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Technology to offer visitors ‘immersive’ National Trust experience

Chedworth Roman Villa in Gloucestershire

Press release issued: 7 November 2019

How can the sights and sounds of history be brought alive for modern visitors to National Trust properties? Cutting edge technology could provide an answer, so the conservation charity will work with University experts to create new multi-sensory experiences at some of its places in the South West and Wales.

The work is part of a new wide-ranging regional partnership between the National Trust and GW4 – an Alliance of top research-intensive and innovative universities; Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

GW4’s lead on the National Trust partnership Professor Tim Cole, of the University of Bristol, said: “We’re interested in how we can use new digital technologies to evoke the history of a place.

“What did a place sound like? What did it feel like? We want to try to bring it alive for the modern visitor; to use technology to offer an immersive visitor experience at National Trust sites.”

A similar previous project in Gloucestershire saw the full-size digital recreation of 17th Century gardens at Dyrham Park and rooms in a Roman site at Chedworth Roman Villa.

The use of digital and creative expertise to connect audiences with heritage is just one of five different themes identified for the ambitious partnership.

The other four themes are colonial legacies; climate resilience; mental health, wellbeing and landscape; and landscape decisions and management.

Dr Rupert Goulding, the National Trust’s lead curator for the South West Region, said one of the core aims of the collaboration with GW4 was to develop research bids around the five themes.

“This partnership will bring in academic expertise, new thoughts and ideas, as well as informing the work that we’re doing and take us in new directions,” he said.

“GW4 and the National Trust are a great match and we’ll bring together complementary expertise and skills that will lead to exciting projects.”

The announcement comes as the GW4 Alliance celebrates five years of collaborative world-class research and innovation. Collaborative interdisciplinary research is at the heart of GW4 and to date GW4 has invested more than £2.8m in 87 collaborative research communities, generating £37m in research income.

The regional partnership, covering multiple universities across the South West and Wales, is the first of its kind for the National Trust and builds upon previous strategic investment from GW4.

Director of GW4, Dr Sarah Perkins said: “GW4 is delighted to be partnering with the National Trust. It reflects our vision to develop strong partnerships at scale, especially as we celebrate our fifth anniversary.

“By working together in an interdisciplinary way and building on our region’s strengths and academic excellence we can help to tackle these complex social and global challenges. For example, our region has a strong history of creative innovation and the Great West is home to more climate expertise than any other area worldwide.”

Further information

About the National Trust

The National Trustis a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy.  More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.

Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 26 million people visit every year, and together with 5.2 million members and over 61,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places for ever, for everyone.

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About the GW4 Alliance

The GW4 Alliance brings together four of the most research-intensive and innovative universities in the UK; the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

The GW4 Alliance is celebrating its 5-year anniversary, following the GW4 launch event at the House of Commons in October 2014.  

GW4’s collaborative research and innovation recognises and builds on our region’s strengths in aerospace and advanced engineering; new energy systems; next generation microelectronics; resilience, environment and sustainability; creative and cultural economy; living well and digital innovation. 

Over the past 5 years GW4 has invested over £4.6million in research, training and world class facilities. GW4’s total external grant income across our collaborative research communities and doctoral training programmes is over £123million. This means a 27:1 total return on investment for every £1 GW4 invests.

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