Research at the International Centre for Heritage

Our interdisciplinary and international partnerships focus on 3 research themes, which reflect our strengths, expertise and passions - Placemaking and Wellbeing; Co-Production and Creativity; and Shaping Perspectives and Policy.

Connecting these themes are the ICH aims of supporting sustainability, heritage capital (human, social and economic), intangible and tangible heritage, and digital heritage. 

Placemaking and Wellbeing

This theme reflects how heritage impacts memory, identity and belonging, and contributes to people’s and communities' sense of place and wellbeing. It considers the role of heritage spaces as part of wider human rights, including how access to heritage can improve people’s lives for the better. 

Research Projects: 

Art for Anxiety Relief (Katharine and Harold Fisher Anxiety Research Fund, 2022-2023): In partnership with Anxiety UK, the team researched the impacts of Anxiety UK’s Art for Anxiety Relief online creative courses on attendee anxiety, stress and anxiety-based depression. The research provided evidence to enable Anxiety UK to understand how and why attending Art for Anxiety Relief (AfAR) courses had changed attendee’s mental wellbeing and anxiety levels. The research provided new evidence of the therapeutic benefits of creative and cultural arts interventions to treat mental health symptoms and manage anxiety. Read the report (pdf).

Building Capacity for Heritage and Tourism-led Sustainable Development and Resilience in the Former Aral Sea Region, Karakalpastan (Nottingham Trent University-Global Heritage Theme Research Award: In collaboration with Nottingham Trent University) The project sets out a strategy for heritage-led tourism and economic development in the former Aral Sea area of Karakalpakstan. It focuses upon the former coastal fishing port of Muynak, now a desert location with problems accentuated by climate change, in need of community-led development to develop its tourism potential based on its threatened heritage assets. The aim is to scope the cultural and natural heritage, organisational and community resources, to identify capacity-building pathways for further strategic funding and building resilience in this UNDP priority area. 

Co-Production and Creativity

This captures the creative nature of and mechanisms by which the process and performance of heritage occurs. It represents the multifaceted engagement in alternative ‘community’ dialogues and embraces diverse global heritage perspectives and creative mechanisms to engender ownership, agency, and belonging.  

Research Projects:

Heritage Sites and Transformative Partnerships (IAA AHRC, 2023-Ongoing): The international UK/US multidisciplinary partnership project, between community members, professionals and academics, has applied the COM-B (behaviour change) model to the historic estates of Biltmore Estate and Chatsworth House in order to design localised and culturally relevant strategies to encourage more diverse participation in heritage, to support their wider impact on human, social and economic capital. This has involved working with diverse communities and non-traditional audiences to ascertain the potential barriers that prevent people visiting heritage places. This model has helped identify different intervention types to effect different barriers/enablers to a given behaviour, including education, persuasion, enablement and environmental restructuring. The projects team has applied and measure the impact of specific intervention types, including the community co-creation of new people centred narratives that reflect the hidden histories of these heritage sites. 

Sounding by Heritage: Sino-Vietnamese Musical Collaboration in the UK is an AHRC-IAA (Impact Acceleration Award) project directed by Alexander M. Cannon (Music). The project draws on Cannon’s recent book Seeding the Tradition: Musical Creativity in Southern Vietnam (Wesleyan University Press, 2022) and applies its conclusions to foster musical collaboration between musicians based in the US and the UK. In May 2023, for instance, the project funded improvisation workshops on the Edgbaston campus. These involved two members of the music collective TANGRAM, including composer Alex Ho and yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) player Mantawoman, and San Francisco-based musician of traditional Vietnamese music Van-Anh Vo. For two days, the musicians developed a series of improvisation exercises and themes, and then used them to improvise new music for an audience in the Bramall Music Building. By exploring multiple models of musical creativity from several musical traditions of Asia, the musicians formulated dynamic pieces of music that drew on past knowledge, shared collective know-how among the musicians, and engaged with the sounds of contemporary life. Further events will be planned for the future.

Shaping Perspectives and Policy

This applies multidisciplinary perspectives, approaches and strategies to heritage to inform and shape international, national, regional and organisational policies. Working with government agencies and heritage organisations it provides evidence-based research by which creative industries, including cultural heritage can be a key player in supporting global challenges and policies.

Research Projects:

Peatland heritage: Through a range of projects, with funding ranging from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to the British Academy, and the Yorkshire Wildlife Fund, research focuses on understanding and communicating the heritage value of peatlands and other wetland landscapes. A range of threats to peatlands, not least from peat cutting and climate change, present significant heritage challenges, alongside those of biodiversity and climate mitigation. Peat provides unparalleled potential for the preservation of ancient organic material which is typically absent from other archaeological sites. From objects to trackways and even the perfectly preserved human remains, or bog bodies, these landscapes offer rare and often visceral glances into the lives of ancient peoples. However, finding sites within these environments is extremely challenging. The research extends from reconstructing the scene of events of possible human sacrifice in later prehistory, to providing evidence to support schemes of landscape restoration in the present. Always working in cross disciplinary and cross sector partnerships, and through collaboration with local communities, this research aims to understand the relationships between people and dynamic landscapes in the past and for the present.

International Centre for Heritage

  • Members of the Centre

    Academics from across the University working on heritage themes

  • Postgraduate study

    Our courses provide training for people embarking on, or developing careers in, many aspects of heritage.

  • Distance learning in Heritage Studies

    Our programmes are designed to keep you in touch with fellow students and tutors and give you good opportunities to meet them at our study schools.