Here at Hemlock Films, we recently made the journey to the land of Scotland. It was a much needed rest for us, after working hard on several projects, it was nice to get out and enjoy the Highlands, islands, and cities across Scotland. And, of course, one of our favorite activities is to visit museums. We were excited to see what there was to offer overseas. We were able to check out several along the way, including Urquhart Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Museum of Scotland, and even the Scotch Whisky Experience. Yes, I realize the last one isn’t a museum but I’d love to talk about their amazing presentation.
Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
One of our first stops while in Scotland was to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. This place was amazing, mostly because it was a place to dive into the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. Entering the hallway filled with black light, where they encourage you to think like a detective as you pore through the information they are about to present to you. What follows is a series of rooms that are featuring a different set (caves, underwater, and even a boat), as you watch a portion of a film on a screen placed within the set they have built. This is a wonderful way to utilize an entire film and make it immersive, as you have guests wander through spaces that look like the environment in the video. And it’s just fun!
Urquhart Castle Ruins - Loch Ness, Scotland
After our quick visit to their awesome gift shops featuring everything Nessie, we made our way down the road to Urquhart Castle. Before entering this beautiful castle ruin site they first put you into a dark theater to watch a brief film before exploring the grounds. While the video was confusing at best (they tried to fit too much information into a short film), the way they had it presented was a history of what you were about to go explore. Once the film was over, the black curtains behind the screen slowly open to reveal Urquhart Castle sitting there. Which is a great reveal and way to incorporate video with your exhibits and attractions.
Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre
This was one of my favorite places we visited while in Scotland. Located outside of Inverness the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre did a fine job of educating a few Americans on this bloody battle as part of Scottish and British history.
Culloden Battlefield - Inverness, Scotland
Their Visitor Centre is set up as a pathway through the events leading up to the events at Culloden Battlefield in 1745. Along this route, you can stop at different kiosks and chose personal stories of those that lived through this piece of history, from farmers to leaders in the army, this was a great way to capture a personal touch and engage visitors. Presenting this personal side allows visitors to connect to the past. These were presented with a video image and audio of actors reading letters from people who were a part of history. This is another great way to utilize video in your museums. At the end of the path, you enter a 360 degree theater to relive the events of the battle. While I was expecting a continuous 360 degree screen, this was a regular room with four movie screens on each wall. So it was surrounding you, but not in a seamless way of having just one round screen. This was a great idea to get you into the battlefield and have a better understanding what it was really like to be there on the day of these events. By putting you into the scene this way, really makes you feel more of what it would have been like and could be quite emotional for some. After this you can exit the Visitor Centre and explore the Battlefield, with a good idea of what it was like, you can really take it all in and understand
Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle is beautiful and is full of all sorts of crazy history, so why not highlight some of those spectacular stories with video? We stopped into the National War Museum within the walls of the castle. It is a great collection of stuff, if not all jumbled together. They do have a video playing that you can take a moment and rest from all the walking you have done, and learn a little something. It’s got a bit of a wide swath to cover and because of this it was quite unfocused. We recommend, choosing one strong topic or story and sticking to that. When you try to cover too much in a short time, it just becomes a bit of a mess and your viewers walk away not really remembering much of the information.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
This is by far, is one of my absolute favorites! Not just in Scotland, or for museums, but in the world. Not that I’ve seen a lot of what the world has to offer, but of what I have seen, this is one of the best places to go. While I do love Disney World, this may have a bit of a soft spot for me since it is nicknamed “Malt Disney”. You start you whisky tour with a little ride that is similar to the Figment of Imagination ride in Epcot center. You get in a big seat shaped like a whisky barrel as you move through their ride that features a video character that guides you along, explaining the process of how whisky is made. After this video/set/effects experience you are booted out into a room with information on the art of making whisky barrels. Then your guide leads you into a room with a giant curved screen that has beautiful footage of all the different whisky distilling regions in Scotland. As your guide stands in front and tells you about the different flavors that come from the different regions, you are told to smell your scratch n sniff cards that were handed out as you entered the theater. This is another one of my favorite elements. While it is just video and music playing, it is a great experience to have a guide taking you through the presentation and the interactive part of the scratch and sniff card. Plus, the video had stunning aerial photography and great choices in beautiful music. Hemlock Films has also used several of their stock music selections in our documentaries, so good song selection on their part.
After this, they lead you into a room with a bar, where you can pick your selection from the region you would like your sample pour from, with more fun video and lighting, and holographic whisky bottles, that are all very well done. Then it’s off to the largest collection of whisky in the world for more whisky learning and to enjoy your drink, plus lots of photo opportunities! And of course you end the experience by entering a bar, where you can drink the day away with too many whiskies to choose from. Alas, we did the early morning tour, so we only had a few before we wandered the streets to have some much needed lunch. But this is an amazing way to get people to learn about something that I personally would have forgotten a lot of the information they told us.
Because of the presentation, I feel I am walking away with understanding not only the process, but I can actually talk some what intelligently about a subject I didn’t know much about before.
Underground Tour in Edinburgh
While in Edinburgh, we decided to forgo the haunted tours of the city and choose to explore the Underground Tour and learn more about the history of the city. The tour consists of walking down a set of stairs from a normal looking store front into what was an old bridge that had been closed up. And through the years people had lived, worked, socialized, and had nefarious dealings in this hidden part of the city. Rich with stories of what had transpired there, what you are looking at are small bricked up arches of a bridge made into rooms. So, in essence, there isn’t much to look at. What makes the experience great is the tour guide. Your story teller. Painting the picture of what it was like long ago. Because of this aspect, it made this tour really entertaining. Having someone to guide visitors that are personable, knowledgeable, and entertaining enhances the experience. This tour utilized the art of story telling through their tour guides. Having great personalities and guides is a good way to engage your visitors.
One thing to think about is a way to preserve these story tellers through video. Let’s say in this instance, video is a great way to preserve some of the folks who have been studying and preserving the underground of an old city. They are a wealth of information and history. Going beyond this example, some museum guides each have different and unique stories or memories that pertain to your particular museum subjects, that could be lost to time. By capturing these stories on film, you could use it in kiosks to accompany your different exhibits, having a virtual tour guide, or utilize their unique story telling with visuals and brief mini-documentaries to watch along the way through the museum.