Night at the Future Cemetery

An after-dark meeting of digital technology and funerary culture.

Last night the Future Cemetery project team put our hard work so far to the test in the first of a series of "quick and dirty" tests of digital technology and contemporary attitudes towards funerary culture.

Arnos Vale Cemetery was billed as running a Night at the Cemetery guided tour, part of Culture 24's national Museums at Night events bringing visitors to museums and heritage sites out-of-hours and after dark.

And the visitors came!

Nearly 50 members of the public pre-booked to spend their Saturday night on a tour in the gothic gloom to explore the folk customs and funeral etiquette of Victorian Society in Arnos Vale.

With the Future Cemetery project team in tow, the crowd swelled to over 60 and were split into two tour groups, led by wonderful volunteer guides, Charles and Charlotte and supported by Public History MA students Henry and Alex.

Future Cemetery team John and Jeremy went on a tour each, John with his end-of-life questionnaires and Jeremy with an asus tablet and pico projector uploaded with digital images and film to test on different surfaces and light conditions.

John and Jeremy preparing for tour testing.

Technical whiz Kevin Walker volunteered to bring along some gadgetry to try out in the Crypt, with a Kinect crowd sensor linked up to a wall projector to show visitor sillhoettes to ghostly effect.

Visitor sillhoettes picked up by a Kinect and projected into a crypt vault.

The projector and tablet really came into their own in the crypt too. And as dusk descended near the end of the tour they were great outdoors, but as we suspected, were less effective in daylight.

Projector linked to tablet shows historic landscape of Arnos Vale.

But perhaps that's not necessarily a bad thing? As the popularity of a Saturday evening booked tour demonstrates - it sold out and people had to be turned away at the gate - after-dark seems the time when people want to engage with more challenging material - including end-of-life discussions and trying out new technology.

The 50 visitors seemed perfectly happy as guinea-pigs, most of whom had never visited the cemetery before but had chosen their first contact to be a night at the future cemetery. We'll be following up the visitor experience with a short e-questionnaire sent to visitors - more on this when the data is back!

And finally, just one more photo...

Dave, Jeremy, Steve and John using simultaneous technologies!

I swear this picture wasn't posed at all! The Future Cemetery team took advantage of dusk at the tour end to try out a load of simultaneous technologies.