Prison, Culture, and Heritage

In 2019 the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Leeds, and Liverpool John Moores to use digital technologies to create visual histories which can portray the experiences of 19th century convicts, and 20th century indigenous prisoners.

Funded by AHRC follow-on-funding

Led by Professor Barry Godfrey the project has co-produced a public history of imprisonment with communities which do not normally have a deep engagement with universities or heritage bodies.


Professor Caroline Wilkinson and Face Lab analysed photographic portraits of Victorian convicts to digitally create average faces, which formed the basis of exhibitions in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and Hobart Penitentiary Church (in collaboration with National Trust Australia: Tasmania).

Great to see an exhibition like linking the past with the present… Brings dead people alive… I shall never look at criminals in the same way!

Read about 'Georgia Prisoners in Black and White' and see Caroline Wilkinson's 'Facial Identity and Cognitive Bias' lecture on the Digital Humanities, University of Georgia website.

Documentary films


Professor Barry Godfrey and Professor Paul Cooke, using his experience as a participatory filmmaker, produced two documentary films. The first tells the story of indigenous prisoners at Fremantle Prison who together created astounding internationally significant art. The second documents the lives of people living in in northern Western Australia today, and the attempts of heritage bodies to capture their experiences (in collaboration with the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, local communities and Aboriginal Elders).


Roebourne Trailer

“In the far northwestern Australian town of Roebourne lies an abandoned gaol. Previously used as a tool of colonisation, containing Aboriginal people from around the Pilbara, the authorities now plan to re-open it as a heritage asset. This film explores how local people feel about their awful history being packaged for predominantly white tourists passing through; and asks, if not tourism, what can be done to help the people of Roebourne? Dramatic scenery and blistering heat forms the background for local debates under shady trees, outside the Pilbara Aboriginal Church, and inside the Old Gaol. Elders discuss what lies ahead for their children and grandchildren, and how their culture (and their land) can be preserved in the shadow of thundering land-trains filled with mineral ore transporting the wealth outside of traditional owner’s lands”

(“Roebourne” – Barry Godfrey and Paul Cooke). Full video will be available in 2023.

Roebourne Trailer from Paul Cooke on Vimeo.


Our intention has been to explore the ways in which arts and humanities research can inform approaches to inclusive participatory decision-making, community engagement, co-production, and human rights. 

At the same time deeply moving and wonderfully inspirational

In all of our collaborations we have acknowledged the traditional owners of the land, paying respects to their Elders, past and present. We continue to create exhibitions, films, discussions, and forums for debate about inequalities and the uses of imprisonment.

Watch a short documentary film

The Art of Fremantle Prison from Paul Cooke on Vimeo.

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