In this talk the speakers will explore the potential of mixed reality and immersive technologies to support decolonising methodologies in heritage contexts, the challenges of cross-disciplinary collaboration, and the value of external consultants – in this case young people –  as both critical friends and co-producers.

As part of a UK Research and Innovation Arts and Humanities Research Council funded research and development project, partners from English Heritage, Brunel University London and the University of Essex created an immersive digital media and promenade theatre experience at Marble Hill House, London, which could help to reframe Marble’s history by making visible its colonial links, revealing for visitors the site’s unseen connections to the transatlantic slave trade. Mixed reality technology offered a powerful metaphor: a site’s links to empire or slavery are often unnoticed, but can be made visible and shared with audiences, just like the digital layer in mixed reality is made visible through technology.

The experience was co-produced with external decolonising consultants from communities whose histories have been under and misrepresented in mainstream heritage narratives. With support from English Heritage’s national youth engagement programme, a youth panel from the International Slavery Museum, National Museums Liverpool were employed as the project’s decolonising consultants.

Thinking of decolonisation as a process, not a single action, we wanted visitors to be active participants in decolonisation, and we wanted the active nature of engaging with Mixed Reality to help us do that.

Sancho’s Journey required collaboration across many fields and brought together many different forms of expertise, including lived experience, heritage professionals in both the UK and the US, immersive design researchers, and theatre specialists.

Heritage experts in interpretation, digital engagement and history co-designed the experience, leading the discussion on site selection, themes, characters, events, and other narrative aspects, and exploring potential technological hurdles.

The performances ran in September and October of 2023 to English Heritage staff, volunteers and members of the public. Details of the experience were tweaked during the run based on audience feedback.

We reflected on our practice through engagement activities focused on the sector and on researchers, including the development a toolkit on using Mixed Reality in heritage decolonisation aimed at heritage professionals, and further work expanding on decolonising themes at Marble Hill for our visitors.

May 15 @ 15:45
15:45 — 16:25 (40′)

Theatre 1

Talks

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