Innovative Digital Experiences Unveiled at Beckford’s Tower

We are excited to announce the reopening of Beckford’s Tower and Museum in Bath, complete with a new suite of digital interpretations. Designed with the guidance of the curatorial and engagement staff from Bath Preservation Trust, in partnership with our long-term collaborators Calvium, and with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), Zubr Curio have delivered an innovative series of augmented reality (AR) experiences for Beckford’s Tower.

The content ranges from audio tours, 3D scanned artefacts, AR room reconstructions, landmark labels, an animated video detailing the sources of William Beckford’s wealth and an accessible 360 degree viewing experience for wheelchair users – which utilises our handheld VR binoculars.

Woman taking a picture of Beckford's Tower
Photo by Paolo Ferla

The digital layers will help visitors reflect on and recognise the people other than William Beckford whose stories are inextricably woven within this site.

We created three bespoke digital outputs designed to enhance the visitor experience:

Beckford’s Tower App

Now available on iOS and Android app stores, the Beckford’s Tower app offers immersive audio tours and AR content for visitors as they explore the site. Developed by Calvium, the app and its content management system (CMS) enable Bath Preservation Trust staff to continuously update and expand the content, ensuring a dynamic and fresh visitor experience.

Within the app, we focused on creating a series of AR moments which provide visitors with new perspectives of the Tower. Utilising historic drawings of three long-demolished rooms, we developed a web-based experience that allows visitors to visualise the ‘lost’ libraries and drawing room whilst standing in the present day space, offering key facts and insight into how it looked during Beckford’s time. Additionally, our team 3D scanned museum artefacts, converting them into 3D models viewable in AR and from 360 degrees, providing digital access to these rare objects across the world.

Beckford's Tower, AR for heritage, AR for museums, Zubr Curio, AR trail, AR app, 360 degrees,

Handheld AR/VR Binoculars

The introduction of Zubr’s handheld AR/VR Binoculars provide a 360° photography experience for immersive viewing without climbing the stairs of Beckford’s Tower. Our talented photographer Misha captured a series of 360° mono and stereoscopic photos of the Tower’s interior, which were then integrated into our binoculars. Visitors can borrow the binoculars and use the intuitive left and right buttons to switch through the photos, gaining insight into the Tower from ground level.

Misha also captured a breathtaking view from the top of the Tower. Enriched with AR landmark labels, this view is available in both the binoculars and the app, alongside AR landmark labels which provide context to the view and give people a better understanding of the surrounding sights.

Beckford's Tower Woman looking through AR binoculars

Film App

We also developed a Film App, featured on an iPad within the museum display, offering a selection of films about Beckford’s wealth and family legacy. Collaborating with the Bath Preservation Trust’s curatorial team, we created an animated short film that delicately balances captivating animation with the sensitive and troubling history of the Beckford family’s involvement in slavery. This film aims to provide a thoughtful and unflinching exploration of how the Beckford family amassed their wealth.

These diverse digital interpretations offer visitors a richer, more nuanced history of Beckford’s Tower, catering to varied interests and providing multiple access points for exploration.

Beckford's video display film app

Beckford's Tower Unveiled!

It was a joy to attend the preview of the new and improved interpretation at the Beckford’s Tower launch event. Although some of our team had recently visited the site to conduct 360 photography and to test each of our AR experiences, I personally hadn’t been there since last August when the capital works were underway and the Tower was wrapped in scaffolding. Seeing the gilding shining in the June sun and making my way along the new walkway, I felt immersed in a magical world – far from the business of Bath.

The beauty of the landscape and the Tower have been emphasised by the renovations. With new viewing decks, the unearthed Grotto, wildflower meadows, and the building works, it’s easy to forget the complicated and disturbing history which lies beneath. The Beckford family riches which enabled William Beckford to build the Tower were accumulated from the enslavement of Jamaicans across the numerous Beckford plantations. Beckford himself was ungenerous, rude to many, and infamous for his abusive relationship with William Courtenay.

Our new suite of digital interpretation provides the important context and history behind these beautiful locations, linking the Tower, cemetery, Grotto and fields, and helping visitors understand the full history of this complex site. Seeing people using the app, listening to audio tours, playing with the AR interactives, and peering through our handheld binoculars, and the Tower I felt proud that we’d been able to utilise digital technology to restore the absent stories and missing pieces to the Beckford Tower puzzle.

Whilst the physical changes to the site are expertly finished and a joy to behold, I hope the digital layers will help visitors reflect on and recognise the people other than William Beckford whose stories are inextricably woven within this site. Being involved in this project, offering new perspectives on Beckford and voicing these stories at the Tower for the first time has been a wonderful opportunity for Zubr Curio and we are excited to see the museum reopen for the public to enjoy.

Beckford's Tower photo from its gardens
Beckford's tower exhibition room with visitors

Beckford’s Tower is open to the public from 29th June.