Landscapes, memories and cultural practices: a GIS / GPS digital heritage mapping network.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Politics


This series of workshops explores the ways in which arts and humanities researchers and museum curators are responding to rapid developments in digital technology that enable direct, interactive engagement with information, museum collections and heritage sites. Of particular interest to the group are the ways in which different forms of cultural practice, products and artefacts such as music, drama, poetry and films can enhance historical understandings of place and identity. Participants are examining the theoretical and practical contribution offered by Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology in humanities research, and the extent to which such resources can facilitate the creation of a multi-disciplinary platform that enables a range of cultural research data to be accessed spatially and geographically. In a city such as Liverpool, for example, the use of GIS technology potentially enables information gathered in relation to a specific district or location, such as the types of buildings and their uses, transport links, industrial sites and leisure areas at a particular point in time, to be linked with other layers of contextual information such as photographs, films, oral histories, digital ethnographic materials, theatre, music and poetry performances, etc. GIS also enables journeys, routes and specific spatial narratives to be mapped, such as the walks taken by the Lakeland poets and recorded in their diaries as they composed their works (Cooper and Gregory 2008); the conscious recording of urban areas destined for redevelopment by amateur filmmakers (Hallam 2007); the locations and landmarks filmed in tourist and travelogue films at different points in a city's history (Roberts 2009); the cultural geographies associated with urban music or club culture in different historical periods (Cohen and Lashua 2009); or early performance culture in Nottingham, 1857-67 (Robertson and Priestnall 2009).

The problem facing researchers and museum curators is how to make the wealth of geo-referenced material held on GIS platforms widely available to museum visitors, heritage tourists and other interested public users and consumers. Working with experts from BT, the workshop aims to share advice, expertise and best practice amongst humanities researchers and museum curators on how to engage people with the wealth of historical information held in university libraries, museum collections and on heritage sites. Our aim is to explore how GIS-related research data can be accessed and explored using wireless and mobile phone technology. According to recent research, upwards of 85% of the UK population now owns a mobile phone; GPS technology is increasingly available and used to provide a range of services and products for mobile users. However, the scope for developing this technology to enable users and visitors to navigate historical geo-referenced datasets and a city or regions intangible heritage (films, music, literature, etc.) has yet to be fully explored. The proposed series of workshops will bring together experts from industry, museum and heritage institutions and universities, all of whom have been pushing forward research and practice in this area. The workshops will therefore provide a timely and productive opportunity for the further development of digital mapping research in the humanities, exploring new and innovative forms of interactive engagement that will facilitate greater degrees of access to humanities research, and foster greater ties and collaborative links with regional, national and international partners in the arts, heritage and communication industries.

Planned Impact

Museum, gallery and heritage education professionals are involved in this work as part of an on-going dialogue between curators and researchers on how to make research resources and information available to a much wider public. On a broader level, the core members of the network share with museum and gallery curators and heritage education professionals a belief that personal engagement with personal, family history and local/regional histories encourages understandings of and engagement with place.
Research into the impact of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture conducted by the Impacts 08 team at Liverpool University and John Moores University indicates that that the use of the city's museums and galleries by local residents is above the national average: '67% of Liverpool residents expressed an interest in going to museums and galleries in 2008, compared with 53% of North West and North Wales residents, and 57% of residents from the rest of the UK' ( The challenge now for the city's museums and galleries is to build on this strong foundation by finding innovative ways to encourage both residents and visitors alike to continue to explore the city's rich heritage and cultural landscape. Drawing on the experience and expertise of a number of a projects nationally and internationally with similar aims and ambitions, this workshop is part of an on-going partnership between researchers and museum staff that is exploring ways in which such initiatives can be developed.


10 25 50
Description This was a research networkgrant that brought together academics, artists, museum curators and industry specialists to discuss GIS applications in humanities research and their applications in art galleries, museums and exhibition spaces. New projects were developed in consequence, such as Cinematic Battersea (AHRC Koeck, Penn), Liverpool Museum's GIS based inter-active map.
Exploitation Route Primarily through publication.
An edited collection on the use of geo-graphical informations systems in film research was commissioned, this is now published as Hallam J. and Roberts L. Locating the Moving Image: New Approaches to Film and Place (Indiana University Press, Indiana).
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Contributed to the development of the History Gallery at Liverpool Museum by bringing additional expertise, workshops. The Gallery, with its interactive geo-located map of digital materials from the Museum Collection, opened in 2011 as part of the official opening ceremony for the Museum in Dec 2011
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal