Category Archives: museums

Launch of the Digital Cultural Heritage cluster in the Centre for Data, Culture & Society

I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Digital Cultural Heritage cluster, part of the Centre for Data, Culture and Society. The cluster has been in development for the past year, and I’m the cluster lead/facilitator.

There are about 25 University of Edinburgh colleagues associated with the cluster so far, and we hope it will continue to grow as more people who are doing work in this area get involved. In addition to providing a way to amplify the University’s work in this area, we are also aiming to host workshops, showcases, roundtables and other events (including some to be co-organised with the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network); facilitate research networking and exchanges; and develop exhibitions and teaching resources.

You can visit the Cluster’s new web site at

Digital Cultural Heritage cluster home page

new journal article: digital co-production, hospitality and mobilities

Carnival Scene, Francesco Montelatici. Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture collections, David Laing Bequest (on loan to the Scottish National Gallery).

My most recent article was published last week, and it bridges the recent Artcasting project with work I am currently developing about what ‘open futures’ for digital cultural heritage may look like, and why this matters.

Ross, J. (2019). Casting a line: digital co-production, hospitality and mobilities in cultural heritage settingsCurator: The Museum Journal, 61/4. 575-592.

I’m fond of this paper. It came about because of the co-production strand at the Association of Critical Heritage Studies’ conference in 2016, where I first talked about the idea of digital co-production and got really useful feedback from some fantastic researchers. Since then I’ve been developing the idea further, and refining the key elements of digital co-production.

In a nutshell, I argue that digital co-production:

  unfolds across multiple times and spaces;

  involves the ‘unknowable other’;

  challenges the stability of relationships;

  invites a rethinking of hospitality.

I use the example of the Artcasting project to illustrate these four elements. Ultimately, the theoretical contribution is the bringing together of hospitality and mobilities to consider hospitality as a ‘trajectory’, building on David Bell‘s (2012) notion of ‘host-spots’.

 In the context of co-production, trajectory invites us to consider movements of people into, through and away from the museum, taking up different positions in relation to shifting host/guest trajectories as they enter, leave, and reencounter it. A range of practices in relation to access and use of digital cultural heritage objects offers many possible trajectories of hospitality. The position of ‘host’ shifts from the museum to the aggregator web site to the user themselves as control over and location of the digital object moves. Guesting is constructed and reconfigured through timelines, searches, mentions, likes and upvotes. The user-as-host might even extend a welcome to the museum-as-guest by mentioning it on their personal feed.

All of these trajectories coalesce around an object whose meanings are shifting in the process. I think the role of the museum in this context is to set up co-productive situations that can allow for multiple hostings and guestings, and (following Doron 2009) inhabit more uncertain, less secure positions in relation to its role as ‘host’. (Artcasting was a very interesting example of this multiplicity.)




Bell, D. 2012. “Moments of Hospitality.” In Mobilizing Hospitality: The Ethics of Social Relations in a Mobile World, edited by J. G. Molz and S. Gibson. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Doron, E. 2009. “At Hospitality’s Threshold: From Social Inclusion to Exilic Education.” Curator: The Museum Journal 52(2): 16982.


Shout outs to Melissa Terras, Smita Kheria, Christopher Ganley,  Mairi Lafferty, Ashley Beamer and Louise Rasmussen for all their contributions to the thinking-in-progress, to Phil Sheail for the work we did on hospitality that informed this paper, to Sian Bayne for reading and commenting, and to Jeremy Knox, Claire Sowton and Chris Speed for everything Artcasting related. 🙂 

‘Mobilising connections with art’ – a new open access journal article about the Artcasting project

Example of an artcast. Artwork: Self Portrait, 1975 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

My newest article has been published in the International Journal of Heritage Studies. Its focus is on interpreting data from the Artcasting project, a 2015-16 research project that was funded by the AHRC to understand how people’s connections with art can be visualised and used to enrich evaluation practice in museums and galleries. The article is open access and available now

Ross, J., Knox, J., Sowton, C. & Speed, C. (2018) Mobilising connections with art: Artcasting and the digital articulation of visitor engagement with cultural heritage. International Journal of Heritage Studies.

The article looks at how digital methods in cultural heritage settings can help evoke and illuminate the richness of visitor engagement and interpretation. Through the process of analysing the Artcasting data, we found it really useful to look for ways to make sense of difference in visitors’ responses to artworks. We did that in this article by conducting both a thematic analysis, and a more mobilities-informed analysis of the same dataset. We argue that:

The Artcasting project focused on supporting visitors to articulate their responses to artworks using a method that was provocative, performative, and attuned to the mobilities of interpretation, engagement and ownership. This mobility, and the sparking of expressions of ownership through the question of where and when an artwork belonged, created new articulations… The capture of these articulations constitutes a contribution and valuable step forward in our understanding of how heritage is performed at an individual level through the production of memory and messages; and at a collective level through the hypermobility of interpretation. (Ross et al 2018, p.17)

I’m pleased and proud to see this article in print – many thanks to my co-researchers and -authors Claire Sowton, Jeremy Knox and Chris Speed; and to our research partners from the ARTIST ROOMS programme at National Galleries of Scotland, Tate and the Bowes Museum.

newest project

A quick note about the research project I’m currently involved in – the National Museums Online Learning Project. This involves a consortium of English national museums:

  • British Museum
  • Imperial War Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Royal Amouries Museum
  • Sir John Soane’s Museum
  • Tate
  • Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Wallace Collection

working together to develop new ways of getting their digital collections used in schools, and by adult learners. My role is as part of the University of Edinburgh’s research team, evaluating the project (formatively and summatively).

There’s more about the project here: