We were asked to design a tour of the exhibition tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail at the Museum of London Docklands.
The brief was straightforward and after 10 years of working together, Crossrail trusted us with free reigns on the design.
Taking their initial ideas of using panoramic images to make a virtual tour, we instead suggested taking people on a journey of the vast number of artefacts unearthed by Crossrail during the construction of the Elizabeth line. Inspired by “Inside Abbey Road”, a virtual experience of the Abbey Road recording studio, we surpassed their expectations.
The project goals
- Create an immersive website using 360° panoramic images
- Take visitors on a route of the new railway
- Showcase the exhibits
- Use quick access features to help users find certain information
Uncovering a lost London
The purpose of the immersive multi-sensory website was to take visitors on a journey along the route of the new railway.
The exhibition was divided into 8 rooms, each showcasing the discoveries of that section of the Crossrail route.
Using the mini-map or menu, the visitor can jump directly to any room. The exhibit list allows people to search for exact items and filter by different media types, such as video or image, to help with discoverability.
During the research and development (R&D) phase, the Museum of London sent us their floor plan. This allowed us to make the minimap, using Google Maps Street View API, part of the core features. Ian, our Creative Director, then simplified its design to work across a wide range of devices, from smartphones to laptops.
From Canning Town to Canary Wharf
Using footage and photographs captured during archaeological excavations, the tour reveals the stories of Londoners, from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague in 1665.
High-resolution 360° images allow visitors to get close to some of the exhibition’s most exciting finds, including:
- 8,000-year-old flint scraper tool from Woolwich
- Roman cremation urn, disarticulated and bronze coin from
- Liverpool Street
- Tudor wooden bowling ball from Stepney Green
- Crosse & Blackwell marmalade jar from Tottenham Court Road
- 16th-century ceramic mercury jar from Stepney Green
- 18th-century Chinese pearlware bowl from Stepney Green
- 19th-century glass bottle from Pudding Mill Lane
We linked hotspots to each find to help people know which exhibit they have already visited as they make their way through the tour.
The hotspots also offer people the opportunity to share the find on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
We were delighted to find out that some of the finds have ended up among the 80 million specimens at the Natural History Museum: a piece of 55-million-year-old amber and two parts of a woolly mammoth jawbone.
An accessible shared history
Early on, Crossrail asked for information to only be available through the map itself. We advised them to design the search and filtering options outside of the 360° view, to make it more accessible. This way people who use Assistive Technology, such as a screen reader, can still access the content and information. After all, 12 million people in the UK have some form of permanent sensory disability.
The website was designed to work regardless of device. Whilst certain features are hidden away to save screen space, they are accessible from predictable and easy-to-press buttons.
By using CSS3 animation for effects we were able to make the website performant even on low-end specification phones, where this feature isn’t consistently supported.
History should be made available to everyone.