Virtual Wolverhampton: Recreating the Historic City in Virtual Reality
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While many towns and cities have historic origins, the modern urban landscape is often unrecognisable from the past. Over the last two thousand years innumerable changes have occurred, from the Roman period to the Industrial Revolution, culminating in wide scale development and redevelopment of towns and cities during the 19th and 20th centuries. Fragments of the past survive as extant buildings, monuments, and areas, and are offered protection through mechanisms such as the National Heritage List for England. However, these buildings are part of a dynamic and changing environment, and their place within their original landscape not always visible. Meanwhile, the advent of mainstream and accessible immersive virtual reality offers opportunities to recreate and explore the past, and to disseminate a deeper understanding of the history and historic context of our heritage assets to a broader audience via new technologies. This paper discusses a project based on Wolverhampton that aims to create immersive and 360° experiences of the historic city that allows the user or viewer to explore how the city might have been in the past from a ‘first person’ perspective. It uses multiple approaches to gather, verify and validate archival data, records, maps and building style information. The project itself is a work-in-progress, with various approaches being explored. It looks at sources of information used to inform the virtual world; software and methodologies used to create the model; different forms of VR output; potential forms of funding for wider dissemination; and problems encountered so far.