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Living history with Open Virtual Worlds: Reconstructing St Andrews Cathedral as a stage for historic narrative

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


St Andrews Cathedral is located on the East Coast of Scotland, construction started in 1160 and spanned Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. It was consecrated in 1318, four years after the battle of Bannockburn in the presence of King Robert the Bruce. For several hundred years, the Cathedral was one of the most important religious buildings in Europe and the centre of religious life in Scotland. During the Scottish Reformation, John Knox lead reformers in divesting the Cathedral of much of its finery. Thereafter it fell into disuse and decline. Today the impressive remains only hint at the former glory of this important building.

Cultural Heritage encompasses physical aspects such as architecture and artifacts along with less tangible culture such as music, songs and stories. Open virtual worlds offer an extensible collaborative environment for developing historic scenes against the background of which material and ephemeral aspects of cultural heritage associated with a site may be explored through engagement with historic narratives. They offer the potential to reconstruct within a 3D computer environment both the physical structures of the past and important aspects of the light, music and life that once filled those structures. Virtual reconstructions enable scenarios to be created where individual pieces of art can be located and appreciated within the audio, visual and spacial contexts for which they were originally created. Bringing together architecture, sculpture, illumination, stained-glass, music, procession and lighting into a scene which can be explored from multiple spatial perspectives enables holistic experience and appreciation. Historic reconstructions may be created upon virtual stages allowing new and engaging Cultural Heritage perspectives to be accessible to diverse audiences.

Through the example of St Andrews Cathedral reconstruction this paper presents an example of Open Virtual Worlds as a technology for supporting the creation and use of virtual reconstructions as a platform that promotes understanding of and engagement with Cultural Heritage. The use contexts discussed range from research based exploration of 3D spaces, to primary schools students using the reconstructions as a backdrop for tag. The digital literacies of the audience and goals of the use case impact on the appropriateness of the user interface. A range of interfaces are explored including games controllers, touch screens, tablets that provide location aware views into the model and hands free gesture control systems.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2nd European Immersive Education Summit
Subtitle of host publicationEiED 2012
EditorsMichael Gardner, Francois Garnier, Carlos Delgado Kloos
Place of PublicationMadrid, Spain
PublisherUniversidad Carlos III de Madrid, Departamento de Ingeniería Telemática
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)84-695-6427-7, 978-84-695-6427-1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Event2nd European Immersive Education Summit - Paris, France
Duration: 26 Nov 201227 Nov 2012

Publication series

ISSN (Print)2325-5048


Conference2nd European Immersive Education Summit

    Research areas

  • Virtual Worlds, Cultural heritage, Virtual reconstruction, Narrative

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ID: 42585029