A virtual bath

Yesterday I had an interesting visit to Kings College London, to attend a workshop in the fascinating space of the university’s Anatomy Museum. I wanted to lie on the floor below the massive skylight, in the position where once a cadaver on a table would have been, while students watched the opening of the body from the mezzanine that extended along three sides. But that’s not what you do, when you are meeting people for the first time, so I sipped my coffee and shook hands instead.

We were there to discuss a neighbor of Kings College on the Strand, surely one of the least known National Trust places in the country. The Roman Bath on Strand Lane is open only by appointment on Wednesday afternoon, but thousands of people must pass every day, hardly glimpsing the signs of its presence. Kings has put a little bit of money into exploring how better access to this (and other) hidden heritage might be achieved digitally.

Martin Blazeby kicked proceedings off by sharing a computer model of the space. Then Alex Butterworth who’s done a bunch of digital storytelling, and Valeria Vitale spoke about two similar (and indeed interrelated during research) concepts The Idea of Water, and A Web of Unexpected Connections. On the two, The Idea of Water most excited me – I could imagine it being installed inside the Roman Bath (which if you want you can peer at through a window when its closed) silently projecting the content (a bubbling source of quotes about water, in essence) on darkened walls controlled somehow by the people doing the peering, or by other virtual visitors in the comfort of their own home, or for than matter, by people walking across Waterloo Bridge…

In between those two concepts Marcia Balisciano of Benjamin Franklin House, shared the frustration of some her her visitors at finding the most (mostly) empty and unfurnished, and we knocked about a few ideas about using digital technology to give those visitors a little of what they wanted, while preserving the interpretive philosophy behind the house itself.