Lewes Castle view. Photograph showing the town of Lewes as viewed from high up in the Castle

Lewes viewed from up in the Castle

Background

Lewes Castle is a ruined Norman Castle. You can climb to the top for stunning panoramic views across Sussex.The adjoining Barbican House is home to the Museum of Sussex Archaeology and houses local collections from the Stone Age to medieval times.

 

Challenge

Lewes Castle walking up steps with app. Photograph of a visitor navigating his way around the Castle using the mobile phone app as a guide.

Walking up steps with app

Lewes Castle is mainly outside with lots of steps. We wanted to find a way to encourage people to the top of the castle but also to represent the view through  a creative use of sound in the garden at the bottom, for those not going up the steps.

 

 

 

Solution

Lewes app face. The Lewes Castle app featuring audio guide downloads for the Castle and the Museum

Lewes app face

We decided to create an audio guide that would improve access to the buildings and collections for all, as well as provide key orientation and audio described information for blind and partially sighted visitors. Firstly, we worked with an app developer (Echoes)a sound artist, (Joseph Young), an audio describer and castle staff to create a script. This was used by the sound artist to create an audio described journey around the castle using binaural recordings and historic characters. This was turned into an app that uses iBeacon technology, so that the audio is triggered as you pass points around the site. There is also a permanent sound installation and a listening bench in the garden.

As the project was technically ambitious and we wanted to incorporate the needs of our visitors, each step of the design process was accompanied by user testing. A focus group made up of blind and partially sighted people talked to us about how they used digital technology and the kinds of features they would like to have built into the app. This meant we could embed accessibility into the design of the app from the beginning.

 

 

Lewes listening bench. Close-up of the listening bench, operated by buttons

Listening bench Lewes

Outcomes

Feedback from focus group participants has been overwhelmingly positive and the audio guide has made a significant impact on the way blind and partially sighted people enjoy their experience of a physically demanding heritage site. The app, whilst designed with blind and partially sighted visitors in mind, is not marketed solely for this purpose, making it a way of accessing the heritage, for everyone.

 

 

Listening bench Lewes. Photograph of a BPS visitor listening to an audio description provided by a specially-adapted bench positioned in the garden at Lewes Castle

BPS visitor listening to an audio description provided by a specially-adapted bench

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lewes app on phone. Screenshot of the app on someone’s mobile phone. The features visible on the phone are: “Play introduction” and “Start tour” for the Museum. The app gives further instructions on where the visitor needs to position him/herself to start the tour

Lewes app on phone.

Use the following links to download the Lewes Castle audio guide and try it for yourself:

iOS via the App Store

Android via Google Play

 

 

 

Lewes Castle try out app. Photograph of a BPS visitor and a Museum worker testing out the app audio guide

Lewes Castle app try out

Top Tips

  • Start with the impossible and aim for that
  • Always be prepared to adapt your ideas in the creative process
  • Listen to your target audienceby developing a focus group
  • Allow more time than you think to create an audio guide script
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