Co-designing digitally enhanced cultural heritage experiences, audience and postgraduate student engagement

Noel Burgess, Kylie Budge, Jonothan Allen, Kate Richards, Rachel Hendery

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


This report presents the efforts of an 18-month research collaboration between the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and Western Sydney University (WSU) between January 2020 – June 2021. The research occurred across three domains: exhibition content, audience research, and student involvement, with outcomes associated with each specific area. This research was undertaken as an experiment to inform the Trust’s broader and evolving digital strategy.
Regarding exhibition content, outcomes were:
• 1 x Indigenous Dance video, with sound, 6 mins, 50 sec;
• 1 x composited video with 3d animations of the Observatory, observatory instruments and Star Catalogue texts;
• 1 x Augmented Reality animation, 1 min, with 3d modelled objects, star animations and Star Chart;
• 1 x touchscreen interactive map with 17 interactive map locations.
Audience research involved outcomes stemming from:
• Social media analysis;
• Visitor survey;
• Survey of OGH staff and volunteers;
• Observations of visitors in the exhibition spaces at Old Government House (OGH).
Audience research indicates there is much potential in terms of both the organisational use of digital content and media, and in engaging current and prospective visitors in this arena. Observation and survey data, and broader social media analysis indicates there is an appetite on the part of visitors for using digital content in exhibition spaces in cultural and heritage settings such as that on offer at OGH.

The WSU student teams involved in the project produced a variety of engagement, educational and interactive strategies as outcomes:
• An on-site interpretation app that can also address the problem of lack of audience data;
• A photowall for selfies, at the entrance to OGH;
• An ‘elite’ event for potential donors in the form of a Regency Governor’s Ball, with contemporaneous music, early C19th recipes made with local produce, and regency dancing;
• An escape room experience drawing on knowledge about the Governors to effect an escape, and using facsimiles of OGH objects, particularly aimed at groups of young adults, and families;
• A family and youth-friendly race-game through the OGH grounds and Parramatta Park drawing on servants’ and convicts’ jobs and stories as clues and roadblock tasks to be completed by competitors;
• A colonial themed fair with local produce, costumes and contemporaneous music and games; visitors are encouraged to picnic, BYO or purchase from local providores. The event includes a customised Instagram filter for the day.
The following report details specific recommendations pertaining to each of the three project domains to assist the Trust in evolving its digital strategy.
Overall, this project has highlighted the Trust’s position in relation to the digital divide in the cultural sector. Within this context, this moment in time offers a critical opportunity for the Trust to address some of the fundamental issues it faces in relation to the digital. This project has helped to clarify what is needed to bridge the gap from where things stand now in relation to digital production and engagement to where the Trust might like to progress itself as an organisation into the future.
A collaboration between two quite different organisations operating within complex institutional frameworks and agendas has been forged through this project and has opened the door to future collaborations.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyNational Trust of Australia (NSW)
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021
EventEnquiring Minds - Old Government House, Parramatta, Australia
Duration: 26 Feb 20211 Mar 2022


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