Nothing Beside Remains: How might we use digital technologies and speculative design to explore the contested and hidden histories of heritage and museum artefacts?

Saad Ahmed Maqbool, Debbie Maxwell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


An existing body of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) work has had a focus on cultural heritage settings such as historic sites and museums where digital technologies are used to augment user experience through a variety of methods such as interactive displays, museum guides and mixed/virtual reality experiences. However, very little of this work has been used to explore some of the more contemporary and pressing issues surrounding museums and heritage today. This project, Nothing Beside Remains explores the nature of narratives and stories in the context of museums and heritage through the creation of tangible interactive digital artefacts. Specifically, it looks at 'Contested Histories' - a broad spectrum of issues relating to heritage sites and museum artefacts that in recent years have become more urgent to address. These can include issues such as heritage loss (e.g., through decay, destruction or theft either through nature or human conflict), unsustainable preservation and conservation practice (the continuing accumulation of historic artefacts, lack of financial and specialist resources in maintaining sites and artefacts) and repatriation (the disputed claims by nations in reclaiming artefacts that were looted often due to colonial activity). Design (and additionally Speculative Design) as an approach to these issues allows individuals or groups to imagine radically different futures or pose questions relating to phenomena through the convergence of creativity and critical theory - therefore this work aims to extend how this kind of critical enquiry can pose questions to museum and heritage sectors as well as other stakeholders, surrounding contentious narratives and propose possible futures. It involves the creation of physical digital artefacts and tests their effectiveness in creating debate and discussion surrounding these issues. In addition, it will look at the agency of museum and heritage organisations to address these problems and explore experimental design work as a vehicle for actionable change.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIMX 2023 - Proceedings of the 2023 ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9798400700286
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2023
Event2023 ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences, IMX 2023 - Nantes, France
Duration: 12 Jun 202315 Jun 2023

Publication series

NameIMX 2023 - Proceedings of the 2023 ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences


Conference2023 ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences, IMX 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is a result of my PhD research scholarship funded by XR Stories, Ay-Pe, and the University of York.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Owner/Author.


  • Interaction Design
  • Research-through-Design
  • Speculative Design
  • User Experience

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