A Tale of Two Workhouses

By Juliet Sprake and Peter Rogers

Pi Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London

This paper describes two approaches to physical exploration of buildings preserved for their social history that involve visitors in a process of ‘filling the gaps’.  The first approach is the authoritative guided tour that may be devised by a heritage organisation or museum interpretation plan with pre-scripted content (for example, The Workhouse at Southall).  The second is the self-made excursion initiated by personal enquiry in which content evolves on the move (for example, Cleveland Street Workhouse in London).  We argue that a shift towards users-as-experts may develop services for making and sharing new content rather than focus on skills of selection and recall for ‘take-outs’.  It is suggested that a change in terminology to ‘take-ins’ in visitor service design could offer an alternative approach in which participants use their existing interpretation skills and strategies to make connections between content and the site.  In this, content may be conceived as data that prompts participants into asking questions and finding out things that cue multiple movements around or to another site.  We conclude by describing a project to design a service that mobilises users into finding things out about buildings but doesn’t prescribe their experience.

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