Catriona Schofield

Each month, we offer the spotlight to one of our funded researchers to exhibit their research projects in more detail.

The Featured Researcher for February 2023 was Catriona Schofield, with her PhD Project titled The Literature House in the Digital Age: New Directions for Literary Heritage.

HEIs: Edinburgh Napier University (SACI), University of Edinburgh (LLC) and the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust.

Supervisors: Tara Thomson, James Loxley, Ali Bowden, and Kirstie Jamieson.


The present of literary heritage sites: stuck in/on the past?

Literary heritage sites might be any place with a connection to literature. They could be as accessible as a local bookshop, or as otherworldly as a location from fantasy fiction. In the UK, though, there’s one type of literary heritage site which dominates discussion: the house museum. This mode of heritage site was established by Victorians, and little has changed since then – including the group of authors memorialized in them. 


Photograph of Jane Austen’s House Museum in Hampshire
Jane Austen’s House Museum in Hampshire

The future of literary heritage sites: where next? 

My research is being done in collaboration with the Edinburgh City of Literature, who are planning a new Edinburgh heritage site, which can’t follow this traditional mold. Nor, I think, should it. Literary heritage has consistently been limited in its understanding of literature and who can create it – rethinking how it’s physicalised will allow new voices and ideas in. 

The capacities of digital technology is one new direction I’m investigating. Although seemingly at odds with heritage, it lends itself to interpreting literature: both are expansive, imaginative and intangible. 

Digital photograph of an immersive digital exhibition of Leonardo di Vinci paintings.
An immersive digital exhibition of Leonardo di Vinci paintings.


A view through a doorway into a cosy looking room. There are books on the walls, and several chairs and tables. Someone is working at one of them.
Ljubljana’s House of Literature.

Another reference point is literature houses, which are fairly common in European cities. Often orientated around author events, these create space for conversations about contemporary writers and literary history, drawing on the informal qualities of home (in contrast with the formality museums). Looking beyond British modes has broadened my ideas of what literary heritage can look like.  

To further investigate, I secured SGSAH funding to travel to Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Ljubljana. I visited literature houses and spoke to staff there. I also visited immersive digital displays and grassroots exhibitions on local literature, getting a sense of city-specific literature culture. Given that my research focuses on a theoretical future site, getting to see these different ways of dealing with literary heritage in the present was so gratifying. 


Catriona Schofield
All images were provided by the researcher.

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