Concerns and Opportunities

Public safety surrounding Covid-19 has proved a challenge for all organisers of European Heritage Days, including in Scotland where Doors Open Days has traditionally focussed on exploring architecture and historic buildings. Addressing these safety concerns directly, festival planners have this year announced a move towards more digital experiences under the theme #DigiDoorsOpen, to allow everyone to enjoy taking part from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

The move to digital is a shift in approach, but one which provides a huge opportunity to explore new ways of showcasing places and communicating history and stories. In the spirit of adventure, Doors Open Days organisers across the country will be thinking creatively to produce new events to inspire, educate and entertain!

As well as providing a platform for new event formats, the coordinators - The Scottish Civic Trust - are hoping a digital festival can also help widen their visitor audience. “In particular, we’re looking forward to helping our beautiful buildings and places become more accessible to those who wouldn’t normally be able to take part in Doors Open Days for physical or cultural reasons. Making the built environment easier for everyone to enjoy is a core part of what we do”, says Director of the Scottish Civic Trust, Dr Susan O’Connor. And with geography no longer a barrier, it’s also the perfect way for people across the continent to discover and celebrate their shared European heritage.

Festival coordinators are also predicting the interest in digital events will have a lasting impact on how the sector engages with the public. “We hope that our support will give venues confidence to have a continued online presence, and that digital engagement will become a mainstay of heritage outreach in the years to come”, says Colin McLean, Chair of the Scottish Civic Trust.

What Visitors Can Expect

This year’s digital programme will build on the Digital Doors Open Days project launched in 2019. In partnership with Smart History and the University of St. Andrew’s Centre for Archaeology, Technology and Cultural Heritage, 360-degree online tours were created by stitching together photos taken by volunteers. Paisley Abbey near Glasgow was among the buildings available to explore online, including a rooftop panorama which is not regularly otherwise open to the public. Another digital initiative that year saw members of Doors Open Days’ Young Advisory Panel connect with visitors aged 18-25 through ‘takeovers’ of the festival’s Instagram account.

This year, 360-degree tours will also feature, as will an extended range of social media broadcasts including guided tours using Facebook and Instagram Live. Event ideas also include recorded oral histories, virtual exhibitions and online lectures, as well as interactive events such as webinars, Q&A sessions, DIY learning experiences and virtual pub quizzes!

It’s not all online though - some sites which can ensure visitor safety will still be opening. Booked tickets, limited visitor numbers and following the latest government advice will help allow physical visitors to maintain social distancing and stay safe. But, with so many innovative digital experiences planned this year, organisers are anticipating most visitors will instead go online to enjoy both their favourite Scottish sites and discover new ones.

Support for Organisers

Online resources have been created to help support organisers plan their new digital offerings. The CUPIDO European Interreg cultural heritage project has collaborated with XpoNorth Heritage to create eight online digital heritage workshops, designed to teach skills ranging from digitalising collections to 3D photographic modelling. Additional social media tutorials also cover everything from ‘how-to’ guides to fun ideas like emoji challenges, as well as highlighting trending history hashtags like #CuratorBattle and #MuseumFromHome. Details for all these resources can be found in the Digital Guidance section of the Doors Open Days website.

How to Visit

Doors Open Days 2020 is taking place on the weekends between 5th-27th September. All online events are being hosted on the Doors Open Days website, but individual regions and cities have specific opening dates so it’s worth checking what’s happening before making plans.

Event listings will be made public in July, and will be searchable by area and keyword to make it really easy to find events and plan diaries. Weekly zines are also being created, full of great digital events and tours, so stay tuned to the Doors Open Days social media channels, or sign up to their e-newsletter, to keep up to-date with the latest news.

Digital Doors Open is a new and exciting way to get involved with Doors Open Days and explore Scotland’s many wonderful historic buildings! More information about how to take part can be found at