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Assessing the Value of Community-Generated Historic Environment Research

The specific aims of this project were to assess:

  • The amount of historic environment research being undertaken by community groups
  • The potential scholarly value that this research could offer to enhance research
    resources, in particular those used to support the planning system.

The communal and social value of community group heritage research is well recognised and supported by organisations such as the Council for British Archaeology - underpinned by its mission statement "Archaeology for All". The impact of heritage on individuals and communities is highlighted in Heritage Counts 2014 and includes findings from the 2013 review of the value and benefits of heritage by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We understand and support the social benefits that this brings to communities. Beyond the social benefit, however, this project focuses on assessing the added scholarly or research value of community-generated research, and the potential benefits to research resources, in particular Research Frameworks.

This project is not about assessing the quality of people's research. Rather, it is about the potential value of their work to the resources that are used by the historic environment sector to determine priorities and inform decisions on planning issues, research priorities and strategies for safeguarding heritage assets.

Key findings were that:

  • Community-generated has significant value and largely untapped potential to enhance research resources and HERs, which could have a positive impact on the sector's ability to manage and protect the historic environment
  • Dissemination of research is currently haphazard and largely contingent upon the focus of the researchers, existing networks of contact, and the funding of the project
  • The local history sector is largely disassociated from the process of creating and updating historic environment research resources. Relations between parts of the historic environment sector are at times unequal and unsatisfactory, with too little appreciation for the value of others' roles
  • Awareness of Research Frameworks is currently low in the voluntary and community sector. Efforts to improve accessibility and promotion are essential if wider use and more inclusive development of Research Frameworks is to be achieved
  • Use of existing platforms for the integration of research outputs into research resources is limited by awareness and usability of those mechanisms
  • Access to, and development of, digital skills and expertise are major potential barriers to the dissemination and integration of valuable work into research resources. There remain few digital report templates, software tutorials or guides to digital publication readily available
  • Projects getting professional support or advice are significantly more likely to produce outputs that are integrated into research resources
  • Voluntary and community researchers' ability to champion the cause of their local heritage is frequently undermined by the confusing nature of roles and responsibilities for heritage within the planning process.

Historic England commissioned historic environment specialists at Worcestershire County Council to carry out the project.


  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Project Scope
  4. Study area and Consultation
  5. Methodology
  6. Findings
  7. Conclusions and recommendations
  8. Bibliography

Additional Information

  • Publication Status: Completed


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