Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset is one of the most important medieval heritage sites in the UK, and has been the focus of archaeological study since the 19th century.
The abbey holds a special place in English identity and popular culture. In the middle ages it was reputed to be the burial place of the legendary King Arthur and his queen Guinevere, and was regarded as the site of the earliest church in Britain, thought to have been founded by Joseph of Arimathea. According to the Gospels, Joseph was the man who had donated his own tomb for the body of Christ following the crucifixion. These stories have been connected with Glastonbury for nearly a thousand years and still have popular appeal and spiritual value today to groups including the Church of England, the Catholic Church and Glastonbury’s diverse New Age ‘Community of Avalon’.
Drawing upon the work conducted in a preceding project (the Glastonbury Abbey Archaeological Archive Project), CSCC worked in collaboration with the University of Reading and Glastonbury Abbey on an AHRC-funded Follow-on project entitled Glastonbury Abbey: archaeology, legend and public engagement. The primary objective was to disseminate important findings from the archive project to new audiences. Professor Roberta Gilchrist and Dr Rhi Smith of the University of Reading worked with the Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey to implement a new interpretation strategy that connected archaeology more directly to the spiritual and legendary significance of the abbey.
The project aimed to improve visitors’ understanding of spatial layout, chronological development and archaeological evidence, while also exploring the Arthur and Arimathea legendary connections. Digital reconstructions and onsite interpretation software, delivered via visitor centre touchscreens and tablets for use around the site, were developed by CSCC. These digital outputs were also packaged together on a specially-commissioned website, designed and constructed by CSCC and hosted by the University of Reading: