A World of Immersive Experiences: The Scottish Heritage Partnership

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Leo Konstantelos

    University of Glasgow

  2. 2. Murray Pittock

    University of Glasgow

  3. 3. Agiatis Benardou

    Athena Research & Innovation Center in Information Communication & Knowledge Technologies, University of Glasgow

  4. 4. Maria Economou

    University of Glasgow

  5. 5. Lorna Hughes

    University of Glasgow

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

With ca. 17 million visitors annually to culture and heritage sites in Glasgow and Edinburgh alone, tourism is a major driver of the Scottish economy - it is worth some £6bn annually, ca. 5% of Scottish GDP; and supports 196,000 jobs
Scottish Government20171(Scottish Government, 2017)1112Scottish Government,Introduction to TourismStatistics topics2018October 222017October 13websitehttps://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Tourism?>
. The centrality of cutting-edge immersive experiences for tourism, the heritage industry and audience development has been increasingly evident in recent years, with the development of

Ars Electronica Linz

(1996); the

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum


The Battle of Bannockburn

(2013), and other venues.

Immersive experiences describe all forms of perceptual and interactive use of technologies and physical spaces in order to create a
hybrid reality
, in which visitors feel “part of the experience as a whole, encompassing all spheres of attention” – immersion can be Sensory (audio-visual, olfactory, haptic elements), Challenge-based (interaction) and/or Imaginative (narrative and interpretation)
Ermi20052(Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005)2247Ermi, LauraMäyrä, FransFundamental Components of the Gameplay Experience: Analysing Immersion2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play2005Vancouver, CanadaPaperhttp://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/fundamental-components-of-the-gameplay-experience-analysing-immersion/?>

For tourism and cultural heritage, immersion represents a pathway towards a
mixed-mode experience economy
, which reflects the nuances of differing experience dimensions embodied by different elements of a site
Suntikul20163(Suntikul & Jachna, 2016)3317Suntikul, WantaneeJachna, TimothyThe co-creation/place attachment nexusTourism ManagementTourism Management276-28652C2016?>
. In this mixed-mode experience economy, visitor engagement combines activities across the “Realms of an Experience”.

Despite the opportunities afforded by immersive experiences – and relevant investment in such experiences in Scotland – there has been a lack of substantive evidence (from scholarship and practice) to evaluate current approaches and guide future developments:

How successful are the approaches to immersive technologies at major heritage sites in Scotland, in terms of outcomes against business plan expectations and in terms of visitor response? What kinds of future development are supported by existing evidence?

The Scottish Heritage Partnership

These questions are the remit of the

Scottish Heritage Partnership

project. The Scottish Heritage partnership is a 2018-19 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council/Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project at the University of Glasgow, aiming to address the existing practice and future potential of immersive experiences and technologies in the culture and heritage industry in Scotland.

The team is led by Professor Murray Pittock, with Professor Lorna Hughes and Dr Maria Economou as the Co-investigators and Dr Agiatis Benardou and Dr Leo Konstantelos as Research Associates. The National Trust for Scotland, Glasgow Museums and The National Library of Scotland are key partners in the project and so is our industry partner, Soluis Heritage.

The objectives of the project are to:

Build on and expand existing partnerships to explore the efficacy of immersive experiences at major heritage sites.

Build a decision-making tool and gather evidence for policy development.

Explore how we can best harness and shape cutting-edge digital technology and develop effective, meaningful content into leading edge inclusive and impactful immersive experiences.

Outline the kind of social/group experiences facilitated or limited by immersive technology, and study how these affect the visitor experience overall.

Examine the consequences of service-wide adoption of immersive technology in Scotland's leading heritage and collections resource provider, Glasgow Life.

Produce a website, a digital decision-making tool, a policy paper and a risk assessment together with:

An evidence-based market model for use with Scottish Government, VisitScotland, local tourist authorities and nongovernmental agencies

A route to developing suitable immersive technologies which can be scaled/developed to meet the criteria identified under (a), in the process benefiting our digital partner, Soluis.

Support National Trust for Scotland, National Library of Scotland and Glasgow Museums' strategic use of their collections in interpretation and exhibitions development.

Our methodology

With support from our partners at Glasgow Museums, the National Trust for Scotland, and the National Library of Scotland, we have designed, collected and processed a substantial corpus of empirical evidence. To date, hundreds of questionnaires have been completed by visitors at six major heritage sites across Scotland, including the Battle of Bannockburn; Culloden Battlefield; the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum; the Riverside Museum; the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; and the NLS at Kelvin Hall. We have conducted observations of visitor experience at Riverside and RBBM, harvested and processed visitor comments from online websites, and we are using secondary analysis of existing visitor experience data to answer the project’s research questions.

Development of an evidence-based, decision-making model was completed. Formulated as a policy and risk assessment document, the model is meant to help heritage institutions identify the kinds of future immersive experiences that are supported by our evidence; as well as assess how to develop effective, meaningful content into leading edge inclusive and impactful immersive experiences.

Our digital partner, Soluis Heritage, developed a visualisation of both the model and project findings, as a decision-making tool to illustrate the wider implications for policy and good practice, making the project’s findings accessible and clearly showing the underlying data and empirical evidence used. This output was made freely available online, as a resource illustrating the creative and critical processes, and key decision points, of developing immersive technologies in a cultural heritage environment.

What have we found:

Our findings provide valuable pointers and evidence on how cultural heritage institutions in Scotland (and beyond) can prepare for dynamic change in the immersive experiences economy. Based on visitor feedback and other data sources, we have investigated the components of perceived value in a digital experience; the audiences most interested in immersive technologies; as well as characteristics of good immersive design and content.

A summary of our findings was presented in a decision-making visualisation, while the entire corpus of evidence informed the development of a policy document for decision-making in incorporating immersive experiences in the cultural heritage sector.

To stay up-to-date with our work, follow us on Twitter


; and visit our

project website



Ermi, L.
, & Mäyrä, F. (2005).
Fundamental Components of the Gameplay Experience: Analysing Immersion
. Paper presented at the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play, Vancouver, Canada. Paper retrieved from http://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/fundamental-components-of-the-gameplay-experience-analysing-immersion/

Perry, S.
, Roussou, M., Economou, M. , Pujol-Tost, L. and Young, H. (2018) Moving Beyond the Virtual Museum: Engaging Visitors Emotionally. In: 23rd International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia (VSMM 2017), Dublin, Ireland, 31 Oct - 04 Nov 2017.

Liarokapis, F.
, Pujol-Tost, L., Killintzis, V., Sylaiou, S., Mania, K. and Paliokas, I. (2017) Exploring the educational impact of diverse technologies in online virtual museums. International Journal of Arts and Technology, 10(1), p. 58.

Economou, M.
and Pujol-Tost, L. (2011) Evaluating the use of virtual reality and multimedia applications for presenting the past. In: Styliaras, G., Koukopoulos, D. and Lazarinis, F. (eds.) Handbook of Research on Technologies and Cultural Heritage. IGI Global, pp. 223-239.

Pittock, M
. and Mackay, P. (2011) Beyond text: Burns, Byron and their material cultural afterlife. Byron Journal, 39(2), pp. 149-162.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.