Exploring Co-production in Community Heritage Research: Reflections from the Bennachie Landscapes Project

Jeffry Oliver* (Corresponding Author), Jackson Armstrong, Elizabeth Curtis, Neil Curtis, Jo Vergunst

*Corresponding author for this work

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Co-production of community heritage research is in vogue. Co-production aims to break down barriers between ‘experts’ and the ‘public’ to co-create knowledge about the past. Few projects have sought to critically evaluate the complexities of co-producing research, particularly long-term ones, composed of multiple activities, which draw on differently situated groups. This paper
presents a reflective analysis by the university-based participants of a long-standing community heritage project focusing on the ruins of a locally celebrated crofting community in Northeast Scotland. The use of archaeological and archival techniques, the creation of an exhibition, a kitchen garden, promenade drama, a heritage app, and publications, provide both opportunities and challenges for co-production. The meaning of co-production was shaped by the nature of research activities, resulting in significantly varied levels of participation; its embedding therefore requires managing expectations. Effective relationships for co-creating knowledge are an outgrowth of building trust, which take time, patience, and commitment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-215
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Community Archaeology & Heritage
Issue number3
Early online date19 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to the Bailies of Bennachie for their continued support, enthusiasm, and friendship over many years – may our collaboration continue! Particular thanks go to Chris Foster, Barry Foster and Colin Miller for their helpful advice on an earlier draft and to Ana Jorge for assistance with the figures. We are grateful to two external reviewers for comments that have helped to sharpen our thoughts and to Thomas Kador for editorial suggestions. The interview material published here is provided through informed oral consent of the research participants. Ethics approval was obtained by the University of Aberdeen’s Committee for Research Ethics & Governance in Arts and Social Sciences and Business.
This work was supported by the AHRC (grants AH/P009654 and AH/K007750/1) and Heritage Lottery Fund (grant SH-16-04399, awarded to the Bailies of Bennachie).


  • Co-production
  • community formation
  • identities
  • power relations
  • trust


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