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Bringing history to life

There are few more obvious applications for augmented reality than heritage. The places and spaces dedicated to telling the stories of our past represent some of the most valuable cultural capital we have, but face a perennial fight for relevance in the digital era. The incredible histories, characters and narratives risk gradually being lost from the collective conscious, as society turns its attention elsewhere, particularly for entertainment and leisure. Embracing technology has always been a potential way for heritage to move with the times, but the immersive experiences that are now possible represent the most impactful use of technology yet available to the sector.




The short answer is that AR is for everyone in heritage. From the biggest museums with the deepest pockets to the smallest heritage sites relying on volunteers, there is an immersive technology solution for you. 

Device capabilities (whether supplied by the heritage site or brought by the visitor) and quality of experiences now readily available in immersive tech are fast putting to bed any debate about the potential of AR. Magical, mind-blowing mixed physical and digital experiences are within reach of all, with the key differentiator being mindset and ambition, not tech infrastructure or budgets.

Here are a few examples of the different ways AR can be used in the heritage sector:


The Marvellous Missenden experience dramatises the inspiration that Roald Dahl took from his surroundings, by taking visitors to the Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre on a magical journey through the village he called home. The museum had historically suffered from being seen as a 'wet weather destination', but by creating a digital, narrative-led journey beyond its walls, it suddenly had something to offer on glorious sunny days too.

Read more about the experience here.


The Ragged School Museum in East London was once the largest 'ragged' or 'free' schools in London. Saved from demolition in the 1980s by passionate local heritage enthusiasts, today it welcomes thousands of schoolchildren and other visitors through its doors each year. Many meet Victorian-era school teachers, played by actors, who show them what it would have been like to attend the school. To offer a different type of visitor experience and possibly open it up to those unable to visit the school, we created 'Miss Perkins', an AR hologram that can be viewed as if she were standing in front of the user. Answer her questions correctly, or you might end up wearing the dunce's cap!

MUSIC WALK OF FAME // Animating the Inanimate

Arcade were selected as partners to design, create and provide the AR experiences that can be triggered by each stone on Camden's Music Walk of Fame. Using a free app, visitors can bring each stone to life and access the AR experience that is revealed. To date, that includes hearing exclusive content ahead of The Who’s latest album release, joining the Madness ‘nutty train’, taking a memorial photograph of sadly-missed icon Amy Winehouse on the streets she loved so much, and getting ‘back to life’ with Soul II Soul. Importantly, these experiences trigger directly from the stones themselves, ‘anchoring’ the AR in physical, real-world objects. The effect is believable, ‘authentic’ digital experiences that feel real, even though we know they are not.

Read more about the experience here.

Pokemon Go Screenshot

Keeping up with expectation

The visually astonishing, physically and emotionally engaging experiences that characterise augmented reality offer an entirely new way for heritage to tell its stories – but it won’t stay ‘new’ for long. As our furniture retailerscosmetics brandsfashion labelssocial media appsgames and so many more are introducing AR, we are all becoming more familiar with 3D digital content, to the extent that in the near future it will be as normal as web pages are today.

That doesn’t mean there’s any need to panic, but it does mean there is a growing imperative for organisations of all kinds to ensure they understand what this technology is, what it should be used for, and most importantly whether – and if so, how – it can add value for them and their audiences.

How do I get started?

As you can see from the examples above, AR can be used for a variety of different purposes. The most important startpoint is to identify the challenges you are trying to address. They might include traditional issues such as growing visitor numbers, frequency of visit, dwell time, satisfaction, advocacy and, of course, secondary spend, but can also be about attracting new audiences, engaging with people off site or expanding the footprint of the attraction.

So, first thing’s first: what’s your challenge?

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