Digital reconstruction of the 1938 Empire Exhibition 

British Empire Exhibition 1938 >

Research Themes 
Digital Visualisation

Research Staff
Daisy Abbott

Funding
Arts and Humanties Research Council

Partner organisation
House for an Art Lover

For six months in 1938 the British Empire Exhibition was held at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, temporarily transforming the green space into a city of striking modernist architecture, wide boulevards and fountains. This project has digitally reconstructed the extensive array of temporary buildings and landscapes created for the Empire Exhibition, and created a permanent museum display at the House for an Art Lover.

In 1938 Glasgow hosted the Empire Exhibition, a major event for the city that saw 13 million people visit its 104 principal buildings and statues, fountains and gardens. Although it was an important event in the social and architectural history of Scotland, the Empire Exhibition has left little trace visible in Bellahouston Park. Using dozens of small-scale drawings and maps and hundreds of photographs, the project team have reconstructed the layout of the Exhibition and created interactive virtual models of the site. Members of the public have contributed their memories of visiting the Exhibition in 1938 and donated memorabilia, some of which is displayed at the House for an Art Lover. The project has created and digitised an extensive archive of maps, plans, photographs, recollections of the public and memorabilia, providing a valuable resource for future research into the Empire Exhibition.

The project required the development of a rigorous methodology for reconstructing lost buildings from complex, varied and incomplete historical sources. This has made a significant contribution to understanding best practice in reconstructing lost architecture and to the Digital Design Studio’s growing status as a world leader in this area. Extensive public engagement was key to the success of the project and is reflected in strong media coverage and resulting contributions from members of the public. The project has had a direct impact on the House for an Art Lover, increasing its visitor figures, creating a permanent museum display and providing materials for the creation of merchandise associated with the 1938 Empire Exhibition. As a result of collaboration between the School of Simulation and Visualisation and the House for an Art Lover, two annual scholarships for Glasgow School of Art students have been created.

Research Papers on RADAR

Empire 3D: A Collaborative Semantic Annotation Tool for Virtual EnvironmentsDaisy Abbott, Kim Bale, Ramy Gowigati, Douglas Pritchard and Paul Chapman (2011)

Linking Evidence with Heritage Visualization Using a Large Scale Collaborative Interface - Daisy Abbott, Kim Bale, Ramy Gowigati, Douglas Pritchard and Paul Chapman (2011)

Transparent Evidence & Interpretation: the British Empire Exhibition of 1938 - Daisy Abbott (2011)