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Britain’s ‘Sistine Chapel’, the magnificent Painted Hall, goes digital

Published: 10 Oct 2023

As our sector adapts to the challenges of lock down, the Old Royal Naval College, part of Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, wanted to bring the magic of the Painted Hall into the homes of its audiences. ATS were appointed to design and produce a 360-degree interactive virtual tour of the magnificent Painted Hall 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), the virtual tour is intended to give a taste of the Painted Hall and drive a greater desire to visit in person.

Users are 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 including 3D audio, narration, text transcripts and British Sign Language. 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.

Spencer Clark, Director at ATS, says “The approach to designing a digital experience, as with any interpretive content or visitor experience, is that it has to have a purpose – simply putting 360 images of a space with no content or interpretation won’t retain visitor interest. The purpose of this project was to provide a high-quality introduction to the Painted Hall, which can be shared online and would encourage people to make a physical visit. Our creative team worked with the Old Royal Naval College to design a virtual tour experience that was accessible on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers, that was easy to use and delivered high quality bite-size content. The result is a wonderful ultra-high-definition web-based virtual tour.”

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 project has been a huge success, The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, 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.

For more information about how to use the power of multi-media in your historic site, we would be delighted to speak with you. Please call Spencer Clark on 02392 595 000 or email

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