Wakefield Cathedral

Project dates: 
Summer 2013 & Summer 2016

As part of an externally-funded project to explore interpretation methods for smaller cathedrals, we worked with Wakefield cathedral in 2013 on a project to present the building's life and history and set it in the wider context of the history of the city. The output was a touchscreen placed in the cathedral's porch which allows visitors to explore the development of the building from a small, Anglo-Saxon church through large medieval parish church to the Victorian restoration and conversion to cathedral status. The interface weaves in short texts about objects within the cathedral and their history. Other sections look at the Bible stories in the stained glass windows, the symbolism of light and colour within the cathedral and a brief history of the city of Wakefield. The touchscreen emphasis is on short text with vivid imagery and is designed to encourage exploration of the building and its features once inside. It also provides a light-touch introduction to the cathedral and its features or those not so familiar with the Christian tradition and who find more traditional forms of interpretation either intimidating or requiring too much prior knowledge.

The success of the 2013 project meant Wakefield returned to us in 2016 when they were seeking ways of delivering the public engagement aspects of a project which had provided funding to clean and restore the stained glass and celebrate the completion of a major reordering and conservation project within the cathedral. The focus was to be an activity corner where children (of all ages!) could do fun things which also enabled them to explore aspects of the cathedral and the glass project. In collaboration with ArkDisplay of Leeds we devised a series of activities, both traditional and digital, which covered the restoration and meaning of the glass, explored the lives of key northern saints, allowed you to design and colour your own stained glass window and be photographed as a bishop or a medieval roof boss! See more at http://www.arkdisplay.com/Wakefield%20Cathedral/Wakefield%20Cathedral.html

The project has proved popular with young and old alike and is heavily used by schoolchildren. The combination of the media employed appeals to a wide variety of learning styles and the fun nature of the activities encourages visitors to return to have another go! The highly visual elements aids accessibility as does the very tactile nature of some of the activities. This was a new style of project for us, but one we are keen to do again.