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Ancestral tourism and its potential for Scotland

By Matthew Alexander - Posted on 26 January 2017

Academics at Strathclyde Business School have, for the last three years, been researching the potential of ancestral tourism within Scotland. Here, Dr Matthew Alexander explains a little about their findings, the project that has grown out of their research and how this can help museums.

Our ancestral tourism research has revealed a market that has great potential for Scotland’s museums.

According to Visit Scotland some 10 million people around the world are interested in finding out more about their Scottish ancestors, however only around 200,000 make the trip.

Although our research reveals that some visitors do have amazing experiences, we also identified some challenges that museums face in accommodating requests and visits related to ancestral tourism.

We know that many visitors arrive in Scotland with limited information and as a result can go to the wrong place, arrive when facilities are closed, arrive when no professional help is available or do not allocate enough time for a visit. This makes delivering an outstanding ancestral tourism experience a huge challenge.

Additionally we know that hundreds of emails are exchanged between the Scottish diaspora and Scotland’s large network of museums every week but that, for the most part and despite the time and effort put in to responding to these queries, this information is given absolutely free.

To tackle these challenges and ensure that the professional services that museums offer are appropriately rewarded we have created myancestralscotland.com – a website that makes local Scottish ancestral services available to the Scottish diaspora worldwide on more of a commercial basis.

There are two specific user groups on the site: ‘providers’ and ‘users’:

Users – for example, a member of the public - are those interested in discovering more about their ancestral past. The site allows users to create a unique profile of their ancestors which they can use to search for and contact

Providers – for example, museums, heritage centres, family or local history society, clan affiliated organisation or even a local archive or library - are those suppliers able to provide information to users. The provider creates their own profile on the site including images, facilities and opening hours and information users can search to find appropriate suppliers to help.

Once a user has found a provider they feel can help with their research, the provider receives a message and will be able to review the user’s ancestral profile to help with their response. Receiving and responding to these messages will earn the museum credits which can be converted into a cash amount and paid directly to the provider from the site. If, after reviewing a message and profile, the provider goes on to offer to make a search of their records, this would earn more credits (and, thus, more cash).

The site allows providers to track the interactions they have with users – meaning if multiple members of staff are using the system at one time all correspondence and activity can be tracked, and duplication avoided.

We will be launching the site in the near future and hope many of Scotland’s museums are on board when we do so. We are only too happy to speak to interested museums to chat through the signing up process.
We are grateful to the Scottish Ancestral Tourism Group which has supported us in the development of the site.

A short presentation which gives a visual overview of the site can be viewed here or please contact me for a chat. Research by Dr Alexander alongside colleagues Dr Derek Bryce and Dr Samantha Murdy can be viewed here. A version of this blog was first featured on the Museums Galleries Scotland website.



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