Battle of Bannockburn by National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland & Bright White Ltd

Chris Walker

Founding Director

Bright White Ltd

Bright White Ltd Suite 2F, Swinegate Court East Swinegate, York YO1 8AJ United Kingdom

York, United Kingdom
Museums + Heritage / Innovation Award 2015


Description of Project
The L9.1m Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre is situated 2km south of Stirling. The site also includes the 1960s ‘Rotunda’ battlefield monument and a memorial park.

bann 1Overall Objective of the Project
To mark the 700th anniversary of the most decisive battle in the Wars of Scottish Indepen-dence by creating a new learning-led Visitor Centre on the site of the 1960s Centre. Other significant objectives are to appeal to the audience of today, promote the best in Scottish digital design, and make the Battle of Bannockburn site a source of inspiration for every vis-itor.

Strategy for Implementation
The project vision required the largest ever collaboration between heritage bodies in Scotland. The vision required unusual cross-sector collaboration between a government agency, a charity, further education establishments, academia, private industry, funding bodies and volunteers. To meet the soft opening date of 1st March 2014, and be fully operational by the 700th anniversary of the battle in June 2014, a long lead-in programme was devised.

The project was declared to be “Interpretation-led”, to describe the relationship between in-terpretive designers, architect and landscape architect, who were separately appointed. The consultants were appointed through a design competition process. The project team declared that Bannockburn should be an exemplarly digital interpretation project. Interpretive design was dominated by multiple highly-innovative digital forms of interpretation.

The project was delivered on time, on budget and exceeded the expectations of the client team. The interpretive vision was delivered without compromise. On opening, the project at-tracted significant broadsheet and tabloid attention and praise:

What a dish
The Herald Scotland

Bannockburn [is a] spectacular triumph for the combined forces of 3D science and historical narrative.
The Telegraph

A visceral sense of the odds against the Scots.
The Financial Times

What waits within dissects [the kings’] seismic collision with thrilling modernity.
The Independent

The next generation of museum interpretation in action.
The Stirling Observer

The Daily Record

bann 2The BattleGame is the centerpiece. It pitches two teams of visitors against each other in a his-torically-accurate virtual battle recreation. To improve their chances of winning, they have to learn to fight as a medieval army, working as a team. Robert Bruce’s use of the landscape and terrain was critical to his success. It's difficult to perceive the actual battlefield because of modern development in the area. To successfully interpret the battle, the team had to help visitors interpret the landscape.

The interpretation was assessed independently by ScotInform’s Qualitative Research paper. This showed that all learning outcomes are being delivered through the digital forms of inter-pretation.

Meta-analysis was conducted by HS, NTS and Bright White to collate opinion across all forms of feedback: Visitor book, Twitter, Trip Advisor, schoolchildren and schoolteacher surveys. Seventy-four school groups were analyzed to assess the response from teachers. The re-sponse is very heavily weighted at “Excellent, 10/10”.

The project has already won a number of awards, most notably the ASVA Best Visitor Expe-rience, the Scottish Design Award for Best Cultural Project, the Museums and Heritage Awards 2015 for Innovation and Highly Commended in thePermanent Exhibition category. It was named overall winner for Excellence in Interpretation at the Association for Heritage Interpretation Awards 2015 and also won the Visitor and Interpretation Centre category.

AHI Awards Judge comments:
“This is a visitor experience and interpretation project like no other that we have come across. It goes all out to explain a complicated medieval battle to visitors in an engaging and fully immersive way and most definitely has learning at the heart of the experience.
With learning at the core of this project, ‘learning through doing’ as one of their con-cepts, is maintained across the experience. The battle game enables you to fight the battle with your fellow team members without a predicted outcome – the English can win too! After the game has been played the battle master explains how the real battle of Bannockburn was fought and why Bruce picked this particular site at which to meet the English. The gaming table also shows you the topography of the area today compared to the medieval period.
Overall it is an innovative, interactive experience which has held fast to its intention to provide the opportunity to learn about an important historical event in a very original way.”

The centre formally opened at full capacity in May 2014. The BattleRoom was incorporated into a major BBC documentary, starring Neil Oliver and shown in June 2014.

Creativity and Originality
Digital forms of interpretation and learning dominate the visit. The digital is leveraged to provide a unique and powerful learning experience. The BattleRoom, a world’s first in Multiplayer Coop-erative Gaming, is at the core of the visitor offer.

Motion capture was used in the fight scenes, also a world’s first in interpretation. The 3D immer-sive environment provides a 1:1 relationship with the action. Real and virtual environments are seamlessly blended together, unconfined by the envelope of the building.

Multiple Digital Storytelling techniques are used within the non-linear visitor route and the use of written word is minimal. A digital archive of 3D objects, characters and weapons was created, as the visit was designed to spill out into classrooms before and after. Every visit is different because the visitors are the protagonists.

Cost-effectiveness and Budgets
This project proved that relatively small amounts of architectural footprint can house dispropor-tionally large amounts of digital content through the use of virtual space, digital storytelling and group-based participatory learning. In creating an exemplary project, the team identified the whole-life cost of digital systems, and built the maintenance and refurbishment costs into the business plan.

Summary of Team involved
- The owners and operators were The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), partnered with the Scottish government agency Historic Scotland (HS) to deliver the project. NTS provided oper-ational development, education, academic and interpretation teams. HS provided project management. The project was funded by the Scottish Government and the HLF
- The appointed consultants consisted of Interpretive Designers Bright White Ltd as the lead design consultancy alongside Reiach and Hall (Architects) and Ian White Associates (Land-scape Architects)
- Bright White Ltd collaborated with Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio to create the 3D immersive media. Bright White appointed console game developers D3T Ltd to develop the Battle Game
- The NTS-chaired Academic Advisory Panel included seven key academics, leaders in their respective fields, to provide historical and scientific input to the project.
- Interpretation was delivered by Bright White’s subcontractors. Basebuild was delivered through contract with Mansell Construction, now Balfour-Beatty Plc


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