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Bringing Nottingham's history to life

Nottingham City Museum and Galleries are using augmented-reality to encourage discovery and learning, and interaction with the museum’s historical collections. This innovative research is changing the way museums engage with their visitors. In October 1831, rioters attacked and burned Nottingham Castle in response to the rejection of the Reform Bill of 1831. Today, the Castle is a local history museum and home to historical artefacts and eye-witness accounts of the events which took place on the night of the riots. These physical objects can hold a vast amount of information. Using digital technologies can create exciting opportunities to unlock this knowledge and bring events from the past to life. Riot1831@ Nottingham Castle is an augmented-reality exhibition and app that uses storytelling to develop an understanding of the relationships between the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ objects, designed to help the visitor feel connected to the people of the past. The exhibition opened in July 2014 and is scheduled to remain open until at least May 2016. Using 3D real-time computer environments and animated first-person performance and sounds that are superimposed on to museum objects allows visitors to both interact and experience the events which took place in 1831.

Credit: Adrian Trowell           
Augmented Reality 3D real-time model overlay on a 3D scale model of the Ducal Palace at Nottingham Castle, presenting an opportunity to contextualise and bring to life the archive research of local historian Dr Trevor Foulds

The research, led by Roma Patel at Nottingham Trent University, was supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts (funded by AHRC, NESTA and Arts Council England). She investigated how augmented reality can enhance the understanding of museum collections and deepen audience engagement through multiple narratives. Working in close collaboration with Nottingham Castle and Hot Knife Digital Media, a 2D/3D animation design studio, she developed the storylines and tested the impact of this technology on visitor experiences.

77% of those surveyed agreed that the use of augmented-reality was engaging, while 70% felt the app helped them to understand the historical relevance of the objects and 79% said it helped them understand history. These findings have transformed the way Nottingham City Museums and Galleries will use digital technologies to improve visitor experiences in future. For Adrian Davies, Exhibition Design Manager at Nottingham City Museums & Galleries, “Specialist academic input highlighted the benefits of having a sound academic foundation at the start of our project development work. The history academic involved in the R&D project has now begun a three year academic secondment with Nottingham Council”.

This case study was featured within the AHRC 2014/15 impact report. (PDF, 7.7MB)

For more information on the project visit:     Riot 1831 @ Nottingham Castle


Link to Digital R&D Fund for the Arts