Cornerstone Heritage projects

Find out more about our projects, past and present

Live projects

Bodmin Prison Museum

Together with students in Law we are currently working with Bodmin Jail Museum to help develop an archive catalogue and track down and enhance material related to some of the cases and narratives presented at the museum’s exhibition.

Students are currently reviewing documents found at the museum including death certificates and case summaries related to prisoners who were executed or transported; deeds and title for the prison buildings and financial accounts in respect of the management of the prison.

For more information contact Kim Stevenson.

Material culture at Saltram House

In collaborative partnership with the National Trust’s Saltram House and Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, undergraduate history students led by Jonathan Mackintosh are developing their skills through hands-on engagement with artefacts and documents at Saltram House, the Georgian country house of the Parker family on the outskirts of Plymouth.

The work was challenging, requiring students to take creative initiative in order to work with, understand and interpret things - material culture - some of which were being accessed or opened for the first time.

For further information please contact Jonathan Mackintosh or see the history homepage for more information on student activities.

The Vicinity Project

“Tourism proxemics and software systems for improving heritage management walking routes on city breaks”

Short city-break holidays for cultural tourism can create a disorientation for holidaymakers. They arrive at the hotel, often in the evening of the first day and do not have time to find their bearings. The following day a whole morning can be lost looking for the museum, monument, garden or visitor attraction at the top of their list. As they walk there, just two streets away may have been an exciting point of interest unknown to them. 

Working in the French town of Nantes, Charles Mansfield, Denise Maior Barron and Andy Annamalai have developed Loceme software (trialled by Professor Jim Laidlaw at the University of Edinburgh) for use in smartphone technology in heritage trails and museum guides. For further information contact Charles Mansfield.

Tavistock World Heritage Site

Tavistock is the principal urban area in the UNESCO Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscapes World Heritage Site. The present day town centre was laid out by the Dukes of Bedford in the early to mid nineteenth century to provide housing and civic amenities for the mining community who lived in Tavistock and worked the Russell family's extensive and lucrative copper and arsenic mines.

The town's architecture and planning are based on the principles of the estate model village but its urban scale and focus on mining is exceptional. History at Plymouth is working with heritage consultants Gamble Fearon Partners to develop community-based research projects and is contributing to the design and interpretation strategy for the new WHS Gateway Centre, based in the former Guildhall Hall, scheduled to open in 2018. 

For further information contact Daniel Maudlin.

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

Cornerstone at Powderham Castle

The history department at Plymouth is currently engaged on a two-year project at Powderham Castle, Devon, in partnership with the Historic Preservation program at the University of Pennsylvania. The project has several strands including community projects, field studies - commencing in June 2017 - to investigate the historic fabric and material culture of the castle and surrounding landscape, cataloguing the castle library; producing a database of archived documents relating to the castle and Courtenay family (held in the castle and at local and national archives), and the development of new heritage interpretation content and platforms (including digital media). 

Read more about the Powderham Castle project

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.

Underwater heritage assets

Funded by Historic England, the aim of this project is to assess the enforcement capacity available to be applied to the conservation of underwater heritage assets in the English Inshore Plan Area. Currently a number of bodies have a legislative remit to take enforcement action in relation to their relevant sectors – such as fisheries, licensing, pollution and immigration or excise. While there are some examples of inter-agency, co-operative endeavour, on the whole the picture is not formally coordinated, to the extent perhaps it could be. 

Read more about the underwater heritage assets project


Reading in the provinces: Plymouth Public Library, 1810-2016

This project focused on the early history of Plymouth Public Library, a subscription library founded in 1810 and still in existence.

Plymouth with its naval base had benefited greatly from the ongoing Napoleonic Wars. This wealth enabled the founding of the library and the erection of a lavish purpose-built building. The popular history of Plymouth tends to be one of destruction and focuses on the city being heavily bombed in the second world war (the library building, too, was destroyed and the library now operates from different premises). 

This project sought to establish a complementary narrative: Plymouth’s oldest surviving institution, its proprietary library, was founded with money gained through war, enabling the flourishing of culture and the dissemination of knowledge, from the early nineteenth century to the present day. 

For further information please contact Annika Bautz.

Everyday offending in Plymouth

A team led by Professor Kim Stevenson is currently working on a pilot project examining the policing and moral regulation of everyday offending and crime in Plymouth 1880-1920 utilising archival material and local newspaper reportage and also exploring the institutional heritage - police, prison, courts - associated with offending.

Read more about the everyday offending in Plymouth project

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

Reconstructive Victoriana

Simon Lock, Lecturer in Digital Art and Technology, is currently engaged in a number of projects involving reconstructive Victoriana: recreating vintage devices such as music players, cinematic equipment, stills cameras and fortune telling machines. As part of this work, he is a resident photographer at Morwellham Quay living museum, part of the UNESCO Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscapes World Heritage Site.

For further information contact Simon Lock.

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?


S-130: the last surviving German S-Boat

Since 2005 Harry Bennett has been involved in a heritage project to safeguard and document an historic ship. The ship in question is S-130: the last surviving German motor torpedo boat (S-Boat) of the Second World War.

His work has involved researching the history of the boat and contextualising its development and history for the purposes of restoration. That in turn has meant working with international archives and the family that built the boat and working through their private holdings including textual, photographic and film records. It has also meant working with public, including veterans groups, heritage organisations, documentary makers and the media interested in the vessel's involvement in a 1944 tragedy involving American troops off the South Devon Coast. That involvement culminated in the definitive documentary on the disaster: America's Secret D-Day Disaster.

For further information contact Harry Bennett or watch an interview with Harry on YouTube.