Auckland Castle in County Durham has a long history. It has been an important centre of power since the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century, and was the palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham for nearly 900 years. It is also the home of many works of art, including Jacob and his Twelve Sons by the celebrated Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán.
The Castle was placed under the direction of the Auckland Castle Trust in 2011, who planned to restore the Castle's buildings and grounds, develop the art and object collections and refresh the visitor interpretation.
Our relationship with Auckland Castle began in 2012, when Christianity & Culture were approached by the Auckland Castle Trust to contribute visitor interpretation expertise to their restoration plans. The Castle opened to the public as a visitor attraction in 2013 and continues to develop and expand its collections and interpretation. Christianity & Culture remains a close partner in these ongoing works, providing interpretation materials and advice.
The initial phase of collaboration aimed to create an interactive mobile device app, accompanied by touchscreens installations present in four of the Castle's key rooms. Certain amounts of material was mirrored across these interactives, including:
- Information about the lives and roles of the Prince Bishops of Durham.
- The story and physical development of the building itself
- The significance of the works of arts
However, the different digital media also had unique elements that gave visitors a greater understanding of their surroundings. Cutting edge image-recognition software was developed for the mobile device that could identify the Castle's many paintings via the mobile device's camera. Visitors were encouraged to use their own devices (or borrow tablets provided by the Castle) to explore the paintings via the app, which on recognizing a painting would provide further information on the painting's subject and history.
The touchscreens also provided unique elements. An interactive panorama and 3D model presented the Castle's chapel in key phases of its history, while an interface was developed for the famous Francisco de Zurbarán paintings, which allowed visitors to highlight interesting features within each painting.
Following funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Auckland Castle Trust proposes to further develop their existing interpretation. Christianity & Culture are closely involved in these plans, which may include a more complete digital overview exploring the development of the Castle and its surrounding area.