It is a priority of the Heritage 2020 Discovery, Identification and Understanding working group to explore how collaboration between the historic environment and higher education can be extended and strengthened.

Collaboration between the historic environment and higher education sectors

There is a long tradition of collaboration between researchers and others in the heritage sector. Recent years have seen further rapid growth in co-operative research and training initiatives. It is important to strengthen these links to enhance our ability to protect heritage and understand its cultural, social and economic value within our plural society.

The Heritage 2020 Discovery, Identification and Understanding group has led work on mapping connectivity between the two sectors, exploring the nature of collaborations and surveying the sector on how collaboration can be extended and strengthened.

Mapping connectivity

In 2017, a scoping study was undertaken by Newcastle University, with support from AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) to develop a picture of connectivity between the UK heritage sector and UK higher education sector. The study used data from REF Impact Case Studies (from 2014) to look at where connections exist, what form they take, the geography of connections, and whether there are patterns in their depth or longevity.

Report: Mapping collaborative interactions between Higher Education Institutions in the UK and the Heritage Sector (pdf)

Strengthening and extending collaboration

In July 2019, the DIU working group hosted a heritage chat (hour-long twitter chat) that focused on issues raised by the report and explored how we can strengthen research collaborations between the two sectors. You can read a summary of it here

In addition to the Heritage Chat, the group ran a survey to find out what people thought about the report’s findings and recommendations, and what type of support could help to strengthen and extend collaboration. The survey results supported the report’s findings and showed great enthusiasm for increased collaboration between the two sectors. However, rather than producing ‘toolkits’ or packages of support aimed at increasing collaboration, it was suggested that improved communication between the two sectors lies at the heart of increasing collaboration. You can read a summary of the survey findings here: Summary of survey on how to strengthen and extend research collaboration between HEIs and the heritage sector.

Building on this work, a heritage chat in June 2020 explored how collaboration between the heritage sector, higher education institutions and community groups can be further strengthened. Read a summary of the chat here.

Exploring collaboration – Case studies
  1. A collaboration between Reading University and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Berkshire– This collaboration brought together Reading University, the local detecting community and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. It shows how people can work together to gain insights to their past and local heritage.
  2. Discovering England’s Burial Spaces (DEBS)– This project worked with community groups to design and test new resources that will help people to archaeologically record burial spaces, such as churchyards and cemeteries. Based at the University of York and the Archaeological Data Service it involved partners from the University of Liverpool, ALGAO, ChurchCare and Caring for God’s Acre.
  3. HS2 Historic Environment Strategy Collaboration– The HS2 Historic Environment Research and Delivery Strategy is being applied along the 200km length of this high-speed railway project. This case study focuses on workshops designed to support community engagement and skills development projects as part of the strategy implementation.
  4. PASt Explorers Project– This PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) case study shows how Finds Liaisons Officers have connected with their local universities to build-up volunteering opportunities for students to gain experience of archaeological small finds recording and outreach activities.
  5. Woking Palace and its Park– A multi-faceted project with seven seasons of excavation from 2009-2015 to develop an understanding of Woking Palace and place it in its regional and national context. Partners included Surrey County Archaeological Unit, Surrey Archaeological Society, University of Reading/QUEST and Friends of Woking Palace.
  6. HS2 Curzon Street: Collaboration in the round – Extensive remains relating to the former Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham included the earliest identified roundhouse in the world. This case study shows how HS2, working with their supply chain (including commercial partners, heritage and higher education institutions) developed a plan to ensure public accessibility to the site for several months alongside a programme of media events – itself adapted to allow for digital engagement after the implementation of Covid-19 restrictions.
  7. HS2 Student Placement in the Colne Valley – This case study gives an insight into how the HS2 Historic Environment Research and Delivery Strategy has been used to develop skills within the heritage sector; in this case through a work experience opportunity for a PhD student from Birkbeck College, University of London with CSJV.
  8. HS2 Burial Grounds research – academic and industry collaboration to maximise public benefit – Collaboration delivers maximum benefit when all partners are involved from an early stage. This case study is an example of how organisations from across the academic community have been brought together with those from HS2’s supply chain of specialist and technical organisations to focus on the issue of data-sharing.
  9. Stones of Contention: Lithics and the Mesolithic/Neolithic Transition in Cumbria – Stones of Contention is a PhD research project funded by the collaborative doctoral awards through the AHRC training grant scheme, and supervised by senior staff at both Oxford Archaeology North (OAN) and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). This case study shows how an initial collaboration can lead to future partnership working as well as deliver outcomes for professional career development and public dissemination.
  10. Berkeley Castle Project, 2020-2025 – A collaboration between the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology University of Bristol and the Berkeley Castle Charitable Trust, and the communities of Berkeley town and Bristol city on excavations that shed new light on the long and eventful history of the castle its landscape.
  11. Bottles concealed and revealed: examining the phenomena of stone and glass ‘witch bottles’ and their concealment in mid to late 17th-century England – A collaborative research project between MOLA and the University of Hertfordshire to address gaps in understanding regarding the origins and development of the practice of object concealment from 1700-1900. The project was funded by an Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Standard Grant.
  12. Wrestling with Social Value: An examination of methods and approaches for assessing social value in heritage management and conservation (Jan 2018 – March 2021) – A Collaborative Doctoral Award project between Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and the University of Stirling that strengthened practices in the assessment and application of social and communal values.
  13. University of Oxford National Trust Partnership – A research partnership between the University of Oxford and National Trust established to create new opportunities for interdisciplinary research, knowledge exchange, public engagement with research and training at both institutions and beyond.
  14. Collaborating on the coast: making heritage for the future at Orford Ness – A collaboration between CITiZAN and Heritage Futures at National Trust Orford Ness between 2016-2019. It allowed for more opportunities, space and encouragement to consider more deeply the value of preserving and engaging with heritage.
  15. Mancetter-Hartshill pottery kilns digital archive – This collaboration was inspired by the Warwickshire-based Atherstone Civic Society and Friends of Atherstone Heritage. It brought to light the unpublished archive from Kay Kartley’s 1960s-70s excavations of Roman pottery production through digitisation and deposit in an accessible digital archive, with multiple spin-offs including a Heritage Centre and the potential for a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership.
  16. Cultural Heritage Through Time (CHT2)This example of a multi-stakeholder collaboration, involving partners from across the UK and Europe, enabled the generation of 4D digital models of cultural heritage sites and the development of methodology for future monitoring of heritage evolution as a means of safeguarding.
  17. Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience: Creation, Consumption and ExchangeA multi-stakeholder, cross sector collaboration project to examine the role and practice of temporary visual art commissioning within heritage properties in Britain today, mapping the current landscape and exploring the impact of this activity on its producers and audiences.
  18. WallCAP – Hadrian’s Wall Community Archaeology ProjectA multi-stakeholder collaborative project to build a community-based network, guided and trained by professionals, to foster local engagement and social investment in heritage landscapes and securing heritage for future generations.
  19. Inter-Disciplinary Fieldwork – This research project from Historic Environment Scotland and researchers at Glasgow School of Art looked at the intersections of art and archaeology. It has been exploring different approaches and methods to surveying and recording past lives.
  20. Reading LandscapeHistoric Environment Scotland and Glasgow School of Art have an ongoing creative collaboration partnership and work together through the ‘Reading Landscape Research Group’. Their recent projects include an exhibition and symposium on ‘Land, Histories and Transformation’.
Sources of advice and guidance on forming collaboration
Other relevant initiatives:
  • HistBEKE– A project organised by the University of Liverpool and funded by Historic England, it aims to ‘provide a framework for knowledge exchange for the historic built environment’.