Experiencing Arcadia is a project of passion, set up to encourage historic garden staff to be bolder in their approaches to interpretation. It grew from a personal belief that general interest visitors, especially those of younger generations were often being sidelined. Although some sites are embracing new methods of interpretation and engagement, this is far from the norm for most of the sector. Our approach, which involves innovative but simple digital technologies to introduce visitors to the most amusing moving and human of garden history stories could add an affordable offer to this mix. Gardens have always been places for fun as well as thoughtful contemplation, and we would like to bring back a bit more wow and giggle using historical sources!
We have an embarrassingly simple and achievable vision; that visitors can view an online map of the historic garden they are visiting, just like the one you usually find at the back of printed guidebooks or on a piece of paper at the ticket office. The map will catalogue features in the garden, and by clicking on each, the visitor can read a firsthand account by the people who would have visited in the past. Or if no specific account is available in the archival record, then they could at least read an account of a similar feature elsewhere. In this way, we are sure, garden history will come to life and the general populace will be enchanted!
We have launched Experiencing Arcadia in 2016 with an eighteenth-century garden, to coincide with the Capability Brown Festival. This is the year when all eyes are turned to historic gardens for the first time in decades, and we hope as a sector we can grab this new gaze and meet it with something suitably modern and user-friendly.
We hope very much that you will be encouraged by our effort to create a similar offer for a garden close to your heart. We would love to help, or hear how you get on – via firstname.lastname@example.org