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Mapping Medieval Chester

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/F009356/1 then AH/I021698/1
Discipline: Languages and Literatures
Funding opportunity: Research Grant - Early Career
Areas of Impact: Culture and Heritage; Digital Technologies; Knowledge Exchange; Museums and Collections; Tourism
Lead RO: University of Swansea and then University of Southampton
Region:  Wales and then South East

The multi-partner Mapping Medieval Chester project has offered the city of Chester multiple ways to engage its community in its museum collections and its heritage while also enhancing the experience of visitors and contributing to the economic regeneration of the area.

Two multidisciplinary and collaborative projects:

  • Mapping Medieval Chester: place and identity in an English borderland city c.1200-1500
  • Discover Medieval Chester: place, heritage and identity

led by Professor Catherine Clarke, in collaboration with, the Grosvenor Museum, a local museum, successfully increased knowledge of the museum’s collections through public engagement activities and the driving of heritage policy.

The focus of the Mapping Medieval Chester project was researching the identities and sense of place of the medieval inhabitants of Chester. It produced a website (www.medievalchester.ac.uk), an online interactive resource to which the public could contribute and which received 2.7 million hits between August 2009 and November 2013. The website was designed for a range of audiences and included a Flickr stream of photos for public contribution. The Mapping Medieval Chester project also included ‘Mapping Medieval Chester Festival’, a major public event in 2009 which involved 1,200 local people in a weekend of events and activities.

With additional AHRC funding, Clarke led further work in partnership with the Grosvenor Museum, Chester and Cheshire West and Chester Council. The research produced by Clarke and the team was directly incorporated into the 2009 ‘Public Realm Strategy’, which looked at the improvement of arts and tourism in the city, and contributed to the development of local heritage sites. This resulted in the £63,000 grant from Cheshire West and Chester Council and ‘Chester Renaissance’ for the commission of a public art project.

This large scale project involved enlisting the help of 200 people who worked with the artist Nayan Kalkarni on the permanent light installation, Hryre (ruin). Hryre featured medieval texts, from Chester, in English, Latin and Welsh projected onto St John’s ruins which was a site targeted by the Council for regeneration. The artwork received the 2012 Civic Honours commendation award for positive contribution to the urban landscape and also featured in Chester’s bid for City of Culture Status, 2017.

The project also produced a new website: Discover Medieval Chester (discover.medievalchester.ac.uk), which included interactive tour maps, multi-media resources and a game. The Chester Civic Trust gave a 'commended' award to the 'Discover Medieval Chester' website in their New Year Honours, 2014. Catherine Clarke said that “This was very significant as it's the first time the Civic Trust have given an award to a digital/'virtual' addition to the city's landscape, rather than a material/built feature”.

A major exhibition in 2013 at the Grosvenor Museum ‘Discover a Medieval City: Places, Voices, Journeys’ contributed to economic regeneration of the area receiving over 31,000 visitors valued at £51.12 each.

Download the four leaflets for the exhibition (PDF, 683KB).

Gateway to Research Project Links: