Lews Castle College UHI and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been awarded a grant of £271,000 from the Scottish Natural Heritage Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund.
The winning Uibhist Virtual Archaeology project is part of a new £5 million Scottish programme of projects to invest in the Highlands and Islands to provide more high-quality opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural and cultural heritage assets. The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund is led by Scottish Natural Heritage and is part funded through the European Development Fund (ERDF). The project has also received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £85,000,
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will provide match funding of £17,220 for the project and undertake financial management and monitoring.
Supported by SNH, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Comhairle, the project will create a new series of virtual reality digital reconstructions of seven archaeological sites located on the Hebridean Way walking route in Uist and Benbecula. The reconstructions will be accessed via an application for mobile devises with complementary mixed-media exhibitions established at local museums.
The project will be led by Dr Rebecca Rennell and Dr Emily Gal, both archaeological experts based at Lews Castle College UHI, in collaboration with the Comhairle’s Heritage Service and community stakeholders.
Dr Rennell said: “We are really excited to bring decades of archaeological research at these fantastic sites to the wider public. It will deliver community benefits, unlock economic potential and improve visitor experience in a way that conserves and protects the unique natural and cultural heritage recognised across the highlands and islands.”
Councillor Donald Crichton, Chair of the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee said, :
I welcome this innovative approach to help unlock the economic value of Uist’s exceptional archaeological assets and to promote the area as a major destination for hertitage tourism. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands to support and develop archaeology in the Outer Hebrides..
Dr Gal noted that “community stakeholders have been involved with the project since its inception, and this will continue. Ensuring that schools and community interest groups are involved in shaping the digital products is essential to the project”.
The first site to be designed will be the Bronze Age roundhouses and mummified remains at Cladh Hallan, South Uist which date to around 1500BC. Excavator Professor Mike Parker Pearson (University College London) said “the discovery of Cladh Hallan’s Bronze Age mummies is of international interest. It is great that this fascinating prehistoric settlement will feature in this innovative project, becoming accessible to visitors whilst protecting sensitive locations.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan said: “This is a very exciting initiative and it would be wonderful to see the islands being a trailblazer when it comes to developing augmented reality to enhance archaeological tourism. I look forward to seeing this project develop.”