XpoNorth / Smartify: Bringing Highland Heritage to the Global Stage


In January 2023, XpoNorth Digital launched a groundbreaking new collaboration between five lucky Highland museums and Smartify, the world’s most downloaded museum app. The museums, who have a collectively vast range of objects telling stories from rural Highland life, conflict, migration, landscape, and more, are now live on the platform, offering global access to these phenomenal collections.

My name is Freya, and I have been lucky enough to work as the Digital Content Creator on the project. Liaising between the teams at XpoNorth and Smartify, and the museums themselves, I guided the museums through the onboarding and content creation processes. Each museum has created a piece of content for the Smartify app, known as a ‘tour’, which visitors will be able to use either from home, or in and around the museum. Refining the content for each museum was a really fun process - there is a huge range of different themes, objects, and stories across the Highlands, and each museum has produced something absolutely unique.

Smartify has also proven to be the perfect platform for championing stories that museums don’t necessarily tell within their spaces. Stromness Museum chose to explore the lives of notable individuals from the town through an outdoor walking tour around Stromness. This is the perfect way to connect visitors with the area, highlight the context in which the museum sits. Equally, Cromarty Courthouse Museum has chosen to produce an audio tour about the village’s historic links to slavery, also through a walking tour. This is not a theme that is widely covered within the museum itself, and so the digital experience helps to fill this historical gap. The Highlanders’ Museum in Fort George has used the opportunity to tell the hidden colonial histories of the collection through a poignant audio tour.

Beyond uncovering new ways to engage audiences with hidden heritage, the museums have also digitised objects from their collection, available to view for free on the ‘venue pages’ on Smartify. Highland heritage is inseparably linked to histories of global migration, and audiences across the world are keen to engage with the collections. By digitising objects on Smartify, the museums can share objects and content with a global audience, helping the Highland diaspora (and ‘Caledonophiles’ alike!) to enjoy the wonder that is Highland heritage.

The museums will be able to add more content to Smartify, from video or audio tours, to Instagram-style reels, to ‘explainer videos’ that go in-depth on specific objects, topics, or individuals - the possibilities are endless! More content will be added to museum pages over the next year, and these new exciting experiences will encourage visitors to return again and again.

Working with Highland museums is always a pleasure - the passion and knowledge of the staff and volunteers at the museums is endlessly inspiring. Helping the museums to get up and running on Smartify, and to make the most out of their content, has been a joy - I can’t wait to try out all the tours in-situ!

Freya Samuel, Digital Content Creator

Recruitment poster for the Hudson Bay Company - Stromness Museum

This poster perfectly demonstrates the theme of migration that is so ingrained into Highland history. International trading companies offered prosperous opportunities which appealed to many Highlanders, particularly following the hardship of the Highland Clearances.

Commemorative ring inscribed with the name of infamous slaver Sir Thomas Picton - The Highlanders’ Museum

This ring belonged to Sir Alan Cameron of Erracht, who raised the 79th Regiment (that went on to become the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders). He wore this ring in memory of his close friend Sir Thomas Picton (also known as the Tyrant of Trinidad) who was killed at Waterloo.

‘Inverness’ by J M W Turner - IMAG

Turner painted this view of Inverness Castle during his 1831 tour of Scotland.

Ice skates - Brora

The Highland landscape is affected by the changing environment - once, skating on frozen lochs and rivers was a popular winter pastime, but global warming means that nowadays temperatures aren’t low enough for long enough.

Freya Samuel, Digital Content Creator


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