My Roman Pantheon: experiential digital interpretation at Chesters Roman Fort

My Roman Pantheon: experiential digital interpretation at Chesters Roman Fort
31 July 2020, 5.30pm - 7.00pm

Andrew Roberts, English Heritage

This event will be held online at

Chesters Roman Fort Museum displays John Clayton’s collection of Roman antiquities found during his extensive 19th-century excavations of Hadrian’s Wall. Created in 1896, the museum still relates closely to its original layout and approaches to display, and includes a large collection of inscribed altars and sculptures displayed en masse across several rows. Much of the stonework is fragmentary and often of little aesthetic virtue. Audience research revealed that the stonework was a barrier to audience understanding and enjoyment of the museum. As part of a wider redisplay of the collection, English Heritage worked in partnership with an interaction design team from Sheffield Hallam University to develop a digital interpretation device to attempt to better connect visitors with this esoteric object class.

The solution was to ask the visitor to take on the role of a new member of the fort garrison in need of the assistance of the Roman gods to succeed with life on Hadrian’s Wall. They are given a ‘votive’ lamp embedded with Internet of Things technology to use as an offering to the gods and asked to select three Roman gods by using contactless ‘tap’ points corresponding to different sculptural representations around the museum. Upon returning the device, the visitor receives a personalised ‘Roman Pantheon’ - a postcard with information about each of the gods. This paper will outline the benefits of running a co-design process with an HEI, reflect upon the possibilities of digital interpretation of Roman archaeology, including the advantages of this approach against the use of screen devices and VR, and evaluate the extent to which this technological approach returned the intended learning and behavioural outcomes - e.g. conveyed the polytheistic world of Roman religion.


Valerie James
020 7862 8716