University wins over half a million pounds to advance digital heritage tourism

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse occupies the most westerly point on the UK mainland.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse occupies the most westerly point on the UK mainland.

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Two digital heritage tourism research projects at the University of the Highlands and Islands are amongst nine projects in the Highlands and Islands selected to share a £5 million European Regional Development Fund.

The Uibhist virtual archaeology project received a grant of £271,000 to create a new series of virtual reality digital reconstructions of seven archaeological sites located on the Hebridean Way walking route in Uist and Benbecula.

The ‘coast that shaped the world’ project received a grant of £350,000. This project will develop a website, app and programme of innovative digital exhibitions along the west coast of Scotland to narrate how maritime cultural, and natural, heritage helped to shape the world.

The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund is led by Scottish Natural Heritage and is part funded through the European Regional Development Fund.

Professor Neil Simco, vice principal (research and impact) at the University of the Highlands and Islands said: ‘We are proud that our projects have been selected to be part of this exciting investment programme.

‘This is an example of where the university’s research excellence is playing an important role in local communities to support and contribute to transforming and enhancing lives, the environment and the economy across the region.’

The Uibhist virtual archaeology project is led by Dr Rebecca Rennell and Dr Emily Gal, both archaeological experts based at Lews Castle College UHI.

Dr Rennell said: ‘Working with our partner Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, we are really excited to be bringing decades of archaeological research at these fantastic sites to the wider public.

‘The team is thrilled to have received this funding from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund.  It will help to realise community benefits, unlock economic potential and improve the visitor experience in a way that conserves and protects the unique natural and cultural heritage recognised across the region.’

Sara Bellshaw, senior innovation manager at the Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research based at West Highland College UHI expanded on the ‘coast that shaped the world project’, saying: ‘It is fantastic to have received this funding from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund. The centre will use our wealth of experience in tourism and place, in collaboration with local people and industry experts who are integral to this project, to enhance visitor engagement with maritime stories of coastal communities along the west coast of Scotland through a creative digital programme.’

Announced on the December 28, 2019 by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs both projects will run for two and a half years.