School of English
Photo of woman with blonde hair gesturing to left of image

Citizen Scholarship:


Transforming organisational culture, practice and volunteer and audience engagement with cultural heritage in the East Midlands

The issue

The East Midlands is a region rich in culture and history, but also a region that has had to contend with historic underfunding in the arts. Local institutions had limited resources, time and capacity to manage their own archives and enable their audiences to connect and engage with their cultural heritage. 

The research 

Robinson led the collaborative project ‘Mapping Performance Culture: Nottingham 1857-67’, using interactive digital mapping to analyse the performance culture of mid-nineteenth-century Nottingham and the local relationships between theatre and audiences.

Robinson’s subsequent research collaboration with Nottingham’s Theatre Royal developed innovative ways of using digital and participatory methods to explore and share the Theatre’s heritage by working with ‘Citizen Scholar’ volunteers to co-research and co-curate its history.   

Spotlight On:
Citizen Scholarship and the Theatre Royal

‘Citizen Scholar’ volunteers developed new skills to co-research and co-curate the Theatre Royal’s history. They sorted and catalogued the analogue archive of materials held by the Theatre and not currently accessible to the public; collected and edited oral histories from key figures in the venue’s story; carried out research across different repositories in the city; created and curated a freely accessible digital collection enabling users to make their own connections and narratives; and developed talks and exhibitions to share their findings with the local public. 

Read more about this research

The impact

Robinson's work demonstrated how new technology could be used to make research available to the local community and integrate local resources, increasing public understanding and appreciation of literary cultural heritage.

The ‘Citizen Scholarship’ model has transformed organisational culture, practice and capacity at the Theatre Royal through upskilling 60 volunteers to co-research and co-curate analogue and digital collections. It has found new ways to share the Theatre’s 150-year history with new local audiences and digital audiences worldwide, as well as inspiring similar projects and approaches elsewhere in the East Midlands.

Key outputs

Selected publications emerging from this research:

  • Robinson, J., (2007). Becoming more Provincial?: The Global and the Local in Theatre History. New Theatre Quarterly. 23(3), 229–40. 
  • Robinson, J., Priestnall, G., Tyler-Jones, R. and Burgess, R., (2011). Mapping the Moment: A Spatio-Temporal Interface for Studying Performance Culture, Nottingham, 1857–1867. International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 5(2), 103–26. 
  • Robinson, J. and Carletti, L., (2019). Our Theatre Royal Nottingham: Co-Creation and Co-Curation of a Digital Performance Collection with Citizen Scholars. International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. 15(2), 128–48. 
  • Robinson, J. and Priestnall, G., (operational 2009-2012). Mapping the Moment: Performance Culture in Nottingham, 1857-67. An open-source interactive digital map. Accompanying Nottingham Central Library exhibition, 2009.
    Watch the explanatory project video.
  • Robinson, J., (2004). Mapping Performance Culture: Locating the Spectator in Theatre History. Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film. 31(1), 3–17. DOI: 10.7227/NCTF.31.1.2.
  • Robinson, J., (2010). Mapping the Place of Pantomime in a Victorian Town. In: J. Davis, ed. Victorian Pantomime: A Collection of Critical Essays. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 137–54.

Research period

2003 - 2019

Key researchers

Jo Robinson (Professor of Drama and Performance)

Key grants

  • AHRC, ‘Mapping Performance Culture: Nottingham 1857-67’ (2006-2009), £289,045, PI: Robinson PI, Co-I: Priestnall.
  • Heritage Lottery Fund, ‘Our Theatre Royal Nottingham: Its Stories, People and Heritage’ (2017-2019), £17,000.
  • AHRC Follow-on Fund for Impact (Cultural Value Highlight Notice), ‘Citizen Scholarship in Nottingham: Understanding the Value of Engaging Users with Heritage and Culture’ (2017-2018), £37,181.60.
  • Heritage Fund, ‘Our Theatre Royal Nottingham – Heritage Co-ordinator & Enhanced Engagement Programme’ (2020-2023), £70,400.

Related projects

Citizen scholarshipIntegrated immersive inclusivenessMaking accessibility accessibleOur Theatre Royal Nottingham




Back to top

School of English

Trent Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900