‘Eye Shakespeare’ is a new smartphone application (or app) for visitors to Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, which has been designed to encourage users to see the town through the eyes of famous guides, who use the treasures of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and new digital technology, to re-present 400 years of history.The app is being developed by a partnership led by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute with the support of Hewlett Packard, Danwood and the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board. The partnership aims to push the boundaries of what’s possible in terms of mobile technology, heritage and innovation in business modelling, and Eye Shakespeare is a way of getting the user involved in that process.
Eye Shakespeare offers visitors a choice of language (7 in total) and a range of perspectives on the history of Stratford, so although Shakespeare’s story is important (and is arguably the single reason why most visitors come to Stratford) his is one of four voices telling visitors about the history of the town. He’s joined by three other guides: the Shakespearian actor David Garrick, the Victorian novelist Marie Corelli, and by a snail (a reference to the schoolboy in Shakespeare’s As You Like It) who give their own unique take on 13 different sites across the town including Shakespeare’s birthplace, Holy Trinity Church, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Each guide provides more information at each site based on their own life and times, and seen through the prism of hundreds of artefacts cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust which in some way tell a little bit more of the story of the town. This is done in the first person which presented a few challenges given that the character of Shakespeare is largely unknown and the provenance of some collections isn’t fully supported back to his time. For example, locks of hair said to have been clipped from the heads of William and his wife Anne during courtship are included in the app and Shakespeare’s recollection of these needed to tread a fine line between conjecture and fact. The tone and content is therefore story-based, multi-faceted and designed for a broad range of visitors who may or may not know much about the life, times and work of William Shakespeare, or about any of his fellow guides.
The app experiments with some established technologies but does this with a strong focus on artefacts and built heritage. Visitors find sites using GPS (global positioning system) but can choose one of four period maps of the town stretching back to the time of Shakespeare. Geotagging, using the smartphone’s camera to see information in the street, and other forms of augmented reality (such as a 3D visualisation of Shakespeare’s last home, New Place), will also been included in subsequent versions of the app but again this is based around authentic sites and research grounded in the recent archaeological digs in Stratford. Users will be eventually be able to create personalised souvenirs of their visit using a combination of heritage and technology, and this interplay of old and new may actually sustain these sites and collections well into the future. Therefore, Eye Shakespeare is hoping that visitors old and new will see Stratford’s past in a new way.
Eye Shakespeare is designed for iPhones and iPads and is available via the iTunes app store for free.
Caption for image: The Hair of the Head of Shakespeare, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust © Read more: http://findingshakespeare.co.uk/going-digital-the-hair-of-the-head-of-shakespeare