Built by the Normans as a Royal Palace, Norwich Castle is one of the City's most historically important and architecturally striking landmarks. It was used as a prison from the 14th century until 1887 and then subsequently as the museum of today. Despite the fact that the Castle has spent a significant proportion of its existence as a prison the Castle's history as a prison has never been fully understood and even more difficult to convey to visitors.
The project was to tell the story of this historic building and help generate family history interest in order to gain a greater understanding of the lives of former prisoners.
The team developed an interpretative film, recreating the development and the management of the 19th century gaol, putting it in the context of earlier periods. The film also includes a reconstruction of the crime and trial of notorious 19th century murderer James Rush. The film is incorporated within an interactive walk-through gallery, physically located in the lower floor of the Norwich Castle keep, part of the former gaol.
The gallery and film have for the first time brought together historic and computing expertise from Virtual Past, Norwich HEART and Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service to tell the story of one of Norwich's most historic buildings. The Castle's history as a prison has never been understood or interpreted in such detail, and the resulting display and film will be seen by approximately 150,000 annual visitors to Norwich Castle, including many school groups.
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The project is already generating more knowledge from family history sources as well and, as the partners develop contacts with genealogical organisations (in Australia, for example) more information about the lives of former prisoners of the Castle is expected to emerge. The gallery and film are also providing an important teaching tool for the Castle's popular GCSE Crime and Punishment event.