A New Immersive Experience in Dublin Invites Visitors to Step Into the Pages of a Storied Medieval Book

360-degree projections will tell the story of the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illuminated manuscript.

The Book of Kells Experience at Trinity College Dublin. Image courtesy of Trinity College Dublin.

Lovers of ancient books will know the limitations of seeing them in a museum setting, behind glass and left open on just one page. A new immersive exhibition invites visitors to step into the pages of a 9th-century illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells. The digital experience will be launched in January at the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland.

The Book of Kells is a Celtic Gospel text that is prized for its richly detailed decorations. Since the 19th century, it has been on public display in the hallowed Long Room of Trinity’s Old Library, where the pages are turned every 12 weeks. Now, eager visitors will not have to wait months to see the next page, but are invited to dive deeper in an immersive pavilion containing stage sets, 360-degree projections, digital mapping, animations, and audio storytelling. These digital elements are inspired by the Book of Kells and other masterpieces from the Old Library’s collection, including the Irish proclamation of independence from 1916.

The experience will also trace the book’s journey from its origins in Iona, Scotland, to the many centuries it was housed at the Abbey of Kells in Ireland, before it became prized as an important historical artifact at the Old Library.

“Visitors will embark on a 90-minute experience, which begins in the Old Library,” said the project’s creative lead Dearbhla Mac Fadden. “Their journey will continue into a new pavilion, commencing with the Secret Life of the Collections. Here, enchanting stories will come to life before their eyes, including encounters with a selection of sculptures from the Long Room [depicting] Rosalind Franklin, Lady Gregory, Ada Lovelace, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Socrates, and Mary Wollstonecraft.”

“At the heart of the experience is the extraordinary immersive voyage into the Book of Kells, a spectacular re-enactment in light and sound of the ancient masterpiece’s history,” she added. “It allows a magnified exploration of the Book’s intricate artwork and vibrant pigments, whilst also delving into its incredible history and cultural significance as Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure.”

A surge of interest in immersive art experiences occurred around the same time as travel restrictions were enforced during the pandemic. The craze was further fueled by a visit to an immersive Van Gogh experience by the lead character of Netflix’s hit show Emily in Paris. The popularity of these exhibitions, which once attracted huge audiences and support from investors, has been waning and the company Lighthouse Immersive recently filed for bankruptcy. Nonetheless, the ambition of some providers of immersive art shows has not stopped growing, as evidenced by David Hockney’s exhibition at Lighroom and Simon Denny’s at Outernet Arts, both in London. In Las Vegas, the world’s biggest immersive venue recently opened with a specially commissioned work by Marco Brambilla.

 

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