Clandon Park awarded grant to research digital reconstruction

Inside Clandon Park, clear of debris

A team of researchers from the UK and Ireland which includes colleagues from the Clandon Park project, have been awarded nearly £30,000 in grant funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to explore what can happen when art historians, heritage professionals and computer scientists work together.

They’ll be investigating how cutting-edge digital technology can be used to help give visitors a deeper insight into our historic buildings and the craft skills that lie hidden beneath their surfaces.

Led by the National Trust, in the UK and by Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, the project brings together a team of experts from the two countries, including academics from UCL and King’s College in London, the University of Surrey, the Office of Public works, Discovery Programme and Technical University Dublin, in Ireland. 

The project seeks to use digital technology to tell deeper stories about how these beautiful places were made and a more rounded picture of who made them. Clandon Park is an ideal place for this exploration - the fire-damaged building reveals layers of materials and methods which remain hidden elsewhere, offering an ‘X-ray’ of historical craft processes. 

" At Clandon Park the tragedy of the fire saw the loss of our cultural heritage but it has also presented opportunities to study the historic layers which usually lie out of sight."
- Sophie Chessum, Project Curator

Clandon Park Curator Sophie Chessum explains: ‘The loss of significance to heritage through gradual change and sudden destruction presents an ongoing challenge in our care of historic buildings and the way we’re able to share amazing places with the public. At Clandon Park the tragedy of the fire saw the loss of our cultural heritage but it has also presented opportunities to study the historic layers which usually lie out of sight.’ 

‘Take the Marble Hall at Clandon – we have no formal description to explain how sculptors created this mind-bogglingly complicated stucco ceiling. The skills and techniques used were usually passed from an artisan to their assistants and apprentices by word of mouth – their craftsmanship an intangible and unrecorded form of knowledge.’ 

The extraordinary and elaborate stucco ceiling before the fire
Marble Hall ceiling at Clandon Park before the fire
The extraordinary and elaborate stucco ceiling before the fire

 
Using Clandon Park as a case study, the ‘3D Craft’ project will kick off an investigation into the latest in digital modelling technology. It will consider how to combine this with art and architectural history to help reveal, understand and communicate these hidden layers to the public. Following the first phase of research, the team will consider a phase two grant application to take their ideas forward. 

It’s not just about physical history. This project offers an opportunity to broaden the narratives that dominate the stories surrounding our historic houses. Often, we focus on the architect or the aristocratic owner who commissioned a building, rather than considering the many hands and minds who produced it, or the materials they used. The research team hope to bring these stories to the fore, celebrating beautiful design and the makers who brought those designs to life.