Christ Church is one of the colleges of Oxford University. It sits between the busy town centre and the peaceful, green spaces of Christ Church Meadow. Over 600 undergraduate and graduate students study a diverse range of subject there. Among the colleges of the University, Christ Church is unique; it is home to Oxford’s Cathedral and the site is open to the public. Visitors come from all over the world to see the staircase used in the Harry Potter films and the Great Hall which was the model for Hogwarts Hall.
Challenge: Harry Potter has been a blessing and a curse for Christ Church. Visitor numbers have risen from approximately 40,000 a year to nearly 400,000. This boom brought with it concern about noise on the site disrupting academic life and crowds disrupting the everyday work of Christ Church. The cathedral in particular suffered from noise, as excited visitors spill into it immediately after seeing the hall. As numbers rose these concerns intensified, as did worries about how to provide an enjoyable and meaningful experience for paying visitors.
Our solution: ATS Heritage were engaged to create a multimedia guide for Christ Church which would help in the management of the site and the improvement of the visitor experience. We were able to use our extensive experience of working at both busy tourist sites and in cathedrals to devise content to achieve these objectives.
We worked with the visitor services team to devise a range of routes around the site that could be deployed at different times, to manage visitor flow as visitor numbers varied. Content was then developed which allowed visitors to see the Harry Potter sites but also to understand that there is so much more to Christ Church. It gives them a glimpse behind the scenes, introducing them to students and people that work there. We translated the tour into 8 languages to meet the needs of visitors from all over the world and provided content specifically for families to encourage more visitors with children.
Helen Camunaz-Lopez, Visitor Manager said “Christ Church is principally a working College and Cathedral, however, it is also a very busy tourist destination attracting many thousands of visitors each year. Our main aims were to manage the flow of visitors around the site to minimise noise and disruption, improve our visitor experience by providing layers of interpretation and information in different languages, provide an opportunity for visitors to gain an insight into the history of Christ Church as well as an understanding of its everyday life as an educational institution and a place of worship.
The multimedia guides have significantly reduced noise levels and disruption on site whilst improving our overall visitor experience. We are now able to reach every single visitor and provide them with an engaging and informative experience. The interviews, virtual access and interactive elements have been particularly popular and feedback has been excellent from both visitors and members of Christ Church. We are now planning a programme of tours and talks to complement the multimedia guide and give visitors an opportunity to learn about different areas in more detail.
I would work with the team at ATS again. They have been professional, knowledgeable and helpful at every stage of the project. It was an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience and we are already planning our next developments”.
The guide is given to all visitors free of charge with their ticket. Almost immediately after its introduction, noise levels across the site dropped significantly as visitors became engaged for the first time in Christ Church’s history and contemporary life.