Case Study 1: Discover Turner’s Yorkshire: public-oriented research and commercialization

Submitting Institution

University of Leeds

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Professor David Hill has published extensively on Turner's work, highlighting Yorkshire as a landscape of international significance. His fieldwork has tracked the artist's travels through the county, locating, examining and photographing his viewpoints as they survive today.

Since 2010 a tourist promotion entitled `Discover Turner's Yorkshire' has given this work much wider public impact. Both published and digital materials have raised public awareness of the significance of the county to the artist; this has increased tourism and brought further economic and social benefits.

Underpinning research

Professor David Hill is an expert on J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) having researched the life and work of the artist for more than thirty-five years. Hill was one of the first of a generation of modern scholars who recognised both the need and the scope for research into the topographical aspects of Turner's work. He has published regularly in this area since 1980, achieving an extensive scholarly and popular readership (1), (4).

Hill's work has been cited in most general Turner literature of the last thirty years and informed independent exhibitions such as Turner tours of Durham and Richmondshire (Bowes Museum 2006).

His 2008 book Turner and Leeds (1) highlighted the significance of the paintings Turner completed whilst in the region, and the changes in the social and geographic landscape sparked by the industrial revolution. Reviews indicate the contribution this research has made to the study of Turner: "David Hill has followed the artist and his work on his tours throughout the county, and the north of England, more widely. In the process he has pioneered a peripatetic, topographical approach to Turner and the art of his contemporaries." (2)

Between 2008 and 2010 while he was Harewood Professor of Fine Art at the University of Leeds, Hill was commissioned by Tate Britain to contribute his extensive research into Turner's Yorkshire topography as part of their ongoing project to recatalogue the Turner Bequest collection of Turner's sketches and drawings. This £1m project was one of the largest research projects ever devoted to British art. Hill was the only established Turner scholar outside the Tate to be invited to contribute to this definitive catalogue of an internationally significant resource, and he produced over 300,000 words of description, identification and analysis of Turner's work in the Bequest (3).

Hill's 2008-10 research constituted a comprehensive and systematic review of several thousand subjects, the majority having been established during the course of his earlier work, but also including several hundred new identifications which were made specifically as a part of the research at Tate Britain. Developments in technology allowed a comprehensively modernised online revision that would capture all the topographic work done in the last thirty-five years by Hill and other Turner scholars.

Hill's Turner and Leeds and his Tate research were the specific triggers for the tourism initiative `Discover Turner's Yorkshire'. In 2009 he was invited by tourist organisation Welcome to Yorkshire to present his work at the Great Yorkshire Show. Impressed by his presentation, they then commissioned him to act as development consultant to the `Discover Turner's Yorkshire' project, and to prepare a comprehensive collation of the research material to inform the project.

Hill integrated his research with the GPS technology of Google Earth to accurately identify, for the first time in this format, the viewing points and locations depicted in Turner's drawings of the Yorkshire landscape. This facility — and the detailed online briefing notes which he created for each locality — enabled the commercial exploitation of this research and the economic and social impacts described below.

References to the research

(1) Hill, David — Turner and Leeds; image of industry (Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2008). A single author book. Can be supplied by UOA on request.

(2) Professor Stephen Daniels review of Turner and Leeds in Turner Society News, no.114, Summer 2010, pp.12-14. Review can be supplied by UOA on request.

(3) Turner Bequest catalogue online at Tate Britain (Turner's Travels) (2012): Professor Hill's contributions are informed by his research projects: Turner's Tour 1809 (ref. 155); Turner's Yorkshire Tour 1816 (refs. 144,145, 146, 147, 148, 149); Farnley Hall and Yorkshire related subjects (refs. 94, 128, 129, 150, 151, 152, 153). (A CD with complete text can be supplied by the UOA on request).

(4) Hill, David, Turner in the North, (Yale University Press, 1996).

Details of the impact

Hill completed his work for Welcome to Yorkshire over six months, ending in March 2010. Development work continued for a further year, with Hill as consultant.

`Discover Turner's Yorkshire' began with a Turner Trail, launched in June 2010, identifying seventy sites depicted by the artist. Each site is marked in some way — in most cases with a distinctive seat and interpretation boards directly attributable to Hill's research — all of which were locally funded and as a consequence each contributed to the local economy. This highlighted new tourist venues, as well as directing fresh attention to established attractions. The Yorkshire Tourism Report states: "in raising the profile of Turner, there has been considerable success in promoting some of Yorkshire's hidden heritage gems." (c; p.ii)

The Turner Trail was further supported by a number of Welcome to Yorkshire initiatives funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£50,000) and Yorkshire Forward VOTED Support Fund (£20,000). These included:

  • A `Discover Turner's Yorkshire' map (e), of which 44,000 copies have been distributed and an additional 18,000 used by the Turner Trail sites and galleries.
  • An accompanying booklet entitled Discover Turner's Yorkshire (d) with widespread national and international distribution (c). Hill wrote the foreword and all the Turner Trail location descriptions (h).
  • An extensive (and permanent) Yorkshire Turner Trails website (a). This is built around an interactive map derived from Hill's Google Earth material and offers a range of innovative, technology-based methods of exploring the artist's Yorkshire journeys. One of the most fully developed artist-themed tourist initiatives across both print and new media, it features:
    • Descriptions of each site and Turner's association with it.
    • Downloadable guides to local trails.
    • Audio tours and podstrolls — each giving audio descriptions and routes.
    • Geocaches — which enable GPS device-holders to seek out hidden items in treasure-hunt trails. The hidden boxes are interactive projects, and contain a logbook to recount the visit, and often contain small `trade items' left by previous explorers. By May 2011 there were more than 200 logged visits to sites (c).
    • Podcasts (e) of Hill's interviews with local celebrities and dignitaries including the Earl of Harewood, the watercolour artist Ashley Jackson and Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, which were widely reported in the national and regional press (c), (f).
    • Activity sheets for children.
    • Links to local organisations offering themed tours and accommodation.

Launched in June 2010, the website has had over 100,000 page views and almost 10,000 downloads (h). With traffic driven to the site via blogs, commercial and advertising sites, there is evidence of considerable reach, with much of the traffic indicating that Turner's connections to the region are being re-embedded in the local consciousness (g) (h).

Welcome to Yorkshire estimates that as many as 1.25 million visitors had seen the interpretation boards by November 2011 (c; p.i). Yorkshire's tourism economy has seen a 6% year-on-year increase in visitor numbers (b; p.62); while visitors to Turner Trails locations spent an average £119 per head during their trip in 2010-11, compared to £106 in the previous year (b; p.62). Over half the tourism businesses surveyed thought that the Turner project had a positive impact on their business; a third noticed an increase in tourist numbers in the region (c). The manager of the heritage site at Plumpton Rocks commented that the Turner Trails had "increased awareness of the site dramatically" (c).

The media and PR publicity (f; g) generated by the Turner Trails has been extensive, with reports in both national and regional newspapers, as well as radio and TV coverage, equating to almost £600,000 in total Advertising Value Equivalency up to November 2011 (c; p.i).

Hill also disseminated his research through a series of Turner Masterclasses which educated heritage tourism professionals and owners of tourism-related businesses on the Turner connections to their location (h). Feedback from the fifty-three attendees indicated that participants would build on the increasing interest in cultural tourism in the region through the promotion of Turner Trails to `develop/enhance their own businesses' (c; p.13).

Highlighting the significance of Turner in the region has also led to a number of specific commercial initiatives, including new `Turner Tours' organised by regional tourism companies including Wold Tours, Wayfarers and the Greatdays Travel Group (c; p.16), (g; no.30), (i). These have allowed Hill's research to make a significant contribution to the local and regional economy (h).

This success has led Welcome to Yorkshire to consider developing further tours based on artists Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney and Henry Moore (g; no.28), extending the economic impact of this model.

Sources to corroborate the impact


(b) Yorkshire Regional Visitor Survey (RVS); appendices 4, 8 & 9, p.62. (A copy of the text can be supplied by the UOA on request).

(c) Turner Trail in Yorkshire, Evaluation Report: Welcome to Yorkshire, Yorkshire Tourist Board report (Project YH-09-07638), p.(i);(ii);13;16;28. (A copy of the text can be supplied by the UOA on request).

(d) Discover Turner's Yorkshire'; Booklet, Tourist Maps, Podcasts, Podstrolls, Audio Tours. (Copies of this material can be supplied by the UOA on request).

(e) Individual commentary from Chief Executive, Welcome to Yorkshire, Yorkshire Tourist Board; Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for Yorkshire and Humber. (Details on the REF submission system).

(f) Media and newspaper reports: Daily Telegraph (10/7/10); Independent on Sunday (22/8/10); The Guardian website (28/6/10); Yorkshire Evening Post (24/12/11); Yorkshire Evening Post (2/4/11); BBC Radio 4, `You and Yours'; BBC Look North; BBC1 `Country Tracks'. (Copies of these reports and reviews can be made available by the UOA on request).

(g) World-wide-web. Data: 30 web listings in total; Professional Reviews (15); YouTube (1); Wikipedia (1); Museum archives (1); Commercial Advertising (14). (Summaries and web-links can be made available by the UOA on request).

(h) Personal testimony from Special Project executive, Welcome to Yorkshire; personal testimony from Marketing Project Manager, Welcome to Yorkshire. (Details on the REF submission system)

(i) Personal testimony from Wayfarers Tour Leader. (Details on the REF submission system).