An interactive art trail

The GIFT Project partner University of Nottingham was approached by the Nenescape Landscape Partnership Scheme, a UK Heritage Lottery Funded project that is working to regenerate a section of the River Nene. To promote awareness of local history and heritage, we worked with project partners and local artist Michelle Barnett to develop an app called All Aboard for Rushden.

Barnett’s artworks, produced as rugged, metal signs, were placed along an interactive art trail. The artworks are actually Artcodes that visitors can scan to unlock the hidden histories of the area and its people. The storytelling is based on a true local news story from 1911 in which a mail bag was hit by a train on a train line not far from the art trail. The mail in that bag was eventually recovered. Visitors are asked to help find the letters. Scanning each artwork reveals a different hidden piece of local history that may otherwise have been forgotten.

An extra benefit of Artcodes is that partners can create new content of any kind as often as they like, even soliciting stories from local residents or visitors. They can create themes or games based on local events or times of year, as when visitors who completed the interactive trail during its inaugural festival were eligible for a prize. They can also move the physical artworks or make more to extend the route, including new digital content.

An initial version of the app was tested with project stakeholders using prototypes of the artwork on 6 September 2018 in the Rushden Transport Museum. Following their feedback, the app was further refined and new content was added. The app was released for both Android and iOS devices as of 28 August 2019. It was publicly launched as part of the Nene Valley Festival from 14-22 September 2019 and has been heralded by project partners as a successful element of their festival.

The app is available for iPhone and Android devices.