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View to the Past

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Irene Brown



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a conference proceedings (inc. abstract) that has been published in its final definitive form by BCS The Chartered Institute for IT, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


As artist in residence at the Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds in 2016 I produced View to the Past, a art installation consisting of five custom-made virtual reality viewers, placed at strategic points throughout the museum and three augmented reality postcards for sale in the shop. The commission brief was to reflect two significant but underrepresented periods in the building’s history; its original use as the Leeds Union Workhouse (Est. 1858) and its time as the East Leeds War Hospital during WW1. Each unique VR device (housing either an iPhone or iPad) acted as a time machine, presenting an unsettling 360° view into the past and magically revealing what the building once looked like, while the ghosts of those who once inhabited it seem to surround and observe you. In the galleries a WW1 operating theatre, with nurses and doctors and a Workhouse laundry are visible. The corridors house a 1914 hospital ward and a scene from the male wing of the 19th century workhouse and in the ornate entrance hall the Workhouse Board of Guardians are visiting. The three Augmented Reality postcards echo these scenarios, static images that come to life when viewed through a smartphone or iPad. Volunteers from museum participated enthusiastically with the project, acting as photographic models for the green screen video and photo shoots and providing the ghostly historic characters populating the viewers and postcards. The technology used is simple, free and widely available; Google Street View and Aurasma Studio. The project included three free public workshops, introducing the basic techniques involved to participant’s aged from 8 -80. The magic here is not the artists’ technical genius (this I am certainly not), or the mysteries of expensive and unfathomable programmes but in the imaginative use of accessible, user-friendly systems. The potential benefits are huge, not only for artists and venues but visitors, who encounter a new way of experiencing art and museum collections by engaging with contemporary devices of wonder.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brown I

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2017)

Year of Conference: 2017

Pages: 373-376

Online publication date: 11/07/2017

Acceptance date: 01/02/2017

Date deposited: 01/02/2018

Publisher: BCS The Chartered Institute for IT


DOI: 10.14236/ewic/EVA2017.74

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781780173993