Phase 1: VikingVR

VikingVR is a collaboration between Yorkshire Museum of York Museums Trust, Digital Creativity Labs at University of York and the Viking Torksey Project (University of Sheffield and University of York). The team created an immersive experience for the Vikings: Rediscover the Legend Yorkshire Museum exhibition. This interdisciplinary project presented findings from current research into the Viking Great Army Winter Camp at Torksey, Lincolnshire through virtual reality masks. Working together with curators from York Museums Trust, the team created a series of immersive 3D vignettes based on artefacts found on the site so that visitors to the exhibition could stand amongst the Vikings and see the Winter Camp as it would have been.

Impact of VikingVR

85,000 visitors. Much of press coverage was for the VR or mentioned the VR as one of the main attractions. Digital Manager believes that there was a 25% increase in a paid exhibition numbers due to the VR and the coverage it received.

We won a Culture Award locally in the city of York. This was a great recognition of the importance of the research that we were carrying out as a partnership with the York Museum Trust.

Visitor evaluation findings

  • 70% of visitors claimed that VikingVR was their first experience of virtual reality. In this way, the museum is providing access to digital technology.
  • We saw visitors gaining digital confidence and skill through our in-gallery observation. Visitors got excited when they discovered that what they had experienced was virtual reality.
  • We watched visitors share their knowledge, showing strangers how to use the VR masks. One 83-year old visitor taught a small child how to become a Viking in the world we had created.
  • We recorded sensory immersion through the VR: Visitors responded to the Winter Camp as if they had really been there, feeling cold and hungry, relating on a personal level to the virtual people. Visitors even smelt smells that weren’t there!

Contribution to the museum

Our evaluation indicated that for the museum, the VR had encouraged return visitors, and in many cases had been a motivation for the visit to the exhibition. There was improved social experiences in the museum, with visitors talking to one another about their experiences.

The VR helped visitors to make connections between the objects in the glass cases and the real people who had lived in the Winter Camp. The VR led to imagining the past and resulted in play and discovery in the space. We noted skills development amongst the museums staff as on-gallery attendants learned about virtual reality so that they could talk to visitors about the technology employed.

Comments from visitors

“This is our second visit within 4 days as my son wanted to show his Daddy the “eye sees”.”

“They made me feel like I was there. Most museums just say, “This is what it would have looked like,” and show you a picture, but this time, it’s, “This is what it would have looked like, sounded like, and felt like.””

“”Like I’m where Vikings are”, & “how do I get out of this place? I actually panicked because its so realistic.” Age 8”

Key project members

University of York:

Prof Julian Richards, Department of Archaeology

Dr Gareth Beale, School of Humanities (University of Glasgow)

Dr Nicole Smith, Digital Creativity Labs

Dr Guy Schofield, Department of Theatre, Film and Television

Dr Jonathan Hook, Department of Theatre, Film and Television

Dr Damian Murphy, AudioLab, Department of Electronic Engineering

Lewis Thresh, AudioLab, Department of Electronic Engineering

Dr Kenneth Brown, AudioLab, Department of Electronic Engineering

Viking Torksey specialist advisors:

Prof Dawn Hadley, Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield

Prof Julian Richards, Department of Archaeology, University of York

With special thanks to:

Mark Hough, Andy White and Owen Francis, Department of Electronic Engineering, who provided guidance and artwork for the production of the VR headsets.

Norse-speaking characters provided by students and staff from the Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York:

Dr Victoria Blud

Harriet Evans

Nikolas Gunn

Katherine Rich

Timothy Rowbotham

Dr Matthew Townend

Animated walk-through of Torksey kindly provided by Compost Creative.

Contact details

Dr Nicole Smith

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