Wardown House Museum

Wardown House Museum and Gallery, on the outskirts of Luton town centre, has recently undergone a £3.5m redevelopment that allows visitors the chance to get “hands on” in their exploration of the history of Luton as well as that of the house itself.

One of the principle guides for the project has been to reimagine the building as a grand residence, with its history being told for the first time and within it the history of Luton unfolding through its collections.

From this principle, we worked with Imagemakers on 18 varied interactive exhibits that take the interpretation of the property far away from the traditional approach of panels on walls and uses digital technology in a highly imaginative way to allow the house to do the talking.

Wardown House Museum port cochere

Phil Songhurst of Imagemakers said, “The refurbishment project has taken the building back to its Victorian roots with period decoration aimed at creating a sense of its history rather than set dressing the rooms. It has been important that we find ways of telling stories that fit with this ethos. Rather than imposing obtrusive graphic panels that would stick out like a sore thumb we have taken traditional – or traditional-style – artefacts and adapted them to incorporate ways of presenting audiovisual content from oral histories and ambient sound to video and detailed images of stunning historical documents.

Wardown House Museum interactive mirror bathroom

“This approach has also allowed us to give access to a huge collection of items that had been hidden away, grouping items in themes and storylines, and enabling visitors to dig as deep into the detail as they wish.

“Visitors enjoy stumbling across the exhibits, almost hidden as part of the building’s fabric and furniture, and are fascinated and wowed by the exploratory and tactile interaction that they can enjoy.”

Wardown House Museum interactive mirror dressing room

Talking objects, portraits and mirrors surprise visitors. Their physical interaction – entering a room, lifting a hairbrush, sitting in a wing back armchair – prompts the telling of stories that visitors find truly engrossing.

Wardown House Museum gramophone

Interactives allow visitors to explore aspects of the area’s history in detail whilst incorporating fun activities and even a test of billiard playing skill.

Wardown House Museum interactive billiard table

Historical characters emerge from mirrors or come to life from portraits to talk about their involvement in the history of the house or to compare experiences with modern day Museum Makers, the volunteers that make so much of the museum’s activity possible. The Lace Lady haunts the landing…

And a tablet tour allows visitors to follow specific trails around the house and even to create their own tour that they can then send to the Wardown House Facebook page to share their own recommendations with others.

Wardown House Museum tablet tour room view

Walking through the house, visitors pass through areas that are themed to explore the ways in which the house has played its part in local history: as a private residence for local solicitor, Frank Scargill – Frank and his family act as hosts throughout the house – and as a military hospital during the First World War before becoming a museum in 1931.

Wardown House Museum talking portrait Frank Scargill

The collections include items from the Luton News Archive, and that explore the hat industry and straw work for which Luton is famous, as well as its sporting, leisure and cultural history.

Wardown House Museum Luton News archive 1We have provided software powered by our content management system which allows the client to add and update content as they need or, where more appropriate, have content held locally to the media player. We have specified and installed hardware that is suitable for sensitive incorporation into an historical environment and providing all relevant training and manuals.

Reviews from visitors have been highly complimentary:

“Even though I am an adult, I still found it rather cool to sit in a chair and then have it speak to me, imparting really interesting information!… The ghost exhibit is fantastic.”

“Many quirky exhibits full of surprises.”

“The interactive displays are fantastic. Loved the bathroom one.”

Read more about the interactive exhibits

Read more about the audio visual exhibits

Read more about the interactive objects

Read more about the tablet tour

Funding credits:

Luton Borough Council
Friends of Luton Museum
Murry Barford Trust
Garfield Weston Foundation
Steel Charitable Trust
Community Covenant
Betty Robinson Trust
Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment Trust
Rotary North Luton
DCMS Wolfson Foundation