Prototype Projects


Belsay Wildmen

In collaboration with Culture Lab, Newcastle University and English Heritage, we are developing a digital technology which will be deployed at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland. This technology will use the history of the Belsay wildmen as a frame narrative to encourage child visitors' playful interactions with Belsay. This will coincide with an exhibition at Belsay investigating the wildmen. Examples will include crests on the castle walls, a stained glass window from the chapel and statues of the wildmen from the property's gateposts. Children will play with ideas of wildness and civility in their journey around the site. 


Collaboration between existing and potential partners is vital to this project and this section provides information about, and links to, some projects which use approaches or technologies which have informed the work we have done during Heritage Stories.

Repentir is an app developed at Newcastle University in collaboration with painter Nathan Walsh. The app  allows gallery visitors to explore, or scratch below the surface of oil paintings. The user photographs part of the painting using the app. By dragging their finger across the screen they can rub or scratch off the layers of the painting, gaining insight to the creation process by revealing the techniques involved in the production of the artwork. Find out more here. This type of techonology could be used to present visitors with photographs, drawings and architectural plans of the site they are visiting. In a similar vein, artist Guy Schofield collaborated with young people to create the Time Telescope . The telescope was situated in the Viewing Box at the Baltic and used 3D imaging technologies and archival photographs to enable the viewer to see what the view was like at different moments in time. Using the telescope focus, the visior moved the 'view' backwards and forwards in time.

There are currently low levels of literacy in the UK with related charities reporting that one in six people are affected in day-to-day life by poor literary skills. A quarter of all young people do not realise the relevance of literary skills to their well-being and although literacy levels can be said to be improving there is evidence that fewer children than ever are reading for enjoyment.

In response to this challenge the Department of Hidden Stories pilot project explored how to get children to interact with books and engaged in reading and writing in a library space. In this short three-month pilot project CX researchers collaborated with 21 eight/nine year old children, their teacher and teaching assistants, a local library and a team of creative writers from the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts to develop both card-based games and a ‘beta’ smartphone application based around creative story writing. The ‘beta’ app was a game that facilitated the children in creating a story for a ‘lost’ character by finding books from within the library for the character to live within, and to create scenes and transitions in the story inspired by these books and prompts provided by the app. These stories were tagged to book ISBNs with the intention of being ‘discoverable’ via the app by others in the future. This beta app was trialled in two workshops delivered at a local library as part of the children’s existing curriculum.

The pilot project revealed clear potential in using playful creative writing activities facilitated by mobile gaming technologies to support existing English language and literacy curriculum activities. As the initial prototype was deployed in a library the children had access to a wealth of children’s literature and children were observed interacting with as many as dozen books each in the workshops. This project is largely the basis for the digital output being developed by researchers in Culture Lab for the Heritage Stories project.

Useful Links

Rambles is an app developed in collaboration with the theatregroup Kneehighs. Kneehighs commissioned a creative writer to follow the journey a fishwife took from Cornwall to London to see a play, collecting stories as she went. You can read more about the project here, or see Kneehigh's web pages here.

Berwick-Upon-Tweed Record Office carried out a project to introduce young children (3-5 years old) to archives. Their aims included: to 'encourage a new group of young users, and their teachers, to use the archive service and to test whether it was possible to use archives as a suitable learning medium for such a young age group'. They largely used visial materials and the project was deemed a success. You can read their report here.

Heritage Show and Tell is a project which provides 'a chance for people passionate about heritage in Yorkshire to come together and share their work, get feedback on ideas and meet new collaborators.' At each session there are six speakers with three minutes to answer three questions: what are you working on?; what is exciting about it/ what are you stuck on?; what are you looking for? 

Staffordshire Past-Track is a project seeking to make Staffordshire Collections more widely available and easily accessible. Much of it is digitised photographs and you can search content by theme.

The GEM Sound Out Your Heritage Toolkit provides guidance for running heritage learning projects for the over-60s. 

Google Connected Classrooms provides opportunities for schools to participate in virtual field trips using Google Hangouts.

iSay: Visitor-Generated Content in Heritage Institutions is an AHRC-funded project allowing heritage professionals and academics to share disocurses and practices about VGC.

A New Direction are London-based and do interesting work promoting arts and cultures to young people in the capital.