Cornerstone Heritage

The University of Plymouth's research centre in cultural heritage – how we live with, use and understand the past through things, spaces, traditions and memory. 

Our researchers exchange ideas and form new partnerships across the fields of heritage studies, art history, history, architecture, business, tourism, geography, 3D and graphic design, and digital technologies. 

We work in co-productions with our partner organisations – museums, galleries, historic sites and landscapes – to develop new projects, test ideas and prototypes and produce new research.

With the support of The Arts Institute we host a range of activities that include network events, visiting speakers, research showcases and an annual postgraduate symposium hosted by the National Trust at Saltram House. 

Cornerstone Heritage is also home to Cornerstone Praxis our heritage research-practice unit.

Featured projects

Creative Recovery

Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who fled conflict and other adversities in their homelands are facing challenging times here in the UK as they are trying to integrate and build a new life. Being uprooted from your home and community is not easy especially when you are faced with new struggles in life around navigating the UK Migration System, searching for adequate housing and most importantly, defining who you are again in this world.

Creative Recovery shows the narrative that the media misses from war-torn countries and others suffering from conflict. A narrative that visually represents cultures and people from across the world and how they feel it is appropriate to represent their homes and homelands as heritage. Through maps, photographs and 3D models, the project aimed to answer important and challenging questions like: Where is home? And, What is home to you? These questions were amplified for all those who have crossed the borders into Europe from the Middle East and Africa in recent years. While such questions have dominated anthropological and sociological research, it has rarely been answered visually and spatially.

Funded by the European Cultural Foundation and in partnership with the British Red Cross, Associate Professor Dr Sana Murrani worked alongside Photojournalist Carey Marks with 12 refugees and asylum seekers in the Southwest of England on a participatory action research project that visualises the meaning of ‘home’ for the 12 protagonists. Through a series of nine workshops over nine months, the team mapped familiar journeys participants took as part of their everyday life in their homelands. These journeys were overlayed with old photographs and personal items while Carey was photographing the participants to show that they are more than just ‘refugees’. The work was exhibited as part of Refugee Week 2019 and appeared on BBC Spotlight Southwest as well as on local radio channels.

For further information please contact Dr Sana Murrani.

The Lost Index: NATMUS 

The Lost Index: NATMUS is the latest in a series of locative iPhone apps produced by James Brocklehurst and Emma Whittaker. Sited within museums, the apps incorporate iBeacon technology, binaural sound recordings and perceptual illusions, in conjunction with real-world artefacts from the museum’s collections, to create imaginary playable experiences. Forming part of research that investigates situated narrative experiences, the apps offer new narrative frameworks and an innovative approach to archive and heritage interpretation.

Read more about The Lost Index: NATMUS


The Wallflower Project

In 2020, a series of cultural projects will help Plymouth celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower. One of them will see a group of artists creating pieces of public art which explore aspects of the city’s history and bring them to a new audience. It will see a series of murals created across the city between now and 2020, in conjunction with heritage and community groups and furthering Plymouth’s burgeoning identity as a city of culture.

Read more about The Wallflower Project

CobBauge Project

Led by Professor Steve Goodhew, a traditional building method is being repurposed through an international research project with a view to constructing a new generation of energy efficient homes.

Read more about the CobBauge Project

The Plymouth LGBT Archive

The Plymouth LGBT Archive project is an award winning community archive created to capture and explore rich life and histories from the Plymouth LGBT communities past and present.

Read more about the Plymouth LGBT Archive project

Song Collectors Pathway project

Oral traditions, from bothy ballads to football chants, surround us at home and abroad. Yet such practices are often most overlooked and undervalued in the digital age. The Song Collectors Pathway project will help bolster the song collecting movement by training participants in tasks including researching, recording, indexing, editing, archiving and publishing. The Song Collectors Collective (SCC) is a broad association of individuals brought together by a common desire to celebrate, document and support singing and oral tradition. The SCC offering includes an online archive of recordings, a support network for song collectors, and a number of annual events. The collective is at the forefront of efforts to document singing practices in the UK and Ireland. 

Read more about Song Collectors Pathway project

ChitChat: Crime, History and Institutions: Transdisciplinary Conversations in Heritage, Art and Transmedia

#CHITCHAT? is a sandpit for research collaboration and forum for the development of tools that encourage public engagement with our research findings and other heritage materials.

At its core, this initiative will engage academic researchers, industry professionals, heritage stakeholders, and the general public in transdisciplinary conversations around Crime, History and Public Institutions through transmedia methods, sources, and platforms.

Read more about #CHITCHAT?

Anywhere - a mythogeography of South Devon

Drawing on almost twenty years of exploratory walking in South Devon, performance maker and ambulatory researcher Phil Smith is at present (late 2016) using the device of the semi-fictional journey of a female researcher who becomes detached from a conference to create a portrait of part of South Devon through its ‘anomalies’ - including, leading nineteenth century technological innovation, modelling modernist suburbia and a modern village, a narrative of extreme ideological racism in its literary tradition, the centralisation of its heritage and the decay and neglect of its heritage margins. With a provisional publication date of 2017. 

For further information contact Phil Smith.