December 14, 2004

Kilts and Gore Galore!

This just doesn't sound like a good idea.

A £7 MILLION overhaul of the visitor centre at Culloden will allow the public to experience the drama and fear of taking part in the historic 18th century battle.

In a "battlefield immersion area", made possible by a theatre with floor-to-ceiling screens on both sides, visitors will be thrust into the middle of a Jacobite charge and the government troops' response.

The public will be asked to assume one of several characters in the battle and follow their fate - as they do at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

Research by the US company masterminding the changes has led to the battle lines being redrawn at the site. The exhibits will put a new emphasis on the post-battle Highland Clearances and massacres, dubbed the "ethnic cleansing" of the day by some historians. They will stress that the battle was not just the Highlanders against the Redcoats, and plans are afoot for a memorial marking recently discovered graves of government soldiers who died.

The exhibition designer is Ralph Applebaum Associates, of New York, which designed Bill Clinton's £100 million presidential library which opened last month in Little Rock, Arkansas. The architect is the award- winning Glasgow firm Gareth Hoskins which designed the new architectural exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The two companies are also working together on plans for the £70 million refit of the Royal Museum of Scotland.

The Culloden exhibition will borrow from Mr Applebaum's experience designing the Holocaust Museum. There, visitors are assigned the identity passports of people who lived, or died, in the concentration camps. At Culloden, they might be assigned to Ensign William Horne, who carried a standard into battle at the age of 14, or to Ann Leith, a woman who helped wounded Jacobites. Personal digital assistants will help them track their characters' fate.

"It's about engaging people personally with the battle, and leaving the battle as more than just visitors," Mr Applebaum said.

The "battlefield immersion area" will use live-action footage, sound, smell, "and even a bit of sleet if we can be innovative enough," said Alexander Bennett, of the National Trust of Scotland. "This will only last six minutes, because we feel this will be an emotional experience for people, and we will have to give them a warning." {...}

There was a reason, you know, the Duke of Cumberland---the English commander---earned the nickname "Butcher Billy."

The things people do to make history more "accessible." Crikeys.

Posted by Kathy at December 14, 2004 03:39 PM
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