Citizen Heritage: Digital and Community-based Histories of Place

This project explores new digital technologies to enhance the visibility of lesser-known precincts of urban heritage.

Bay Street ipad

The architectural heritage of urban areas is now widely linked to their sense of community, vitality and economic prospects. While iconic areas, like early settlements and memorial parks, are well-recognised in planning initiatives, many other zones of urban heritage compete for survival against re-development and change.

This ARC funded Discovery Project concerns the potential of new digital technologies to enhance the visibility of lesser-known precincts of urban heritage. The tools and conventions of social media offer the potential for local citizens to generate and share recollections, memories and records of their built heritage. In tandem, mobile technologies provide the means for these digital collective memories to become resources for interpretation of built environments in situ. As with the emerging area of citizen science, this new possibility for citizen heritage raises theoretical and practical questions concerning its viability, status and value. This project investigates the nature and potential of these new digital forms of urban heritage interpretation, with the following aims:

1. To develop a critical framework of the various kinds of digital tools that can be used alone or in combination to support citizen heritage; that is, to allow citizens to produce and share collective representations of their local urban heritage.

2. To conduct a longitudinal case study of designing and deploying a mobile digital tool for citizen heritage within the City of Port Philip in inner Melbourne ( an urban area of rich and disparate heritage.

Visit the Citizen Heritage project website.
Access the digital heritage tool Pastport here.

For select publications from the project see:

‘The Routledge Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites’, edited H Lewi, W Smith, S Cooke, 2020

“‘PastPort’: Reflections on the Design of a Mobile App for Citizen Heritage in Port Melbourne”, W Smith, H Lewi and D Nichols, in Australian Historical Studies, Vol 49 issue 1: 2018:

Australian ICOMOS journal, Historic Environment, edited special issue ‘Digital Heritage.’ 2016

Project Title

Citizen Heritage: Digital and Community-based Histories of Place

Major Sponsor

Australian Research Council

Research Partners

University of Melbourne
City of Port Phillip
Deakin University
King's College, London

Project Team

Professor Hannah Lewi (University of Melbourne)
Dr Wally Smith (University of Melbourne)
Prof Tom Kvan (University of Melbourne)
Associate Professor David Nichols (University of Melbourne)
Dr Steven Cooke (Deakin University)
Dr Dirk von Lehn (King's College London)


Professor Hannah Lewi