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Mike Robinson


Research Development


Mike is Professor of Cultural Heritage, working to develop the University’s international, cross-disciplinary research portfolio in the cultural heritage field. With over 30 years’ experience of working at the interface between heritage, tourism and culture, Mike’s focus is upon research that makes a difference to communities and businesses across the world. Working across disciplinary boundaries to generate new thinking, he seeks to translate research and examples of best practice to share with the heritage and tourism sectors. He has advised governments, transnational and state organisations, museums and heritage attractions, NGOs and community groups. He has worked on heritage and tourism related projects in over 40 countries and has set new agendas through his publications, creative partnerships, his supervision of more than 30 PhDs and his design and organisation of 35 international academic and practitioner conferences.

The geographical foci of Mike’s more recent work is Uzbekistan (heritage-based tourism development in Karakalpakstan) and China (third-line construction and related industrial heritage in Sichuan and Zhejiang Provinces - He maintains his interests in the heritages of the Middle East (particularly Jordan) and in Taiwan with its strong Japanese colonial heritage. Through his work with the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, Mike continues to engage with the trans-nationality of heritage themes and pathways across many European countries.

Career overview

Before joining NTU Mike was Professor of Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham and director / designer of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage – a partnership with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust – Europe’s largest independent museum, managing the UNESCO Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. Mike is Professor Emeritus at the University of Birmingham.

Prior to Birmingham University, Mike was founder and director of the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change at the Universities of Sheffield Hallam and Leeds Metropolitan over a twelve-year period where he also held research professorships in Tourism and Culture. He has also held academic positions at the University of Northumbria. Mike began his lecturing career at the University of East Anglia where he gained his PhD in Environmental Sciences / Political Anthropology.

Mike has also held various visiting positions including Visiting Professorships at National Taiwan University (Graduate Institute of Planning) and University of Trento, Italy (Department of Philosophy, Aesthetics and Cultural Heritage), European Union Fellowship at the University of Illinois (Cultural Heritage), Research Fellow at University of KwaZulu-Natal (Department of Literature). He has taught on MA Programmes in many parts of the world including at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, American University of Beirut, University of Peking, University of Queensland and University of Illinois.

Mike founded and is editor-in-chief, of the Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change (published 6 issues per year by Routledge, Taylor-Francis) and founder and co-editor of the Tourism and Cultural Book Series (Channel View Publications) with over 60 international volumes published. He has been on the editorial boards of several international journals and serves on the Boards of Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review (University of California Berkeley) and Tourism Tribune, China’s leading tourism Journal.

Research areas

Professor Robinson’s research has deliberately oscillated between the ways in which societies continually produce both tangible and intangible heritage and, the ever-changing ways this heritage is consumed by tourists and local communities. He places emphasis on the shifting values ascribed to heritage and how these shape and inscribe narratives and meanings. He is interested in what heritage does and what it can do; how it can be mobilised to transform place, people and local economies in sustainable and meaningful ways.

The scope of his work stretches from understanding the role of museum objects and the business of museums as cultural institutions, to the issues surrounding the sustainability and the changing historic and geographic cultural resonances of World Heritage (World Heritage Tourism and Identity: Inscription and Co-production), to the emergence of ‘new’ heritage generated through the absorption of popular culture (Book: Encounters with Popular Pasts: Cultural Heritage and Popular Culture). Mike’s work in the field of critical tourism studies (Sage Handbook of Tourism Studies) continues to assist how we value and understand different forms of heritage in symbolic ways (Book: The Framed World: Tourism, Tourists and Photography) and in an emotional sense (Book: Emotion in Motion: Tourism, Affect and Transformation).

“Heritage is all about the values we place on the past now. But the reality is that values vary across cultures and change with each generation. All heritage was once new. We need to reflect on the reasons why we value what we value from the past, and, what we no longer value. We can never fully understand heritage without understanding what it means to people and to do this we need to understand ourselves.”

Mike has held grants from the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, US Social Science Research Council, British Council, the EU and several overseas, national based funding bodies.

Professor Robinson is interested in supervising PhDs that interrogate the changing values of cultural heritage and the inter-relationships that develop between different heritage categories and changing audiences. Previous PhD research topics below provide an indication of his interests:

Nation Building through the Museums of Oman

Urban Heritage Production in South Korea

World Heritage Communities and Tourism in Mompox, Colombia

Revitalisation of Industrial Heritage in Wuhan, China

The Heritagisation of Traditional Settlements in Rural China

Craft Production in Japanese Villages as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Negotiating Multi-cultural pasts in Georgetown World Heritage Site Malaysia

Narratives of West Lake World Heritage, Hangzhou, China

Aboriginal Representation in Taiwanese Museums

External activity

Mike has worked with UNESCO at national and international level for the past 25 years. He was a founding member of the UNESCO UNITWIN Network on Tourism, Culture and Development. In 2006 he authored the major UNESCO Report on Sustainable Tourism and contributed to the 2nd UNESCO World Report on Cultural Diversity. Mike has worked with UNESCO offices in China, South East Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and various parts of Europe and remains an expert advisor to the UK’s National Commission for UNESCO. He was a ministerial appointed member of the UK’s Expert Panel to determine the UK’s Tentative List for World Heritage nomination.

Mike has regularly advised UNESCO’s World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme and was a principal consultant to the EU funded World Heritage Journeys of Europe project (

Since 2014 Mike has been an advisor and evaluator to the Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes Programme and has worked with several cultural routes. He has addressed several Annual Advisory Forums and provided the keynote address to 47 Council of Europe Ministers at Twentieth Anniversary Conference of European Institute of Cultural Routes, Luxembourg, 2018.

Mike is a former Board Member of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and was also a Trustee of Bede’s World – a large heritage attraction/museum. He was a Board Member of the British Academy’s Council for British Research in the Levant for 7 years serving on its various committees.

Mike is former member of International Association for the Study of Traditional Environment’s (IASTE) Advisory Board and remains a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Traditional Dwellings and Settlement Review and has been a keynote speaker and discussant at IASTE international conferences.

Other recent appointments include:

2020 International Development Advisor, Heritage Department, Faculty of Creative Technology and Heritage, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan.

2017 Expert Committee of the UNESCO-China Youth Development Foundation Mercedes-Benz Star Fund FIT Project on Conservation and Management of World Heritage Sites in China

2017 Advisory Board of Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre, University of Queensland

2016 Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College

2016 Evaluation Expert for H2020 SC5 Cultural Heritage Programme, European Commission

2015 Expert Advisor, Taiwan Cultural Heritage Bureau, Ministry of Culture

Over the years Mike has served on the Editorial Boards of several Tourism and Culture related journals and has reviewed for numerous international journals.

He continues to serve has a reviewer for various research and conservation organisations including the ESRC, AHRC, Leverhulme, British Academy, Swedish National Research Foundation, Flanders Research Office, Australian Research Council, Netherlands Research Office, Wolfson Foundation, Cyprus National Science Foundation.

Sponsors and collaborators

Research Projects include:

Principal Investigator, 2019-2021, UNESCO Office of Uzbekistan and the State Committee for Tourism Development - Sustainable Tourism and Heritage Resource Management in the Former Aral Sea Region of Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan.

Principal Investigator, 2017-2018, British Council China – Exploring the Heritage of Third-line Construction in Sichuan Province, with Historic England, CADW, University of Shanghai.

Principal Investigator, 2015-2018 AHRC funded - World Heritage FOR Sustainable Development - with collaborators from University of Illinois, University of Peking, UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme and 7 international World Heritage Sites. ( The project was included in the AHRC’s Impact Case Studies for the report on heritage for the European Commission.

Principal Investigator, 2014-2018 AHRC funded - Communicating World Heritage - collaborating with Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and World Heritage UK. The project produced 3 PhDs.

Principal Researcher and Designer, 2017-2018, Taiwan Ministry of Culture - Europe’s first exhibition on the Cultural Heritage of Taiwan: Diversity and Transformation (

Co-Investigator, 2018-2020, AHRC funded - Heritage Borders of Engagement Network [ENGAGE] - Mobilising cultural heritage for building partnerships and institutions for sustainable and inclusive peace, led by PI Prof. Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem, Nottingham Trent University

Senior Researcher, 2015-2018, AHRC funded - Translation and translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformation in super-diverse wards in four UK cities, led by PI Prof. Angela Creese, University of Birmingham (

Collaborations include:

UNESCO World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme

Council of Europe’s European Institute for Cultural Routes

World Heritage Research Centre, University of Peking

Cultural Heritage Collaborative for Management and Policy (CHAMP), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Taiwan National Cultural Heritage Bureau Ministry of Culture, Taiwan

Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre, University of Queensland

Institut de Recherche et d'Études Supérieures du Tourisme (IREST), Paris 1, Sorbonne


Selected Books, Chapters, Journal Articles & Commissioned Research Reports

Report: The Development of Sustainable Heritage-based Tourism in Karakalpakstan, UNESCO, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. (130 pages). UNESCO – forthcoming 2022

Book Chapter: World Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals: West Lake Experiences (with I. Katapidi). Chapter in: Giblin, J. (Ed) Heritage for Development, London: Routledge – forthcoming 2022.

Journal Article: Continuity and Change in the Alum Industry: A Technological Approach to Wenzhou Alum Mine (Zhejiang Province, China, 14th-21st Century), Industrial Archaeology Review, with Shujing Feng, DOI: 10.1080/03090728.2020.1809314, 2020

Book: The Protection and Utilization of Contemporary Industrial Heritage: Studies on the Third-front Industrial Heritage (当代工业遗产保护与利用研究——聚焦三线建设工业遗产), Vice Editor with Liu, J. Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 2020 – Chapter - Protection and Utilization of Industrial Heritage in Europe: Challenges and Opportunities (in Chinese: 欧洲工业遗产的保护和利用:挑战和机遇), pp.3-31.

Journal Article: Protection and Utilization of Industrial Heritage in Europe: Challenges and Opportunities (with Yi Fu), Southeast China Journal, 1:12-18, 2020

Book Chapter: A Second Industrial Heritage Revolution: A Challenging Agenda for Change, Chapter in Yang, C. Editor, Taiwan’s Industrial Heritage, 2019

Book Chapter: Talking of Heritage: The Past in Conversation.Chapter in: Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity - Edited by Angela Creese and Adrian Blackledge, 2018

Book Chapter: The Agency of Belonging: Identifying and Inhabiting Tradition. Chapter in: AlSayyad, N. (ed.) Whose Tradition? Routledge, 2017

Book: World Heritage: Global and Local Relations, (with Maria Gravari-Barbas and Laurent Bourdeau), Routledge, 2017

Chapter: A World of Destinations - A World of Journeys, Chapter in: Marie-Charlotte Le Bailly (ed.) Red Star Cruising 1895-1934, Exhibitions International, 2017

Journal Article: Heritage of the World Rather Than World Heritage. Article for Tamsui Museum Journal, Taiwan, 2017

Book: Tourism at the Olympics (ed. with J. Ploner), Routledge, 2016

Book: Encounters with Popular Pasts: Cultural Heritage and Popular Culture (with Helaine Silverman), New York: Springer, 2015

Book: World Heritage Tourism and Identity: Inscription and Co-production (with Maria Gravari-Barbas and Laurent Bourdeau), Ashgate, 2015

Journal Article: Mementos of a Dark Journey: German “Real Photographic Postcards” and the Making of Memory Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts Vol.27, 2015

Book: Travelling Languages: Culture, Communication and Translation in a Mobile World (Edited with John O'Regan and Jane Wilkinson), London: Routledge, 2015

Journal Article: Beyond Stendhal: Emotional Worlds or Emotional Tourists? Literature and Aesthetics, Vol.22. No.1, pp.1-19, 2012

Book: Emotion in Motion: Tourism, Affect and Transformation, Edited Book with David Picard, Ashgate Series ‘New Directions in Tourism Analysis’ 2012 – Chapter, The Emotional Tourist, pp.21-48.

Book: Tourisme et Patrimoine Mondial, Edited with M. Gravari-Barbas and L. Bourdeau, Presses l'Université Laval: Québec, 2012

Chapter: Meaning in Chaos? Experiencing Cultural Heritage, Tourism and the Challenge of the Popular.In: The Heritage Theatre: Globalisation and Cultural Heritage Edited by: Marlite Halbertsma, Alex van Stipriaan and Patricia van Ulzen, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011

Chapter: Moving Heritage Forward: Tourism, the Popular and the Hypermodern. Chapter in: Erb.gut? Kulturelles Erbe in Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft edited by Karl Berger, Margot Schindler and Ingo Schneider, published by Selbstv, Verlag des Vereins für Volkskunde pp.75-89, 2010

Handbook: Commissioned to edit The SAGE Tourism Studies Handbook (with Tazim Jamal, Texas A&M University) 39 chapters, 716 pages, London: Sage. Series Editor: Chris Rojek, 2009.

Book: The Framed World: Tourism, Tourists and Photography (with David Picard), Farnham: Ashgate, New Directions in Tourism Analysis, 2009 – Chapter, Tourism and Photography: Magic, Memory and World Making, pp. 1-37.

Book: Festivals Tourism and Social Change, (Co-edited with David Picard), Clevedon: Channel View, 2006 – Chapter, Remaking Worlds: Festivals, Tourism and Change, pp.1-31.

Book: Cultural Tourism in a Changing World: Politics, Participation and (Re)presentation. (Co-edited with Melanie Smith), Clevedon: Channel View, 2006 – Chapter, Politics, Power and Play: The Shifting Contexts of Cultural Tourism, pp.1-18.

Commissioned Report: Tourism, Culture and Sustainable Development, (with David Picard), Paris: UNESCO, Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue, Doc No CLT/CPD/CAD - 06/13 (96 pages) published in English, French, Spanish, Russian, German, Chinese, Basque, 2006

Chapter: Narratives of Being There: The Place of Travel Writing in Tourism, Chapter in: A Companion to Tourism Geography, (Editors Alan Lewe, Allan Williams and Michael Hall), London: Blackwell, pp.303-315, 2004.

Book: Literature and Tourism: The Reading and Writing of Tourism (with H. C. Andersen), London: Continuum Press 2002 – Chapters, Reading Between the Lines: Literature and the Creation of Touristic Spaces. pp.1-38 and Between and Beyond the Pages: Literature-Tourism Relationships, pp.39-79.

Press expertise

National and International Cultural Heritage – Management, Economies, Interpretation – China, Middle East, Europe

World Heritage – Policy, Management, Interpretation, Sustainable Development

Industrial Heritage, Literary Heritage, Museum Management

Tourism – Sustainable Tourism, Travel Experiences, Cultural Routes