Memoryscapes Research Project

Jon Swords and colleagues in Architecture & Built Environment, Computer & Information Sciences and Humanities were recently award funding from the AHRC and EPSRC. Below is an outline and you can visit the project website here.


Memoryscapes is funded by the AHRC-EPSRC Immersive Experiences call. As the call document outlines, the focus of the funding round is on:

“…encouraging research proposals exploring immersive experiences in three areas where the UK has world leading creative assets and technology partners [memory, place and performance]. These three areas have arts and humanities research at the core of developing experiences and practices. They also represent areas in which the benefits of research offer significant cultural and economic value for the UK.”

The immersive industry is built around the use of a range of technologies including virtual and augmented reality, 3D audio effects, haptic technologies, machine olfaction, gesture and speech recognition, and bespoke software.

Our project seeks to develop a new framework to support the creation and application of immersive memoryscapes: multi-sensory and participatory experiences within public spaces that re-contextualise heritage assets, and reimagine and reinvigorate public spaces as destinations. These will provide connections with the past along with the capacity for users to contribute feedback and their own memories.

Our framework will combine academic understandings of the construction of these memoryscapes with practical guidelines for their creation and application. It will be scalable and offer not only new pathways for memory based organisations to disseminate their collections, but provide new approaches to enhance urban (re)development projects through the inclusion of immersive and participatory experiences. Through a series of interviews, desk-based research, collaborative workshops and public engagement, we will explore and evaluate ideas, challenges and opportunities for immersive experiences that employ memory assets to reinvigorate place as a destination. By examining the intersection of immersive experiences, memory assets and place, the proposed research aims to establish the potential application of immersive experiences to:

  • re-contextualise and increase access to, and dialogue about memory assets by bringing them out of the museum/gallery/archive and presenting them in new ways and in new locations
  • reimagine and reinvigorate our public spaces contributing to their character and identity, and our relationship to those places by utilising memory assets
056357:Newcastle United Football Club St. James Park Newcastle upon Tyne Unknown c.1950
From Newcastle City Library Photographic Collection

Our key outputs will be:

  • New interdisciplinary partnerships which can go forward to the next round of funding to develop immersive experiences
  • A framework for understanding the generation of immersive and participatory memoryscapes, including ‘prototype(s)’ to illustrate potential ways forward

To help us we’re working with two project partners:

Partner 1 – Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums is a major regional museum, art gallery and archives service based in North East England. They operate nine museums, support a further 55 and manage the region’s archives. Their collections are of international importance in archives, art, science and technology, archaeology, military and social history, fashion and natural sciences. TWAM will provide valuable insights and access to their collections, as well as expertise on user experience and curation of pasts.

Partner 2 – FaulknerBrowns Architects

FaulknerBrowns are a multi-award winning architectural practice with over 50 years of experience working nationally and internationally. They are recognized for their design, masterplanning, placemaking and strategic expertise, and have worked on multi-million pound projects for public and private sector clients. FaulknerBrowns bring to the project extensive research from their collaboration with Newcastle City Council on masterplanning the development of Newcastle’s principal retail area.

We’ll also be working with immersive experience providers (including VRTGO members), urban designers, heritage organisations, civic bodies, artists, designers and academics

The project lasts for nine months and will include a series of workshops to develop our outputs. If you’re interested in this project we’ll have a dedicated twitter and website up and running soon. In the meantime feel free to contact us.

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