Researchers in the Media and Place research cluster critically evaluated the smARTplaces project, which enabled cultural sites and museums to utilise multi-layered digital technology to enhance audience experience and engagement.

Woman at a museum


Research background 

European museums and cultural sites face numerous but similar challenges in coming up with a long-term audience development strategy. Given the trend towards digitisation, new ways of making art and culture accessible, of increasing visitor participation and of digitally networking, the European cultural landscape become ever more relevant. The cooperation project smARTplaces was conceived with these challenges in mind.

The leading organisation Dortmunder U submitted a joint application with its partners; smARTplaces was one of 15 projects from Europe to be chosen for funding support. The four-year €2m project involved ten cultural institutions and universities from eight European countries working collaboratively as strategic partners.

Research methods 

smARTplaces was designed to explore new ways of communicating art and culture, in the context of museums and cultural centres. The project focused on developing and testing new approaches to audience development, audience engagement, co-creation, capacity building within the institutions, international exposure of art exhibitions and new creative works. With a coherent and multi-layered use of digital technology, social web tools, adaptive storytelling techniques as well as joint exhibitions and on- and offline activities, the partnering institutions will turn into smARTplaces: Cultural spaces with features that enabled them to communicate with and engage audiences across Europe and within the international partner network.

BCU’s involvement in this work was as the research and evaluation partner, with key responsibilities in gathering, collating and presenting evidence of project delivery, impact, and new knowledge. Given that BCU were involved in the project throughout, we benefited from our immersion in the work, carrying out interviews and surveys with partners, as well as working with them to collect their project data and narratives, in the production of reports and other outputs.

Research outcomes 

The key deliverables for BCU were extensive interim and then final project reports, necessary for collating and reporting project completion and impact for the funders. In addition to this, we delivered a cultural policy ‘toolkit’ document online, and created various public-facing research outputs such as online videos, podcasts, streamed events, and blog posts.

Find out more on the project website or view the digital toolkit.