Ghosts in the Garden: REACT Heritage Sandbox

Planning notes for 'Ghosts in the Garden' 

An innovative digital cultures research project bringing together historical interpretation and gameplay in Sydney Gardens, Bath, a regionally important heritage landscape.

Media: Project video (External site)

Media: Project gallery

Grant aid: £46,000

Project partners: Splash and Ripple Ltd; Holburne Museum, Bath

Duration: April-July 2012, with further business development April-June 2013

Sydney Gardens, laid out on the Vauxhall (London) model in 1795, once attracted vast crowds of Georgian pleasure seekers, with swing boats, a labyrinth, a ruined castle and an elaborate 'Cosmorama', flanked by brightly painted supper boxes and centred on an arena for fireworks, acrobats, balloon ascents and musical extravaganzas. Now, by interacting with GPS location-based media and careful historical research, modern visitors are able to explore and walk through a recreated early nineteenth century soundscape, and learn something about the history of late Georgian pleasure grounds as they do so.

The Ghosts in the Garden project uses innovative technology and imaginative gameplay to reunite the physical space of the modern park with its historic past and with the recently expanded and re-launched Holburne museum, the Gardens' former entry-point, tearoom and hotel. The voices of GPS-triggered historic characters are heard by Garden visitors as they move around the park through a specially built receiver. Each character – whether firework impressario, musician, rope dancer, pickpocket or beggar - was retrieved, researched and enlarged from the archival record. The project's greatest challenge was to work in a space between empirical research and dramatic fiction to explore virtual immersion in the visitor experience. 

A second grant of £10,000 was secured in January 2013 from HEIF, REACT business development awards and the Holburne Museum and a full professional evaluation of the project will take place between April and July 2013. Marketing opportunities with further heritage business partners are now being developed through work with the National Trust and Visit Wales.

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