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Arts of the UK 2020: Britain’s ‘Sistine Chapel’ , the magnificent Painted Hall, goes digital

Screenshot 2020-04-04 at 4.54.33 PM

LONDON – Although it’s not possible to visit in person at the present time, the Old Royal Naval College, part of Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, has ensured that the public can still marvel at their iconic attraction. A free 360-degree interactive virtual tour of the magnificent Painted Hall has been launched to provide visitors with the opportunity to explore Britain’s Sistine Chapel up close, narrated by acclaimed actress Tara Fitzgerald (Game of Thrones, HBO; Belgravia, ITV; Waking the Dead, BBC).

It has been one year since the Painted Hall re-opened after an award-winning architectural and conservation project to restore this Baroque masterpiece to its former glory. Painted in the 18th century by Sir James Thornhill, 40,000 square feet of walls and ceilings are covered in a decorative scheme that depicts 200 figures, including kings and queens and mythological creatures. Users will be able to zoom in and explore the space in 360-degree high resolution GigaPan images, guided by Fitzgerald’s calm, distinctive voice. The digitisation of the Painted Hall allows online visitors to experience it in an innovative and accessible way, with a customisable version with British Sign Language available.

Originally a Tudor palace, before being rebuilt as a hospital for seamen, the Old Royal Naval College has a rich history, with beautiful buildings designed by Sir Christopher Wren. One of London’s oldest and most impressive attractions is now accessible to everyone as the Old Royal Naval College also offers an audio-described introduction to the site for blind and partially-sighted visitors, read by former Head of Conservation Will Palin.

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, recently won the prestigious 2020 London & Partners’ Visitor Attraction of the Year Award, for delivering amazing experiences to visitors. It puts the Old Royal Naval College in the running for VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2020, the highest accolade in English tourism.

Claire Kirk, Head of Interpretation, says: “We are thrilled that, for the first time, people can get up close to this magnificent Baroque interior from the comfort of their own homes and from all over the world. Zooming in on our Painted Hall ceiling in ultra-high resolution reveals details you can’t see from the ground – fire-breathing serpents, glistening jewels and bubble-blowing cherubs. With this new tool everyone can appreciate not only the mastery of Thornhill’s brushwork but also the incredible quality of the conservation work recently carried out. It’s like a scaffolding tour but with your feet firmly on the ground!”

The bespoke virtual tour of the Painted Hall was created by the Old Royal Naval College working in partnership with ATS Heritage and Nikreations. The audio-described introduction to the Old Royal Naval College was created in partnership with VocalEyes. Both projects and the Painted Hall conservation have been made possible through generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

For more information about the Old Royal Navy College, visit their website here See the virtual tour here, and for the audio-described tour, visit their Soundcloud here 


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