Un-authorised View: Leveraging volunteer expertise in heritage

Educational Technology

Collaborators Northumbria University


We leverage volunteer expertise in Heritage by getting them to tell their own unauthorised stories of heritage sites.


We used a mix of focus groups, and co-design workshops working with volunteers at an 18th-century Baroque country house, in the North-East of England.


The volunteers used VR and AR technology to tell their own un-authorized stories of the heritage site they worked in.

Volunteers are an underused but important resource in presenting plural heritages within large heritage organizations. We report on a qualitative study at a heritage site in the UK which combined explorations of volunteers’ practice and digital design.

This study comprised of observational fieldwork with co-creative activities across eight linked workshops, where we explored the site with volunteers, and how we might leverage existing working structures to make new design prototypes.

Our collective account contributes new insights on working with volunteers and the opportunities that arise from acknowledging them as genius loci – recognising them as experts of their own experience and capturing and supporting their skills as storytellers. Working with the volunteering staff in a co-design process we created innovative designs including our Un-authorised View, which draws out the unique perspectives and the personal stories at heritage destinations.

We focus our work on an 18th century Baroque country house, in the North-East of England.

We learned that to bring out and ultimately present un-authorised stories, participants should be trusted with and empowered to use technology on their own terms. We move beyond collecting their stories and instead give the ability to record and curate these for themselves.

We highlight the importance of spending time with participating communities to familiarize them with the technologies they find interesting. This opened possibilities for improved interplay between the authorised and personal stories, thus, shaping the technology and its content.


Un-authorised View: Leveraging Volunteer Expertise in Heritage

  1. Violeta Tsenova
  2. Gavin Wood
  3. Andrea Dolfini
  4. Annie Tindley
  5. David Kirk

2020CHI '20: Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems