Highland and islands takes local cultural heritage into a digital era

11 February 2021 - Published by Anna Grude
In Scotland, the Highland and Island region is taking local cultural heritage into a digital era to develop new business opportunities and strengthening local organizations working in this sector. - Our pilot project comprises a programme of transnational digital heritage skills workshops; as well as working with a cohort of cultural social enterprises to support them adopt cutting-edge technologies to bring about social and economic benefits, says Ann Marie Reid, Project Manager for CUPIDO in the Highland and Island region.


Partners in the pilot

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

University of St Andrews

Read more about the pilot  


In CUPIDO, Highland and Island Enterprise (HIE) have engaged University of St. Andrews (UoSA) as a co-beneficiary and together they are working with two main elements within their pilot. A transnational digital heritage skills workshop programme and Digital adoption element to enable digital heritage product development to support communities and cultural heritage organizations adopt technologies and digital ways of working.

The workshop programme,Bringing Museums to the Home, was developed and facilitated by UoSA and aims to inform participants of new digital solutions to bring about social and economic benefits. Additionally, it was designed to help equip heritage organizations with the skills to connect with existing and potential new audiences through digital media; covering topics such as digitalizing collections, photogrammetry; developing on-line exhibitions and social media.

- We have delivered a comprehensive programme oftransnational digital heritage skills workshopsfor the period April to December 2020. The impact of Covid-19 on the heritage sector led to a re-design to our original skills programme, resulting in the workshop delivery model moving from face-to-face to on-line, says Allan Miller of St Andrews University.

The new approach allowed engagement with a much wider audience locally, nationally and internationally and with close to 50,000 attendees at the workshop platform and Facebook views the number vastly surpasses original estimates. It also made it possible to incorporate international contributions from museologists based in Barbados, Iceland and across Scotland.

- Given the positive response, we are currently looking at supporting a further programme of workshops in 2021, Allan says.

Developing digital products
The other main element being worked in the pilot is Digital adoption, it involvesUoSA working directly with a group of cultural heritage organisations from across Highlands and Islands region to develop new digital heritage products designed to improve their visitor offering, bring about commercial benefits and help preserve and promote communities’ local heritage. And the response from organizations shows there is a demand for this business support product with double the estimated number of businesses getting involved.

- Digital product development is wide ranging, encompassing areas such as digital reconstructions of some key historical events and sites; digital mapping; creating 3D digital representations of historical collections; mobile phone apps to enable customers to turn mobile devices into mini virtual museums; creating digital film; on-line exhibitions, and using creative content to enhance on-line presence, Ann Marie informs.

- It’s anticipated that by adding these new digital dimensions to the museum will significantly transform the user experience – leading to beneficial impact to visitor footfall and the local economy, she says.

A digital Centre of excellence
Each project working with digital product development can be considered as digital Centres of Excellence but the main Centre of Excellence in the Highland and Island region is to establish an Orkney North Isles Virtual Digital Centre of Excellence designed to connect Orkney’s north island communities.

- HIE and University of St. Andrews are working closely with Orkney North Isles Landscape Partnership, Orkney Islands Council and communities, culture and heritage organisations across Orkney’s north islands communities to develop and implement the project. The aim is to create a VR project, designed to connect island communities and help promote and preserve their local cultural offering, aiming to attract an increase in visitor fall to each locality and participating cultural heritage centres, Ann Marie describes.

- The next stage of the project is to collate the film and photography material gathered from the individual community groups to create a VR exhibit designed to help preserve and promote Orkney north isles unique cultural heritage, she says.

Regional development through CUPIDO pilot
Some of the project’s activities have turned to on-line features instead of face-to-face activities, other have been postponed due to corona pandemic travel restrictions. But going ahead Ann Marie can see real opportunities for project participants and the region.

- Our pilot project activities will support further social benefits by enabling individuals and communities to engage with their local cultural heritage, and thereby contributing to engendering increased community confidence and instilling a greater sense of place. Supporting such digital advancements will enhance the region's cultural and quality of life offering, adding to the region's attractiveness and distinctiveness as a place to visit, work and live, she says.

- Over 2021, the next steps are to complete the digital reconstructions and VR exhibits for each individual digital heritage product, including Orkney North Isles Digital Centre of Excellence and install hardware equipment on site. It’s also anticipated a further programme of on-line digital heritage skills workshops will run over 2021.