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The research investigates the development of a digital cultural asset map as a method of revealing a picture of the breadth and spread of cultural activity, based around the Scottish town of Paisley where the context of a bid for UK City of Culture provided an opportunity to adopt creative research techniques to work with groups that traditionally find participation difficult and give them a greater voice in a civic bid (after Arnstein (1969)). As the discipline of cultural asset mapping has the potential to inform policy (Lee and Gilmore, 2012) it is pertinent to note that the research has resulted in a series of knowledge exchange events, in keeping with the approach to influencing suggested by Belfiore (2016). This practice-based PhD includes a portfolio of practice and a written thesis (crenellatedarts.com/phd).

There are four types of hidden cultural heritage, unseen, unknown, undervalued, and untold; creative approaches to working with communities can reveal these hidden assets. In this research a combination of geographical information systems (GIS) based digital cultural asset mapping, cognitive mapping and digital storytelling approaches are utilised in order to reveal and celebrate hidden stories of cultural heritage, referencing the title of the adopted local heritage asset strategy ‘Paisley the Untold Story’ (Renfrewshire Council, 2014a). In line with principle that “heritage is everywhere” (Schofield, 2014, p.2) culture is not just about the big sights and attractions, although they will form part of the tapestry of culture in most areas, culture also includes privately and community owned and managed facilities as well as state funded activities and designated heritage assets (Stevenson, 2013).

The research discusses the meaning of cultural assets, and proposes an original scale of meaning to attribute five ascending levels of significance to these assets, with only the lowest level implying that its loss would be of detriment to the community, which makes a contribution to the heritage engagement and cultural discussion toolkit by recognising that one venue can take on many strands of meaning whether or not it is of statutory importance. This, together with conclusions on the importance of multi-use assets, places of self-care and everyday interaction provides a step towards addressing issues around local engagement with culture and heritage (Mydland and Grahn, 2012, Schofield, 2014), contributing towards knowledge within the cultural policy and heritage engagement fields.