The past in digital: recreating the lives and landscapes of disabled people

Our project has explored eight centuries of history through archive research and events. We have used much of what we learned to create some digital experiences.

digital game still with ornate trees and gravel path flanked by low decorative columns

Play the games and interactives from History of Place here.

In telling the story of deaf and disabled people across eight locations and 800 years, we have reconnected with the past in a variety of ways  – from taking oral histories to creating banners, searching through archives and discovering documents.

I’ve always found the images of Chiswick House – from the collections of Historic England and largely taken in the 1950s – particularly haunting. They were snapped around the time that the wings of the house were being demolished, and decades after the Tuke brothers ran their unusually enlightened asylum at the property between 1893 and 1928, but a lot is still preserved from an earlier time.

Statue of the sphinx surrounded by trees in Chiswich House Gardens

The gardens at Chiswick House

Now we’ve drawn from the pictures of the then rather hulking house and stately gardens to imagine Chiswick House Asylum in digital form. Creating a digital experience has allowed us to occupy these landscapes and tell a story inspired by and loosely based around what we know about one of the residents of the house, G B Bartlett. We took a real letter from the archives based on Barlett’s friend Drennan as the frame for our story.

Dear Drennan – watch/listen/closed captions/BSL and find out the fascinating past of Chiswick House.

Still of a digitally designed bridge with ornate decoration

Our second immersive story summons up Maison Dieu, the earliest site in the 800 year story we are telling, based on the life of a named woman from the archives. You can watch The Story of Helen (with a choice of closed captions, audio description and BSL here).

These narratives have come from processes of research, and games workshops with a variety of people, finally refined into a single narrative through the creation of electronic theatre artist Simon Wilkinson. We hope you will enjoy trying out our reimaginings from a long history.

Digital game still, a cricket ball in the foreground of a snowy landscape

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