Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  Home, Hearth And Heritage – Exploring inter-disciplinary approaches for engaging with fragile, living heritage

   Centre for History

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr I Robertson, Dr Rebecca Rennell, Mr John Joe MacNeil  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Location: primarily based at UHI North, West & Hebrides, Cnoc Soilleir campus with occasional working, as necessary, at UHI Centre for History, Dornoch 

The overarching aim of this PhD is to develop and deploy an original methodology to investigate how fragile living heritage, local identity and community memory combine to shape sustainable futures. The outcome of this research will contribute to discussions on how local world views can shape sustainable heritage futures.

Working co-creatively with the community, the student will develop an innovative interdisciplinary approach that will bring together cutting-edge archaeological techniques with oral history techniques to better understand and utilise Uist’s Taighean Tughaidh – domestic dwellings maintained and lived-in throughout Uist by Gaelic communities from the mid-18th until the late 20th century. The remains of these iconic buildings are found widely across Uist - most in decay, hidden beneath newer housing or renovated for tourism markets. Despite their abandonment as homes, the upstanding remains of Taighean Tughaidh function as a vial (albeit fragile) element of the islands’ historic landscape and an important representation of Uist’s cultural heritage and identity. Nevertheless, few of this local vernacular form have been systematically recorded and reported on archaeologically. Consequently, Scotland’s national database for the historic environment includes only 108 Taighean Tughaidh sites across Uist - a gross underestimate of the reality of survival that has significant implications for the way in which Gaelic heritage and culture is acknowledged within formal frameworks by agencies and policy makers. These deficiencies and absences amount to a substantial research gap which this studentship seeks to address.

The student will begin by addressing the need, identified in the regional, archaeological research framework for measured archaeological records of these buildings to better understand the variety of form and function, thereby more convincingly locating Taighean Tughaidh in the context of wider post-medieval landscapes across Scotland more generally.

Importantly and innovatively, partners expect the student to take the project further by drawing together collective memory, techniques of digital archaeological recording and the principles and practice of community development. Consequently, the successful candidate will be expected to demonstrate a commitment to interdisciplinary methodologies.

Uist is a place where Gaelic culture, language and heritage remains, for now, deeply embedded and living within the local community. Taighean Tughaidh, are consequently understood as expression of the local vernacular and mnemonics and manifestations of heritage from below, a concept first developed by the project Director of Studies. Through close collaboration with our partners the successful candidate will be expected to explore and interpret the individual and collective memory of life in, with and through Taighean Tughaidh.

Knowledge exchange collaboration and co-creation will be at the heart of Home Hearth and Heritage, with the full realisation of project epistemology and aims reliant on the coming together and sharing of information between citizens, local stakeholders, and academics in all phases of the research with the successful candidate expected to demonstrate a strong awareness and commitment to this holistic approach. Project partner Ceòlas Uibhist will take a central role linking the academic and community worlds, and facilitating the future heritage strands, as conduit, community facilitator and experts in local knowledge. They are a community-led charity, widely recognised as a leading Gaelic culture, heritage and arts organisation, promoting and nurturing Uist's indigenous culture and heritage through community-based events and activities. Ceòlas are ideally placed to offer the candidate strong support, supervision and immersion in Gaelic, local heritage expertise and community engagement experience.

Such community engagement will begin from the outset, with the student invited to work closely with Ceòlas to facilitate a series of community scoping events to identify appropriate sites and case study areas. The student will then work with community volunteers to survey and record upstanding Taighean Tughaidh sites within the case study areas using a mixed-methods approach central to which will be terrestrial laser scanning alongside photogrammetry, multi-station survey, measured drawings and descriptive records. UHI NWH will provide access to all required equipment, software and training to successfully undertake this strand.

The oral history element will draw on both existing collections and new research to enmesh the individual and collective memory of Taighean Tughaidh with an enhanced physical record. Awareness of and some experience of oral methods is therefore essential, with the student having unrestricted access to professional-level recording equipment for the duration of the project. They will then work alongside Ceòlas and the wider community to co-create a digital archive which will proactively combine 3D records of the tangible remains with the intangible memories attaching thereto to ensure future heritage resilience.

Our central concern is to demonstrate the powerful benefits for future community wellbeing which derive from the alignment of digital heritage tools with community-based oral history ‘culture-first’ practices. The research will enhance understanding of Uist’s post medieval landscape and uncover key aspects of the past, present and future heritage of the Taighean Tughaidh thereby empowering communities to shape sustainable future heritage for themselves.

HOW TO APPLY: Please see details here

INTERVIEWS: expected to take place by 30th May 2024

START DATE: 1 October 2024

UHI entry requirements apply  

We are particularly interested to hear from applicants who demonstrate the following attributes:

 ·       Commitment to the Gaelic language

·       Comfortable with interdisciplinary methodologies

·       Committed to collaborative working.

·       Experience of working with community groups

·       Knowledge of archaeological survey and recording techniques

·       Awareness of oral history methods

·       Enthusiasm for developing innovative and imaginative approaches to heritage interpretation, engagement and presentation. 

Learn more about UHI's research

Forensic and Archaeological Sciences (16) Geography (17) History & Archaeology (19) Languages, Literature & Culture (21)

Funding Notes

Funded through the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities CDA Scheme, the 3½ year full-time studentship covers:
• Annual tuition fees at Home (UK) rate. Applicants not eligible for Home (UK) fees will be required to fund the difference in fees each year. For 2024/25 this amounts to £8,161. Tuition fees increase annually in line with inflation.
• Annual tax-free stipend at UKRI level. For 2024/25 this is £19,237 (full-time).
• Funding for research training.
• For applicants not requiring a visa to study, Part-time is an option, with a minimum of 50% of full-time effort. Fees and stipend pro-rata.

How good is research at University of the Highlands and Islands in Archaeology?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities