Heritage Research

Heritage has been identified by the AHRC as one of three priority areas, alongside Design and Languages.  Over the past few years AHRC has built upon its previous investments and enhanced its work in this area through partnerships with other agencies, targeted calls and collaborations both in the UK and internationally. Examples of this are the AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Research Programme and AHRC’s leading role in the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) on Heritage and Global Change.

The AHRC has developed a strategy for heritage research involving leadership and support for the continued development of heritage research as a vibrant, innovative, highly collaborative and cross-disciplinary research field. It draws on insights from across the arts and humanities as well as connecting with developments in science, technology and practice, leading to significant wider impacts and benefits both within the heritage sector and beyond.

The strategy takes a broad view of cultural heritage, incorporating, for example, the tangible, intangible, digital, intellectual, artistic, and the connections between them, and of heritage-related processes.  The strategy also recognises that there are important research and practice issues surrounding the conceptualisation and use of the term ‘heritage’. Full details of the strategy can be found in the AHRC Heritage Priority Area Strategy (PDF, 120KB).

Priority Research Areas

In developing the strategy the following broad and inter-connecting research themes have emerged as key areas for potential further development and opportunities:

  • Values and Cultural Heritage – eg: what counts as cultural heritage, how is it chosen, how does this change in increasingly diverse/plural societies, how does it shape identities, how and when are different types of heritage recognised, experienced, embraced, represented or ignored?
  • Connecting People with Heritage – eg: how, why and with what results do people engage with their cultural heritage and why does it matter to them? What new forms of, and opportunities for, engagement with heritage are emerging (e.g. sensory heritage, heritage gamification)?
  • Sustainable Cultural Heritage – eg: are the paradigms of heritage protection that have served us well in the past are equally fit to respond to the challenges of the future? What new paradigms are emerging for managing / governing / making decisions about /engaging/ safeguarding/ adapting our cultural heritage in a rapidly changing world?
  • Innovative Use and Re-Use of Heritage – eg: how can heritage be used as a resource for cultural, social and economic wellbeing beyond tourism and conservation? How can we support innovative use of tangible and intangible heritage, heritage skills (e.g. crafts) and heritage research?
  • Intangible, Emerging, Hidden and Contested Heritages – eg: how might emerging forms of future heritage be identified more effectively? How might intangible heritages be more sustainably conserved and exploited in the future? How can arts and humanities research contribute to processes which uncover ‘hidden’ heritages, rediscover ‘lost’ heritages?
  • Changing Heritage Economies – eg: how can research further enrich heritage experiences and encounters and enhance the contribution of heritage to the growth of the experience economy? How can we better realise the potential for inter-disciplinary and collaborative heritage research to inspire creativity and innovation which contributes to the creative economy?

Further information on any thematic or targeted funding opportunities, events, debates etc. will be added to this webpage as they emerge.

We are keen to point out there are of course opportunities to explore these areas within the AHRC’s responsive mode funding, such as Networking Grants, Large Research Grants and Fellowships, all of which operate without formal deadlines so proposals can be submitted at any time.


Karen Buchanan, Strategy and Development Manager (Histories, Cultures and Heritage): k.buchanan@ahrc.ac.uk or 01793 416032