Centre for Regional Literature and Culture

Citizen Scholarship in Nottingham: understanding the value of engaging users with heritage and culture

This Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project has been developed in collaboration with the Theatre Royal Nottingham and Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature with the aim of helping literary, cultural and heritage organisations in Nottingham develop ways to harness the enthusiasm of their volunteers and supporters, sharing ownership of their heritage stories with their own team of ‘citizen scholars’.

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Through a series of structured activities and sharing, we aim to support Nottingham organisations to design engagement activities to diversify their audiences and to develop effective strategies for evaluating the impact of such activities.


Since 2015, following on from Jo Robinson’s research on Victorian theatre in Nottingham as part of the AHRC- funded research project, ‘Mapping Performance Culture: Nottingham 1857-1867, researchers from the School of English and Horizon Digital Economy Research at the University of Nottingham have been working with the Nottingham Theatre Royal to help them develop engaging and sustainable means through which to present their history and the stories of those who have performed, worked and visited there. With limited resources, the key to the project (now supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) has been in mobilising volunteers as ‘citizen scholars’ - providing training, encouragement and support to enable the Theatre’s community of friends and well-wishers to participate in the collection, curation and annotation of archive material and oral histories while developing basic research skills. We are now using the Theatre Royal as a case study to develop, test and evaluate the innovative, transferable model, 'Citizen Scholarship' with other cultural organisations in Nottingham. 

Project Aims 

Working with up to 4 organisations within Nottingham through a series of shared network groups and individual visits, our team will offer:

  • focused opportunities to reflect on the organisation’s own needs and desires in terms of history and heritage and in terms of user engagement and cultural value evaluation;
  • supported opportunities to develop and test pilot projects and digital platforms with communities of supporters and volunteers.
  • a series of case studies, guidance and a digital toolbox to provide ongoing inspiration and support.


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The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more.  This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to:

Sharing our findings

The support of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature will help us to share the findings and resources developed through our research with other UNESCO Creative Cities.

We have presented the project at the International Digital Curation Conference in Barcelona in February 2018, and were invited to share our findings at the University of Kent’s ‘Heritage and Wellbeing Symposium’ in June 2018.


More information to follow. 


Centre for Regional Literature and Culture

Trent Building
University of Nottingham
University Park

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5910
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 5924