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This project incorporates exciting heritage interpretation into
a bustling modern context. The Master’s House is a historic
building of national importance, but it has been restored and redeveloped as a modern library and community services hub.
We have explored the building’s stories in a way that
complements its contemporary use.
Our aim was to provide interpretation that would be enjoyed by two quite different groups of visitors. Firstly, visitors who had come to explore the building’s heritage and stories. Secondly, users of the library and community services.
Our interpretive rationale for the project was as follows:
The Master’s House and surrounding hospital buildings are the heart of the story. However, it is the echoes of the people that inhabited these places that enable our visitors to make their own connections to the history of Master’s House.
The Master’s House is a unique and nationally important historic building. It has been extensively developed in several phases over the centuries, and the story of this architectural development is at times quite complex.
We decided that the best way to engage with visitors and draw them into the building’s stories was to use a cast of historic characters who were all linked to the Master’s House in the past.
This approach was designed to give the building’s many stories a human face, making them more meaningful and accessible.
At the entrance visitors are welcomed by six characters who will be their guides, etched into paving slabs. A large sandblasted illustration of St Katherine’s Hospital in its heyday conjures up its extent and bustling activity.
Once inside the building, visitors stumble on interpretation in unexpected places throughout.
This enhances their experience by creating an exciting sense of spontaneous discovery.
In the Great Hall a printed curtain shows the Master banqueting with his guests. Ghostly figures etched into glass partitions create the sense of Tudor characters coming and going. At the welcome desk, visitors can pick up a free tablet tour and / or a children’s activity trail to empower them to explore the building.
Text is economical, intended to spark curiosity. The tone is light and accessible throughout, but deeper layers of interpretation are only a tap away on the tablet tour. Woodcut-style illustrations evoke the building’s Tudor heyday.
In the panelled room a small peephole and trompe l’oeil illustration enables visitors to glimpse the Great Hall in all its Tudor splendour. A portrait of the hospital’s founder unexpectedly comes to life on a screen and speaks to them.
A flock of open books seems to float on the wall, as if in flight. Beautifully illustrated, they take visitors on a journey through 800 years of St Katherine’s Hospital.
Tablets tucked onto bookshelves catch visitors’ eyes as they pass. When visitors touch the screens the Tudor characters come to life and speak to them, sharing their experiences of life at the Master’s House.
A model produced using 3D printing allows visitors to put the Master’s House together with their own hands, helping them to understand its phased development. If they get stuck, CGI modelling is available to help on the tablet tour.