A large inflatable dome will be installed on the lawns of the National Trust’s Chedworth Roman Villa, allowing groups of visitors to experience a planetarium-style projection which brings to life the history of one of the country’s most important Roman sites.
Stepping inside the ‘Discovery Dome’, visitors will be immersed in a presentation showing the creation, development, loss and discovery of Chedworth Roman Villa. Visitors can see the pre-Roman landscape, then experience the Roman Villa develop all around them, before seeing its loss and rediscovery in 1864. The projection concludes with a flight through a ‘data cloud’, the digital record of the Villa as captured by a laser scan of the entire site.
Alex Auden, Operations Manager at Chedworth Roman Villa said: “This year, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Villa’s discovery in 1864, our focus is on helping visitors to make their own discoveries about this extraordinary site.
“Using cutting-edge technology the Discovery Dome brings the Villa to life in a completely new way, affording a unique perspective on the Villa’s development both in the Roman period and over the last 150 years.”
National Trust Curator Rupert Goulding describes the experience of being immersed in a digitally constructed landscape: “It can be hard to look at the ruins today and imagine what the Villa might have looked like in its heyday, or to understand how the Villa was lost and buried. But the Discovery Dome can show this by putting you in the middle of the site as the Villa is constructed and then degrades all around you, at what feels like life size.
“It helps you appreciate how big Chedworth Roman Villa was at its largest extent, and so how much has been lost over the centuries. The technology is remarkably effective, and the Dome adds a new and fun experience for visitors at Chedworth.”
The Discovery Dome is the focus of a University of Bath EngD project co-funded by the National Trust into the application of technology in bringing the past alive at heritage sites.
The EngD researcher that developed the Dome, John Tredinnick, is from the University’s Centre for Digital Entertainment, based in the Department of Computer Science. His role in this project is supervised by Professor Paul Richens of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Architecture, which has a long record of work using computers to reimagine ancient buildings and is currently working on recreating lost landscapes through the use of computer game engines.
He said: “I am excited to be working with the National Trust on this project. After its first stint at Chedworth over Easter, we got lots of positive feedback from visitors. We’re planning to develop it further to make it interactive which would make it an even more engaging experience. We are also looking at using the same underlying technology for other National Trust sites.”
The Discovery Dome will be onsite at Chedworth Roman Villa from 4 to 15 August as just one aspect of Chedworth’s action-packed summer holiday programme. Demand is likely to be high, particularly during peak hours (12pm-2pm) so visitors are advised to plan their visit accordingly.
The pilot for this project was funded by the University's Public Engagement Unit.
Find out more about Chedworth’s summer events at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chedworth.
And keep in touch via Facebook: NTChedworthRomanVilla or Twitter: @NTChedworth