An augmented reality experience was very unusual in 2006 but proved to be the best way to enable everyone to enjoy an exhibit in the Council Chamber on the upper floor of Chippenham Yelde Hall. With CCTV and specially written software, disabled visitors can explore an inaccessible area of this Grade I Listed Building.
The structure and listed status of the building make it impossible to create physical disabled access beyond the ground floor but a key exhibit is a tableau based on real people and a real event in the town in 1816 on the upper floor. Here, characters debate the reasons behind an affray in the town, one of the many incidents of civil unrest in England following the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
The interactive system gives visitors who cannot access the room itself three ways to enjoy the debating experience.
A CCTV camera installed in the room pans, zooms and tilts around the scene, controlled from a touchscreen on the ground floor by the visitor, giving them the flexibility to explore the tableau. As it settles on any item in the room, interpretive content is displayed.
Alternatively, the visitor can choose items of interest to them from a menu on the touchscreen and the camera will then find that item for them in the room to display it on the screen.
A third strand to the experience is that the camera system plays the audio debate that runs in the Council Chamber, with the camera tracking to each character as they speak.
Providing disabled access to historic buildings can be a tickly challenge but imaginative use of technology can help to create an engaging, even multi-sensory experience for every visitor.