Archives and Research

Monument Monitor Crowdsourcing Conservation

Monument Monitor is a collaborative research project between Historic Environment Scotland and the Institute of Sustainable Heritage at University College London (PhD student Rosie Brigham). It aims to assess to what extent we can use visitors photographs of heritage sites to inform conservation and monitoring efforts.

At Historic Environment Scotland we care for over 330 properties. These range from huge castles in the middle of cities to tumbledown brochs on remote islands. Our staff do a fantastic job managing the conservation of these sites but cannot be everywhere at once. It is especially difficult to monitor long term trends in remote locations.

Historic properties however, are popular tourist attractions. I A recent survey by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport showed that 73% of respondents had visited a heritage site in the past year; a figure which has been rising almost year on year. Visitors carry increasingly more sophisticated mobile phones with which they record their visits and to share with friends. Why not use these photographs to monitor heritage sites remotely?

This innovative research project is currently running at 20 different HES sites across Scotland. Signs ask visitors to take photographs of specific things at each site and submit them via email, WhatsApp, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #monumentmonitor (see image). We will use these photographs to monitor long term issues affecting each site, and use the wider findings from the project to establish whether visitors photographs can be used for conservation purposes in future.

This project will help us to understand what we can measure reliably using visitors photographs, and how many images are needed for it to be a reliable method of monitoring. We will be attempting to measure situations like discolouration and colour change, erosion, moss and lichen growth, erosion and vandalism. With lots of images being crowdsourced, we also want to ascertain if machine learning can be used to interpret these too!

Find out more about Monument Monitor

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