Five Cornish museums are to benefit from almost £700k of Government funding following a successful bid to the Coastal Communities Fund to use virtual and augmented reality technology to bring Cornish heritage alive.
The bid was led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) with Cornwall Museums Partnership and Falmouth University. Further investment is coming from the LEP and Cornwall Council towards the total project cost of almost £770k.
The Coastal Communities wAVE (Augmented & Virtual Experiences) project will bring together research experts, technologists and five local museums and their communities to take visitors on a compelling immersive and interactive journey to the past.
The technology will be developed by Falmouth University in partnership with Cornwall Museums Partnership and will be launched in phases at the Telegraph Museum Porthcurno; Castle Heritage Centre, Bude; St Agnes Museum; Isles of Scilly Museum and the Old Guildhall Museum & Gaol in Looe between April this year and the end of 2020.
The project is part of the LEP’s strategy to harness the cultural tourism strengths of Cornwall and Scilly and the rapidly growing digital sector to enhance the visitor experience and attract new visitors to the region. It is expected to boost footfall to participating museums by almost 25,000 people per year, create 17 new jobs and generate more than half a million pounds for the economy annually.
Glenn Caplin, chief executive of the Cornwall and isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This project will use technology to create a series of immersive heritage experiences, melding Cornwall’s distinctive culture and heritage with cutting edge digital expertise that has been enabled through huge investment in broadband and further education in recent years. It will help five coastal communities diversify their economies by accessing new, year-round and higher value tourism markets, boosting footfall and creating and sustaining jobs.”
Emmie Kell, chief executive of the Cornwall Museums Partnership and creative sector lead on the board of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Helping museums to embrace the potential of digital technology to improve the visitor experiences they offer and increase the contribution they make to their local economies is a priority for us. We are really excited about working with Falmouth University, individual museums and local communities on this brilliant project.”
Professor Anne Carlisle OBE, vice-chancellor of Falmouth University, added: “The wAVE project provides a fantastic opportunity to combine the technical expertise of Falmouth University staff with the sector expertise of the Cornwall Museums Partnership to boost the local economy. The project will celebrate our region’s rich heritage but use innovative technology to provide refreshing and inspirational perspectives, creating an immersive and interactive journey to the past. These new visitor experiences will support the communities to access higher value and year-round tourism markets an offer a model that is replicable elsewhere.”
The new technology will include virtual reality headsets, high definition projection techniques and computer-generated imagery to create new, immersive visitor experiences. Research suggests that the UK mixed reality market will be worth £1.2 billion by 2020 but the use of virtual augmented and immersive reality in museums is still in its infancy.
The Government’s investment is from the fifth round of the Coastal Communities Fund and is part of a £15.4 million package awarded to 20 projects across the south west region.