This digital project celebrates the historical legacy of textile merchant and social reformer Samuel Morley, through innovative and immersive technology. Created by an independent art gallery in the UK, Backlit has provided a visually and emotionally-led digital archive, allowing users to discover the heritage of long forgotten hero of Nottingham. Through a media-rich and interactive HTML 5 website www.morleythreads.com and an in-house virtual reality experience using the Oculus Rift VR headset, users are able to explore and reimagine the past in a pioneering way.
‘Morley Threads’ is a contemporary heritage project that uses interactive and immersive technology, to connect the legacy of Nottingham’s textile manufacturing giant and the largely forgotten local hero, Samuel Morley. Morley has been described as: entrepreneur, philanthropist, Member of Parliament, social reformer, a ‘model employer’ and ardent abolitionist. Morley also funded many organisations across the city of Nottingham and took particular interest in adult education for working class men and women. Backlit is an artist led space that resides in an 19th century factory commissioned by Morley for the production of textiles for his family business I&R Morley (Royally appointed by Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II). This provided an opportunity to focus on Backlit’s site-specific historical past by relinking and reimagining Morley’s forward-thinking approach to industry and social activism and its importance today. Being a visual arts organisation, Backlit’s aim has been to build digital assets that are emotionally and visually driven using new technology in experimental and participatory ways.
The project has been developed by Backlit; a two storey independent art gallery and artist studios located in the heart of Nottingham, UK. This digital project has been spear headed by twin brothers Matthew (Director of Backlit) and Timothy Chesney (Interaction designer/filmmaker). Backlit provides a dynamic public programme of national and international artists and is committed to strong working relationships with regional and national organisations, universities, community-engaged projects. Supported by the HLF, this project pairs exciting and previously undiscovered historical information with pioneering and innovative technology. This has been achieved through a media focused and interactive HTML 5 website online and an immersive virtual reality experience in house using the Oculus Rift DK2.
Digital Online Archive and Interactive Narrative – www.morleythreads.com
Backlit have worked with digital agency Kind to build a dynamic online platform that ranges from pivotal historical junctures in industry to modern day personal histories and Backlit’s attempt to preserve this unique legacy. The Morley Threads project provides an interactive and evolving HTML 5 website resource with support from multiple partners and archives across England. With very little existing information online in this research area, morleythreads.com uses a wide range of media to create a rich, immersive narrative that is not only graphically stunning but an online digital archive that is maintained and updated by local community ambassadors that are known as the ‘Morley Union’. Surprising discoveries can be made through interactive videos, audio and images of previously unknown personal and social histories, that are now woven into the tapestry of Samuel Morley’s legacy. Users are encouraged to make intuitive decisions through the dynamic and interactive journeys available making each experiences on morleythreads.com unique.
The project has raised the profile of Samuel Morley and Nottingham’s rich industrial past whilst at the same time creating new perspectives and understanding for all. Users are also encouraged to share the various content available on the responsive website through social media as well as contribute to the archive with their own stories and content. Furthermore all of the items in the archive are available to be explored through a visually striking and easy to use searchable database.
Historical Virtual Reality Experience
This in-house concept provides an innovative immersive virtual environment using contemporary gaming technology. Backlit visitors are able to step back in time through a reimagined setting of the original factory in the late 19th century. Built by Hot Knife Digital Media Studio, this in-house experience allows users to explore areas of the working factory floor in the search of archive objects using an Oculus Rift VR headset. This incredibly mesmerising experience encourages users to become aware of the distinctive architectural features of a historical site and enjoy testing progressions in gaming technology. This intuitive and visually led platform has attracted all ages and provided an accessible and fun way to educate participants in the buildings textile history past.