The Painted Hall: Multimedia Tours

Bringing visitors closer to Thornhill’s masterpiece 

The Painted Hall is home to the finest painted interior in England. But the majority of the painting is high up on a ceiling, far away from visitors, peering up at it from below. As part of their award-winning conservation and restoration project, The Old Royal Naval College invited ATS to help them bring James Thornhill’s epic painting closer to the viewer, complete with detailed interpretation of the complex painted scenes of gods, monarchs, seafaring and complex allegory.  

Using the extensive research into the site – along with fresh perspectives– we created a multimedia guide to The Painted Hall that allows visitors to see the paintings in detail, either following a set tour of the interior or through a randomaccess plan of the ceiling. And it also allows them to unpack some of the symbolism that’s featured in the painted scheme.  

Part of the challenge for this project was delivering a multimedia guide for a site that was also live conservation project. Hard-hat interviews, filmed with experts high up on the conservation scaffold, allow visitors to get up close to the paintings with a personal guide. And new highresolution photography of the completed restoration gives the experience an added dimension. 

Creating a heads-up experience for visitors required designing a tour that achieved the right balance of audio and multimedia content. Binaural (3D) soundscapes create an authentic atmosphere for visitors as they marvel at the artwork and interiors.  Our design team solved the challenge of identifying the many painted characters with a custom flippable ceiling map and hot spots – allowing visitors to explore the vast ceiling and pick out features more easily. ATS carried out user testing with access and working groups during the design stages, the multimedia tour will be available in multiple languages including British Sign Language, plus a specialist Audio Described tour which was written by Vocal Eyes and produced by ATS.

Together with the on-site interpretation, the multimedia guides create a seamless visitor experience that’s as intriguing as it is awe-inspiring.