Delivering ancestral tourism in an urban, heritage organisation

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Personal heritage tourism is of growing interest in the heritage tourism sector and focuses on an individual’s personal and emotional connections to the heritage sites they visit. Ancestral Tourism is a subset of personal heritage tourism, worthy of investigation as a growth market in many countries, including Scotland. Consumed mainly by the Scottish diaspora in the rest of the UK as well as overseas markets such as the USA, Canada, and Australia, these tourists look upon Scotland as their ancestral homeland and a place to discover their heritage. However, marketing activities and research have focused mainly on rural, Highland regions of the country with provider experiences chiefly explored from the perspective of small, often community-run heritage centres. This study addresses the call for more empirical research on personal heritage tourism, particularly from supplier perspectives, and investigates ancestral tourism provision within a large multifaceted heritage organisation, Glasgow Life. This urban setting embeds the research in a context largely ignored from established ancestral narratives and provision in Scotland. As the official custodian of Glasgow’s heritage resources, Glasgow Life is keen to explore and maximise the potential of ancestral tourism across its museums and archives. The research therefore aims to analyse provision within this publically funded urban heritage context, exploring staff experiences of delivering ancestral tourism, developing an understanding of its potential, and identifying the challenges of coordinating activities across spatially dispersed services. The study is approached from a subjectivist stance, and influenced by hermeneutics, whereby knowledge develops through an iterative process of interaction, analysis, and interpretation. A range of ethnographic techniques was used, including mobile methods, to build an understanding of this complex organisation. This thesis contributes to the under-explored provider perspectives of personal heritage tourism by revealing how staff facilitate and coordinate personal heritage experiences. The findings centre on the diverse ancestral tourists’ needs that an urban setting can meet but also the challenges associated with delivering and coordinating bespoke services in sites which attract many thousands of visitors. It also contributes to literature exploring management challenges in diverse heritage contexts and the tensions surrounding the commercialisation of public heritage. Furthermore, the thesis contributes by extending the conceptualisation of ancestral tourism within an urban context, demonstrating the potential to develop and market ancestral tourism in museums and in urban industrial areas of Scotland.
Date of Award22 Apr 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorMatthew Alexander (Supervisor) & Derek Bryce (Supervisor)

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