Public Histories, Material Cultures and Heritage


Dr Jim MacPherson, Dr Iain Robertson, Dr Lucy Dean, Dr Linsey Hunter

Public Histories, Material Cultures and HeritageThe Centre for History does exciting research in collaboration with a range of communities, both in the Highlands and Islands region and outwith.

Doing collaborative research helps communities explore how the past shapes understandings of who we are in the present and how it can be used as a tool for social, political, economic and cultural change. In turn, it also transforms the way in which we do academic research, placing the needs of these communities at the heart of our writing and public engagement.

Much of the Centre’s approach to public history is influenced by the work of our Emeritus Professor, James Hunter, and one of our current Readers, Iain Robertson. In his inaugural lecture at UHI, Professor Hunter argued that an appreciation of the Highlands’ rich and diverse past was essential if people in the region were to have a sustainable future. Building on this, Iain Robertson has pioneered the study of ‘heritage from below’, exploring how communities can have agency in interpreting the past and shaping the present.

These two broad approaches to Highland history inform much of our public history work with communities and organisations across the globe, from Scots in Poland to the United Nations. Our postgraduate research students are at the forefront of this, working collaboratively with a range of local and national bodies, including Historic Environment Scotland, High Life Highland, and Culture Perth & Kinross. Through this collaborative research and the process of co-curation, students and staff at the Centre for History aim to help shape curatorial practice and strategy, policy debate and public understanding of the past.