Newhaven Fort: Augmenting Cultural Interpretations by Dr. Harriet Parry

Newhaven Fort: Augmenting Cultural Interpretations by Dr. Harriet Parry

Heritage, Public Space

Academic, cultural practitioner and founder of research consultancy Think Otherwise, Harriet Parry, specialises in exploring the emotional and sensory relationships people have with the historic environment. In her post Newhaven Fort: Augmenting Cultural Interpretations, Harriet shares her belief that Hexology can help to stretch the possibilities of how heritage sites are interpreted and communicated to facilitate empathy, emotion, and human connection.

Much of what makes up the juice of life is stories, and stories matter. Stories help us to define who we are, and who we are not, and it is stories that help us to connect to the world around us. Stories make places, those anchors that are dotted through our daily lives both at work and at play. A place could be a building that has been designed to say something important about the people who commissioned it, the initials scored into the trunk of a tree, or a memory held in your body. A place can have meaning to a single person or an entire nation, and those meanings can be positive or negative, depending on what that place has come to represent and the memories that it invokes. 

Stories are also the foundation of my working life, connecting two decades of experience working in the entertainment industry, with my doctoral research that sought to understand and communicate the ‘everyday’ and embodied sensory experiences of heritage sites and historic environments. What I have learned in exploring the relationship between official interpretations of heritage sites and people’s lived experience, is that it is feeling, emotion and empathy that give those sites power. It is becoming increasingly obvious from certain areas of politics and the media that, as with life, heritage can be messy. Heritage wouldn’t exist without people, it is never singular or controllable, often contested, and difficult to deal with. The feelings that a heritage site can provoke can therefore be life affirming, contradictory, joyful, controlling, boring, painful, fascinating and are continually changing. So where do I think Hexology fits in this picture?

Augmenting Cultural Interpretations

Firstly, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read Rob Morgan’s blog exploring the role that tech and augmented reality can have in communicating the ‘layers of meaning’ in public places. My own approach to Hexology has been shaped as a neurodivergent researcher who is fascinated by the ‘everyday’, seeking to bring to light the lesser-known histories that influence how we feel about the places that matter to us. I have begun to create a Hexology collection on Newhaven Fort, a fascinating Victorian coastal defence post that sits on the southern-most edge of the East Sussex coast. The fort has a chequered and multifaceted history that demonstrates how the official and unofficial happily intersect. It serves as an example of many local heritage sites and ancient monuments dotted up and down the country, where each of which will have a multitude of meanings to those who know them well.

I am no tech wizard, but having now created some entries, I am excited about the potential ways that the Hexology platform can augment official cultural interpretations, by starting to interweave the sensory and the embodied to enrich stories about the lives that have become enmeshed with sites such as Newhaven Fort.

Although heritage is about the past, the heritage that is valued by a society or community makes a statement about what is important for the future. Having the power to write your own heritage into the environment around you and learn about how it makes others feel, means that you too can help to shape that important conversation. As I build on my work with Hexology, I will begin to experiment with ways of interweaving the cultural with the sensory, where I would love to invoke the sounds, smells, sights, and feelings that we use to hold memories in our bodies, which in-turn come to shape the true meaning of heritage and the stories that are waiting to be told.

About Dr. Harriet Parry & Newhaven Fort

Historian Harriet Parry Ph.D. posted a history of Newhaven Fort into its location using Hexology, Augmenting Cultural Interpretations of the historic site. Newhaven Fort is a historic military site that became a scheduled Ancient Monument in 1979 and is currently closed whilst it undergoes restoration. To view Harriet’s Newhaven Fort collection in Hexology open this link on your phone.

Live in the App stores, Hexology empowers you to post digital media into the world around us, and creatives like Harriet are using the Platform to post Cultural Heritage content into Statues, Monuments and Heritage Sites for people to discover as they explore the Earth. Placing digital narratives into objects, space and places enriches the world around us to create immersive peak experiences wherever you go; unlock local community and enrich the visitor experience. You too can post your content into the physical world using Hexology.

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