StoryTrails: exploring UK archives like never before
StoryTrails is the largest immersive storytelling project the UK has ever witnessed, bringing together over 50 creatives from 15 different cities and towns across the UK. The aim of the project, which ran from July to October 2022, was to bring to life untold stories from the past through the wonders of the 3D internet – aka the Metaverse – using augmented and virtual reality. Audiences are given the chance to time-travel via the wonder of new technologies to experience untold local histories where they happened. MAG_BTMMusic Archive Gallery: Beyond The Music discussed the project and its key highlights with it’s Creative Director Will Saunders to find out more and what it means for the future of archival material.
StoryTrials was a partnership led by the UK’s only national centre for Immersive Storytelling StoryFutures, working together with The BFI, BBC, Niantic, Nexus Studios, Iso Design, Uplands Television and The Reading Agency. StoryTrials was a partnership led by the UK’s only national centre for Immersive Storytelling StoryFutures, working together with The BFI, BBC, Niantic, Nexus Studios, Iso Design, Uplands Television and The Reading Agency. Libraries across the UK were transformed into portals enabling audiences to explore stories of historical change and to grasp new connections with the places where they lived, and with each other. Through these arresting and compelling psycho-geographies a new national portrait of the UK was created, one which you can now explore for yourself for free on the BFI’s Website
Rare archival material from the nation, including film from the BBC and BFI archives, has been made accessible to all through a free, entertaining and playful mobile AR app that allows users to navigate some fantastic and lesser known historical stories. In Lambeth you can do Winfred Attwell’s Honky Tonk Walk and celebrate the first Black artist to have a number 1 single in the UK, whilst in Blackpool you can explore the town’s LGBTQ+ history and lose yourself in the drag capital of Blackpool “Funny Girls”. The Story-Trails app is freely available on both Ios & Android, just search “Story-Trails” in your app store (Apple Store and Google Play Store).
The giant immersive maps that were created as installation pieces for the project were produced by curating a wide selection of audio stories from people in each town and then combining those stories with 3D models of people, places and objects to deliver an animated fly through of each town and a simple frictionless experience for everyone to enjoy. MAG_BTMMusic Archive Gallery: Beyond The Music discussed the project and its key highlights with it’s Creative Director Professor of Creative Industries at Royal Holloway UniversityWill Saunders to find out more and what it means for the future of archival material.
In a nutshell, Story-Trails is where past, present and future all collide, in the streets of your hometown and at your local library. Putting new technologies such as 3D film-making, AR and VR at the heart of this new storytelling experience, we wanted to see what sort of stories could be told if we gave such tools to creatives from our towns and local communities, empowering them to tell stories that are important to them.
Will Saunders, StoryTrails Creative Director
Story-Trails is a really exciting step forward for us because it demonstrates that archive is something that’s alive, and accessible, and something that can really inspire creativity in our young filmmakers, in our tech innovators and in storytellers for the future.
Simon McCallum, BFI Archive Projects Curator
I am not sure whether there is a renewed interest in archives,I hope that there will be but what is interesting about them is their future in light of these new technologies that are now available to all of us, as creatives, developers and storytellers as well as consumers. It raises a number of interesting questions: how do you try and make more traditional 2D archives work within a 3D environment? From a storytelling point of view, how do you invite audiences to experience histories and stories where they happened.