Timespan Museum and Art Centre

Timespan Museum and Arts Centre is situated in the far north of Scotland in Helmsdale, Sutherland. Their focus is on relationships with people and long-term creative development; they believe in new ideas and creative exchange, in access to excellence, technology and innovation, in promoting education and facilitating vibrant community dialogue. They aim to challenge perceptions of what can be delivered by a cultural organisation rooted in the distinctive, but fragile, socio-economic ecology of this large, rural and remote area.


To commemorate the Bicentenary of the Clearances, Timespan set out to virtually reconstruct a site that they had chosen for a community excavation of a longhouse.  Based on OS data and a geo-physical survey the model needed to be an accurate three-dimensional reconstruction of the landscape around the settlement of Caen with the buildings portrayed in the model depicting life in 1813.​ Timespan approached Interface looking for expertise in digital 3D reconstruction.


Interface facilitated a partnership between Timespan and the University of St Andrews.  After submitting an initial proposal to develop a Virtual Museum in form of an augmented reality application this then evolved into creating a three-dimensional, immersive virtual world within their existing museum space.​  The initial historical research and content development of the project was awarded a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher.

The collaboration has produced the first virtual world with historical content, accessible in a cultural context in the UK; enhancing the visitor experience in the museum, and has put Timespan on the map as a forward thinking organisation with a growing national reputation.  

The project has been further developed and can also be accessed on multiple platforms (online via hand-held devices) and Timespan are currently developing new accessibility, which will enable stereoscopic 3D visualisation utilising Oculus Rift glasses.


The project has been beneficial for building a strong track-record in innovative digital development for the museum, and for gaining the interest of funding bodies such as Creative Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It has also led to furthering Timespan's reputation within the academic sector, namely by attending three conferences and by being showcased in the St Andrews University Alumni Newsletter 2013.

Press coverage received by national and local papers, national radio and TV has strengthened the museum's medium term goal to become a sector leader in the Northern Highlands. 

"As Chair of Timespan, I am particularly delighted to see this collaboration with St Andrews University. We find that working with academics makes our projects more exciting and adds depth to our research. It is easy to become entrenched in your own little world so we find that these collaborations bring fresh ideas and knowledge to Helmsdale."

Jean Sargent June 2013 



Since developing the new exhibit more people have visited Timespan year on year; from 12,000 visitors in 2013 to an estimated 14,000 visitors in 2016, increasing core income and museum admissions and other visitor related income by several thousand pounds.

The project was included in the University of St Andrews submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), which assess research excellence and impact of Higher Education Institutions.


Please note that Interface administers the Innovation Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. All funding applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Scottish Funding Council, guidelines can be found here.