Digital placemaking for accessible visitor exploration


Arts & Culture

Digital Placemaking

View of tower from adjoining cemetery


The Beckford Tower Trust commissioned Calvium and Zubr Curio to deliver an immersive digital placemaking visitor experience for their Grade 1 listed building, landscape and museum collection.

The partnership developed a compelling mobile app that guides visitors around the exterior and interior of Beckford’s 120 foot Tower, encouraging exploration through unique augmented reality interactives. This innovative app allows visitors to peel back the complex layers of history through immersive mixed-reality experiences.

Collaboration, creativity, inclusion and accessibility are at the core of this pioneering project.                                                                                         


The Beckford Tower Trust (BTT) owns and manages Beckford’s Tower, the only remaining building associated with the historically significant figure, William Beckford (1760–1844). Located near the City of Bath, the Trust received a grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NLHF) to carry out a major project to conserve the building, adapt it for sustainable energy use, and better tell the complex story of Beckford’s life, relationships and complicity in the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved people.

Key to the success of the project is its digital visitor experience – delivered onsite and remotely.                                                                                         

Screen grabs from app of map, exhibits, quest, trail and photo of the tower with surrounding landscape

About the digital visitor experience

Visitors can download the free Beckford’s Tower mobile app from the iOS and Android stores. The app features an outside mode with themed tours that encourage exploration of the neo-classical Tower’s landscape, and an inside mode that enhances the experience for paying visitors, by providing deeper insights into the artefacts and indoor exhibits of the building.

In addition to incorporating accessibility features in the main app, a second app has been developed specifically for those unable to climb the Tower’s 154 steps. This app allows visitors to experience a 360-degree panoramic view of Bath from the ground floor, providing a dramatic encounter with the landscape and enabling accessible exploration.

Three images - photo of family looking out of tower over railing, spiral staircase and painting of pink interior

About Calvium's digital placemaking contribution

Calvium and Zubr Curio have a longstanding partnership that runs deep. Together they collaborated with the Trust’s curatorial team, throughout the design and development of this unique visitor experience.

Creative co-design workshops ensured that all aspects of the project were addressed and each member of the team was able to share their expertise and learn from others. As well as being enjoyable, the workshops were critical points for the success of the project as they allowed new ideas to be explored, concerns to be discussed and the project as a whole to leap forward.

As part of the workshops, Calvium introduced the award-winning Place Experience Platform (PEP) to the BTT team. PEP is Calvium’s accessible digital placemaking system that is the foundational technology for the Beckford’s Tower App. It gives the curatorial team the power to create and update the app content at any time, providing new digital experiences quickly and efficiently.

Two photos of the workshop - Jo Reid presenting and the team sat discussing in an officeWhen conducting visitor research at other museums, the curators often found that digitally delivered interpretation was unavailable; either due to not being present at all or because of broken technology. As a result of their own poor visitor experiences, they were convinced that the Beckford’s Tower mobile app had to be built on robust technology whilst delivering exciting interactive experiences.

The Place Experience Platform was the perfect choice. Already rolled out across the UK and Europe, it is a proven place-based technology that offers place managers peace of mind.

Next steps

The beauty of this visitor product lies in its design for flexibility and iteration. The digital visitor experience will change over time, as new storytelling methods and content are introduced. The Beckford’s Tower Trust can harness the power of the Place Experience Platform to determine when and how the next layers of the Tower’s complex history are revealed.


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