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Visualising Shakespeare's New Place

This month’s post gives a sneak peek into some of the features available in the second version of our Eye Shakespeare app, namely: augmented reality.

Robyn Greenwood

This month’s post gives a sneak peek into some of the features available in the second version of our Eye Shakespeare app. One of the most exciting features in this version will be the addition of augmented reality. What is augmented reality? It is (according to Wikipedia) a live, direct or indirect view of a physical real world environment whose elements are augmented by computer generated input. This input can come in many forms and includes sounds, smells and graphics.

In a museum context, marrying up computer generated content with the real thing can be extremely beneficial. Augmented reality can be as simple as linking a website with additional information to a painting label displayed in a gallery or as complex as recreating entire objects and structures which are no longer in existence. It is the latter type of augmented reality that will take centre stage in the second version of our app as we seek to digitally recreate Shakespeare’s last home, New Place, so that visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon may explore the property like never before.

If you’ve ever been to the site of New Place you know that all that remains of Shakespeare’s last home is its foundation. The building that once stood on the site has an extensive history but was bought by Shakespeare in 1597. At this time New Place was the second largest building in Stratford and was where Shakespeare would stay when he wasn’t in London. It is thought that Shakespeare wrote some his later plays on these grounds and died on this site in 1616. After Shakespeare’s death, New Place went through various renovations and rebuilding until it was completely demolished in 1759 by the then owner Reverend Francis Gastrell.

Working version of 3D model of New Place
Working version of 3D model of New Place

Our goal in the app is to reconstruct New Place as it was in Shakespeare’s time. To do this we have consulted various academics and Shakespearian specialists as well as items in our collection and beyond. One of the most important items we have consulted is a sketch of New Place drawn by George Vertue many years after its demolition and that is now held in the British Library. The images and video below show the visualisation in various stages of development and alhough they are by no means the finished version, they give an idea of how the model will work.

Using augmented reality, visitors to New Place will be able to point their phone at the empty site and see a recreation of the building Shakespeare once knew on their screen. Users will be able to explore the building close-up and walk around the site.  The most innovative part of the project, however, will be the visitor’s ability to photograph themselves standing in front of Shakespeare’s New Place and then eventually be able to create a postcard or image with our trail e-print system.

Other augmented reality activities in the app may include seeing Shakespeare at the Birthplace, geotagging from the top of the Tower at the Royal Shakespeare Company, x-raying the exterior of Hall’s Croft, seeing the ghost of Marie Corelli at The Shakespeare Institute, and a treasure-hunt snail trail.

Check out this short clip of an earlier development of our digital recreation of New Place!

Please note that this app is no longer available to download.