Our research inspires and promotes public understanding and enjoyment. To develop new and improved ways to communicate our research, we need to understand our audiences better, to define what they use our research for and what format they want it in. This will allow us to use the right approaches, technologies and media to communicate and engage with more people through our research.
Heritage sector research has a wide and diverse audience, including owners of heritage assets, and their advisors, decision-makers and planners, those working in other industries such as construction, power generation and agriculture, as well as other researchers, research groups, funding bodies and the general public. Each has differing requirements of research from the heritage sector, whether it is in a professional capacity, or more for enjoyment and recreation. Engaging audiences is about raising awareness and demonstrating the benefits of heritage to society – showing that across England, heritage gives people a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of beauty, a sense of pride and a sense of well-being. Sector research must resonate with people so they in turn see heritage’s benefit to society.
Research will have impact if it helps us better understand the needs of our audiences – who they are, how they receive information, how they want to use it and how it inspires them – and look for evidence to show what impact the stories we can tell has on people. Better communication will engage a broader audience in all aspects of our work.
What is it about heritage that inspires peoples’ interest?
How do people, in a personal or a professional capacity, receive and use information, knowledge and insights which emerge from the study and care of the historic environment?
How can we provide multiple narratives that reflect the diversity of modern society and attitudes, and meet the needs of many audiences? How do we include the different perspectives of the audience in defining and explaining significance?
Heritage research, stories, insights, and case studies are made publically available through a rapidly growing number of different channels. Established routes such as conferences, journal articles, monograph publications and record systems, have been in continuous use for over a century, and retain great authority. Broadcast media and websites have been used to publicise heritage research for decades but new approaches, including social media, blogs, wikis, apps, webinars and podcasts, are now becoming increasingly common. Leading edge technologies such augmented and virtual reality, 3D modelling and printing, and haptic interfaces to provide touchable digital content are available. Adopting and adapting these approaches to publishing the results of heritage sector research may change the nature of the interaction between researchers and audiences in exciting and unanticipated ways.
Research will have impact if it helps us to keep abreast of developing media appropriate to reach the many audiences for heritage sector research and to develop innovative ways of providing high quality material, while ensuring the longevity of our research results and archive.
What new technologies can be deployed to unlock access to our historic environment and how can they best be brought to bear?
How can we learn from other organisations and sectors that produce content for public audiences?
How do we track the impact of new methods of communication?
How can innovative publication routes develop the archival and authoritative quality of established routes?