Dr Liz Stainforth co-authors new monograph on the geopolitics of digital heritage

Dr Liz Stainforth, Lecturer in Heritage Studies at the University of Leeds, has published a monograph with Cambridge University Press for the Elements series in Critical Heritage Studies.

Titled Geopolitics of Digital Heritage, the volume is co-written with Dr Natalia Grincheva (University of Melbourne- LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore). The book investigates how geopolitical agendas are woven into the development of digital heritage platforms, with examples ranging from national governments to transnational corporations.

The book explores geopolitics through the lens of digital heritage aggregation, a practice that enables the search and discovery of digital collections across a range of different sources, including galleries, libraries, archives and museums.

Aggregators draw together a vast amount of collections data: collectively hundreds of millions of items. These infrastructures increasingly shape the way we think about, access and engage with heritage. 

Geopolitics of Digital Heritage covers international case studies including Google Arts & Culture, Singapore Memory Project, the European-Commission-funded Europeana and the National Library of Australia’s Trove. The research carried out on Trove formed part of an Endeavour-funded Postdoctoral Fellowship, undertaken by Liz at the University of Melbourne in 2018.

Dr Liz Stainforth, who completed her doctoral studies in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies in 2016, said:

Geopolitics of Digital Heritage contributes to the growing literature on heritage and the political uses of cultural resources in the digital realm.

“The aim of the book was to show how digital heritage aggregators are bound up with contemporary geopolitical interests. Hopefully we were able to do that and to think about the future implications for digital heritage aggregators as an expression of geopolitics.

“This is the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of research on the part of myself and my co-author and it’s great to finally see the book in print.”

Book cover

Book cover of Geopolitics of Digital Heritage by Liz Stainforth and Natalia Grincheva, published by Cambridge University Press in 2024.

Liz and Natalia were recently guests on the New Books Network podcast in Critical Theory where they spoke about the book in more detail, alongside Professor Dave O’Brien (University of Manchester).

Professor O’Brien, who offered a review of the book, said:

Geopolitics of Digital Heritage is a brilliant and concise overview of a crucial question for heritage scholars: who controls the digital archive?

“Offering a rich theoretical base for the analysis, as well as four detailed – and global – case studies, the book is an important intervention. It reveals the power dynamics underpinning digital heritage infrastructure and offers a starting point for the public to question the politics and commercial imperatives associated with state and corporate control of culture.”

The book is available to buy from the Cambridge University Press website and can also be borrowed from Leeds University Library.


Liz Stainforth. Photo © University of Leeds.