Take in the View from all Perspectives

Take in the View from all Perspectives

Discovering and Reconnecting Beckford's Tower and Landscape

In collaboration with Bath Preservation Trust and a wonderful team of dedicated museum professionals, Zubr Curio has developed an innovative series of augmented reality experiences for Beckford’s Tower, alongside a digital trail. Featuring a suite of digital interpretation tools, the content includes audio tours, 3D scanned objects from the museum collection, an accessible 360° viewing experience for wheelchair users, AR room reconstructions, landmark labels and an animated video detailing the sources of William Beckford’s wealth.

360

Degree Views

4

3D Scans

3

AR Rooms

7

Stop Trail

Partners

Zubr Curio executed this project as a collaborative effort, reuniting with our previous partners, Calvium, who were responsible for the content management system (CMS) creation and app hosting.

This project has been generously funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and supported by the Bath Preservation Trust team, in particular Senior Curator Amy Frost and Interpretation Consultant Iona Keen.

Recognition for the Community Advisory Panel, a group of staff from other local museums, activists and those with relevant lived experience, is also due for their feedback throughout the project, as well as the evaluation team led by Independent Consultant Kayte McSweeney.

We are also proud to have collaborated with audio producer Jules Wilkinson (who designed the content for the children’s trail), and script writer Kate Paul, who together produced the audio tours for the experience.

A New Lens for Beckford

The new interpretation scheme’s primary aim involved reuniting Beckford’s Tower with both its ‘lost’ landscape and its ‘lost’ historical context, offering a comprehensive narrative of William Beckford’s life and legacy within Bath, England and the wider world of his day. Our goal was to present these stories through a contemporary lens, making them relevant and meaningful for modern audiences whilst being transparent about the darker aspects of Beckford’s history. It is paramount we acknowledge the atrocities of our shared past and how these events have shaped our world today, refusing to shy away from telling ‘difficult’ stories. Instead, we aimed to invite, provoke and engage our audiences with these difficult topics.

Above all, our approach centred around inclusivity. The AR experiences and digital trail invite multiple perspectives into the narrative, sharing them through a layered interpretation which caters for diverse audiences and learning styles. By adopting a tone of voice that allows for many points of view, rather than the traditional ‘expert voice’, the end result is approachable and engaging for a greater variety of visitors.

Woman taking a picture of Beckford's Tower
Photo by Paolo Ferla
Beckford's Tower app
App developed by Calvium
Beckford's Tower app
App developed by Calvium
Photogrammetry scan of Beckford's tower miniature model

Approach the Tower from a Different Direction

Our interpretation approach varied across different spaces and for different audiences, necessitating extensive project consultancy, teamwork and delegation. 

We created three bespoke digital outputs:

The Beckford’s Tower App, which is available on iOS and Android app stores, allows the public to enjoy audio tours and AR content as they move through the site. Calvium developed the app and CMS, allowing Bath Preservation Trust staff the opportunity to add additional content in the future.

We focused on creating a series of AR moments which would allow visitors to see the Tower from a new perspective. For example, we took historic drawings of three rooms originally within the Tower – though long since demolished – and developed a web-based experience that lets visitors stand in the present day space whilst viewing the ‘lost’ libraries and drawing room. Using a combination of 3D spatialisation, compass calibration, AR labelling and depth maps, you can discover key facts about each room and understand how the Tower would have looked during Beckford’s day.

We also spent two days 3D scanning museum objects, transforming them into 3D models which can be viewed in AR and from 360 degrees. Some of these objects are too fragile to be on display or exist as part of other museum collections. By utilising 3D scanning techniques, we can offer digital access to these objects anywhere in the world.

Zubr’s Handheld AR/VR Binoculars provide a 360° photography experience for immersive viewing without needing to climb the stairs of Beckford’s Tower. Our incredible photographer Misha captured a series of 360° mono and stereoscopic photos of the Tower interior, which we used to create our AR binocular views. Visitors can borrow the binoculars and use the left and right buttons to switch through the 360° photos, gaining insight into the Tower interior from the ground below.

Misha also captured a stunning view from the top of the Tower which we implemented 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 sites surrounding the Tower.

Beckford's Tower handheld AR/VR binoculars
Tablet with video about Trade slavery and Beckford's family

Finally, we developed a Film App which runs on an iPad incorporated into the museum display, offering visitors a choice between a series of films about the source of Beckford’s wealth and his family legacy. We created an animated short film, working with Bath Preservation Trust’s curatorial team on the narrative to balance aesthetics and captivating animation techniques with the sensitive and horrifying content. As the film reveals the extent of enslaved people the Beckford family ‘owned’ across generations, it was important that the film didn’t trivialise or obscure the unethical ways the Beckford family grew rich.  

This variety of interpretation offers a more diverse and nuanced history of the site for visitors to explore, and provides different access points for visitors with differing interests.

Enjoy the View from the Tower

The new digital offerings have revitalised Beckford’s Tower, enhancing visitor engagement and ensuring that the site remains a relevant and inclusive historical site for future generations. We hope our digital experiences will offer a refreshed link between the landscape and the historical narrative, as well as an accessible, step-free way for visitors to view inside the tower.

Our digital offerings also provide a long-term sustainable method of delivering content to visitors, as content can be updated via the CMS. Through our innovative methods, visitors can connect to the museum rooms, such as the library or drawing room, through a uniquely revealing augmented reality experience that we hope will excite and inspire.

360 Panorama of Beckford's Tower with information points on AR
360 Panorama of Beckford's Tower with information points on AR