This practice-based PhD research project chronicles an attempt to build a participatory digital culture around local heritage, in order to promote tourism to one of the UK’s poorest counties. Funded by a public/private EU scheme, the researcher designed a 25,000 word “virtual museum”, in partnership with local agencies and the local authority. Based on a theoretical framework drawing insights from narrative studies, participatory media theory, current heritage installations, and Critical Heritage Studies, the researcher built a hybrid website: it augments expert-vetted interpretation with “warm,” person-centred narrative and images, incorporating diverse perspectives and participatory social features like photo- sharing, user comments, and social media campaigns -- to be monitored and updated by a dedicated team of volunteers in a model of “distributed co-curation,”to insure ustainability without draining paid staff time. However due to legal concerns over user-generated content, on handover to the local authority for long-term hosting, access to the website’s backend and analytics were disallowed to the researcher and volunteers, rendering updates and complete analysis impossible. The website did not find its audience, and the participatory culture did not materialize. Subsequent literature study reveals documented trends that may have contributed: heritage tourism planning is often hampered by poor collaboration and cooperation, local tourism planning is routinely dominated by informal and irrational “kinship” relationships, and local authorities across Europe struggle with technology adoption, especially with Web 2.0 and participatory media. The project reveals that on the local level, especially in rural or conservative areas, designers of digital media for participatory heritage face significant challenges on issues of technology adoption, polysemic interpretation, multivocal presentation, intangible or “everyday heritage,” authority, and control.