- Hanson, Thomas
Remembering ‘The Troubles’: Contextualisation Practices in Archiving of Conflict Photography
- Verschuren, Lynn
Multisensory Interpretation in Museum Displays: Evaluating Digital Engagement with Burrell’s Late Medieval Collections
Alumni (at UoG):
- Franziska Mucha - PhD (2022) (POEM H2020 MSCA ETN fellow) on “Co-creative events for engagement with digital cultural heritage collections”, which investigated participatory practices, co-curation and co-creation by diverse users - since Oct 2018.
- Cassandra Kist - PhD (2022) (POEM H2020 MSCA ETN fellow) on “Crafting museum social media for social inclusion work” in collaboration with Glasgow Museums, which analysed the discourse and type of engagement that is supported by the museums’ social media platforms - since Dec 2018.
- Chris Loughnane - PhD (2020) (AHRC scholarship) on "Unveiling the Hybrid Archive: An Investigation into Changing Research Practices and Digital Humanities Scholarship".
- Maria Isabel Hidalgo Urbaneja - PhD (2019) on “Towards a definition of museum art historical narratives in the digital on the social web".
- Laura Molloy - MPhil (2017) on digital curation skills in the performing arts ("Investigation of practitioner awareness and knowledge of digital object management and preservation").
Professor Economou contributes substantially to the Museum Studies MSc. She also contributes to Information Studies' Honours degree in Digital Media and Information Studies. She taught or currently teaches:
- Digital Cultural Heritage (INSOST4008 & INSTOST5015 (2021-) which she re-designed (previously Heritage and Cultural Informatics (Hons: ARTMED4030 & MSc in Museum Studies: ARTMED5016) (2013-20)
- Exhibition Development Course (The Hunterian) (INSTOST5014) (2021-) which she re-designed as a core module and integrated the delivery of the chosen student proposal to a real Hunterian exhibition at the end of the course (previously Hunterian Exhibition Development Course (Msc in Museum Studies: ARTMED 5062, 2013-)
- Museum Learning and Interpretation (ARTMED5063)(which she designed in 2015 and has been teaching or contributing to (2015-)
- Museum Issues (ARTMED5048) (in 2013-14 and 2014-15)
- She has contributed to: Introduction to Museology, Museum Skills and Professional Practice, Managing and Using Collections, and Dissertation course
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER
Professor Economou is on the Editorial Advisory Board of the ‘Participatory Memory Practices’ book series, Routledge, the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH), Museum Worlds, Memory, Mind & Media, Museology (published by the Museology Research Laboratory, Department of Cultural Technology & Communication, Univ. of the Aegean) and MuseumEdu (a publication of the Museum Education and Research Laboratory at the University of Thessaly, Greece).
MEMBER OF NATIONAL GRADUATE SCHOOL FOR ARTS & HUMANITIES - DOCTORAL TRAINING
She was the University of Glasgow member at the SGSAH Discipline+ Catalyst on Cultural/Museum Studies (2019-22) designing and delivering training for doctoral reserachers in the Arts and Humanities across Scottish HEIs, for which she led the organisation (assisted by Prof. Ian Ruthven, University of Strathclyde and Dr Thea Stevens, Glasgow School of Art) in April 2021 of a training even on Immersive Technologies in Cultural Heritage Research and Practice - programme and further details.
EXPERT ADVISOR AND EVALUATOR - EUROPEAN COMMISSION
Professor Economou has been advisor and external evaluator for the FP7, Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe for the European Commission.
REVIEWER FOR NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH FUNDING BODIES
She is a member of the UK AHRC Peer Review Board. She has been invited to review research proposals for the British Academy, the German Research Foundation (DFG), the French National Research Agency (ANR), the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Foundation for Promotion of Science, Cyprus, the Austrian Science Fund, the Estonian Research Council.
REVIEWER OF INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Member of External Review panel of the Institute for Mediterranean Studies, Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (FORTH), Rethymnon, Greece (2021-22)
ADVISOR FOR UNIVERSITY CURRICULA
Member of External Advisory Board (2021-) for MSc in Digital Methods in the Humanities - Department of Informatics, School of Information Sciences and Technology, Athens University of Economics and Business
BOARD MEMBER OF INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL HERITAGE ORGANISATIONS
Vice-President of the Executive Committee of Universeum, the European Academic Heritage Network (2017-2020 & 2021-2024)
Invited founding member of Impact Task Force of Europeana (2016-17), the EC digital platform for cultural heritage (CH) and co-author/reviewer of its first digital CH resources Toolkit/ Impact Playbook for Museums, Libraries, Archives and Galleries
Founding member of Digital Transformations Group, Museums Galleries Scotland (2015-)
STRATEGIC & OPERATIONS BOARD MEMBER OF ADVANCED RESEARCH CENTRE ARC-XR
University of Glasgow College of Arts representative member of Advanced Research Centre (ARC)-XR Operations Board (2021-22). Responsible for preparing the user access policy. Shaping of the character and policies of ARC-XR in preparation for its opening in Spring 2022.
Member of Advanced Research Centre (ARC)-XR Strategic Board (2019-)
CHAIR AND MEMBER OF ORGANISING COMMITTEE OF INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES
5-8/7/22 22nd Annual UNIVERSEUM conference ‘University Museums & Collections: Challenges of the Past – Responsibilities for Today’, Université libre de Bruxelles & KU Leuven, Belgium
1-3/9/21 1st Joint ICOM UMAC (International University Museums & Collections Committee of International Council of Museums) – UNIVERSEUM online conference "New Opportunities & New Challenges in Times of COVID-19" [320+ participants]
22-26/6/20 21st Annual UNIVERSEUM conference ‘University Museums & Collections in the vanguard of contemporary societal debates’, Université libre de Bruxelles & KU Leuven, Belgium, (submissions reviewed, programme set, final meeting postponed due to COVID before opening of registrations)
18-21/6/19 20th Annual UNIVERSEUM conference 'University Museums & Collections as Networks for Understanding the World: Shaping Narratives of Knowledge for the Past, Present, Future', Masaryk University, Brno & Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic [90+ participants]
13-15/6/18 Member of organising committee of 19th UNIVERSEUM 2018 conference hosted by The Hunterian at Kelvin Hall (partnership with University Museums in Scotland) attended by 170+ paticipants representing 120+ institutions from around the world (record of attendance; most international; highest number of submissions of all UNIVERSEUM conferences since its creation in 2000)
11-13/6/18 Chair of organising committee of 2nd UNIVERSEUM pre-conference training workshop ‘Object Journeys: From stores to sharing with different communities’ for PhD students, ECRs & CH Staff, Glasgow, Hunterian Collections Study Centre at Kelvin Hall [16 participants]
12-13/12/16 Chair of organising committee of International Symposium ‘Evaluating Digital Cultural Resources (EDCR2016), Kelvin Hall, University of Glasgow (170+ participants, 30+ countries). Organised as part of the RSE Scottish Network for the Evaluation of Digital Cultural Resources I coordinated. As part of this the following series of workshops were also organized:
02/5/15 ‘Models of digital access’ workshop, University of Glasgow
01/12/15 ‘Crowdsourcing, co-curation, co-creation in Cultural Heritage’ workshop, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
31/3/16 ‘Evaluating Impact and Use’ workshop, University of Strathclyde
16/6/16 ‘Moving from Impact to Value’, workshop, University of Glasgow
Scientific Committee of International Conferences (selection since 2016)
Member of international programme committee [all 200+ participants]:
CAA 2021 Digital Crossroads Virtual Conference, Crete; Emerging Technologies and the Digital Transformation of Museums & Heritage sites, Limassol (2021); 11th Int’l Conference on Virtual Worlds & Games for Serious Applications 2019, Vienna; Researching Digital Cultural Heritage Conference 2018, Manchester & Newcastle Universities; 21st Int’l Conf. on Theory & Practice of Digital Libraries 2017, Thessaloniki
Invited chair and panel co-organiser [all 200+ participants]:
SIEF 2021 Helsinki Int’l Society for Ethnology & Folklore (‘Inquiries into memory modalities in digital media’); ACHS 2020 Heritage Futures, London (‘Digital heritage making processes for envisioning inclusive futures’); Digital Heritage 2018, San Francisco, ‘Emotions in Digital Cultural Heritage: How do we design and evaluate emotionally engaging applications and tools?’
Economou, M. 2018. The Hunterian hosts UNIVERSEUM 2018, http://hunterian.academicblogs.co.uk/the-hunterian-hosts-universeum-2018/ 4th Dec 2018
Economou, M., Young, H., & Pujol Tost, L. 2017 ‘EMOTIVE Experience Design Workshop – How do museum professionals design new digital experiences for their visitors?’ 26 April 2017
Economou, M. & Young, H.,2017. ‘Showcasing EMOTIVE storytelling about Romans at the Antonine Wall at European Researchers’ Night – Explorathon 2017’ 10 November 2017
Mentions in the Press/Media Exposure
04/2021 'Beyond the Virtual Exhibition', 6 April 2021, PodAcademy, Prof Maria Econonou in conversation with Zara Karschay, http://podacademy.org/podcasts/the-virtual-museum/
10/2020 Interview on EMOTIVE project public demo, BBC Radio Scotland. Good Morning Scotland, aired on the morning of Thursday 31 October 2019
04/017 Da Cunha, Raqual 2017. ‘Lookout: Digital Storytellers. Six professionals on what it means to tell stories using digital technologies’, Spokes, issue 29, (April 2017) the magazine of Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums http://www.ecsite.eu/activities-and-services/news-and-publications/digital-spokes/issue-29#
7-8/2016 ‘The Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation’, D-Lib Magazine July/August 2016 In Brief section.
University of Glasgow College of Arts Teaching Excellence Award (2022) - part of Information Studies and Hunterian team award
University of Glasgow Engagement Award in 2021 for best Arts & Culture Collaboration) for EMOTIVE - digital storytelling in cultural heritage