WMG Visualisation Engineers use VR to help recreate experience of Medieval Coventry Weaver’s House during Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture

Coventry is not only famed for its Cathedral, two tone music and the automotive industry, it is also famous for its weaving, in fact the medieval Weaver’s House still stands as an attraction today in Coventry’s Spon Street. In 1540 John Croke and his family would have been making cloth on a wooden loom in the Weaver’s House, and whilst you can go to the house, the opportunity to experience the home exactly how it would have been for John and his family is now possible, thanks to visualisation engineering researchers from WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick.

Using Virtual Reality WMG’s Professor Alan Chalmers (Professor of Visualisation at the International Digital Laboratory, WMG, University of Warwick) and his students have recreated a walkthrough of the medieval Weaver’s House in Spon Street, the movement and skill of operating the loom was captured using Microsoft Kinect V2 cameras against a green screen, before being extracted and put onto a screen with a realistic background created. The addition of candles adds to the complexity of the process but makes the scene a more accurate portrayal of the living and working conditions.

It is part of a free exhibition called ’Metropolis’ just opened at the newly refurbished and renamed Metropolis restaurant in Coventry (formerly Drapers’ Bar), an exhibition that explores the story of Coventry through its building. The exhibition is running during Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

The exhibition’s curators, Sabine Coady Schäbitz and Mark Webb weave medieval and modern stories together in five themes: movement, enterprise, culture, resilience and the future. It celebrates Coventry’s distinct contribution to the history of the built environment in Britain, from industrial premises including workshops and factories, to major religious buildings containing some of the finest decorative art in the country.

Professor Alan Chalmers, from WMG, University of Warwick comments:

"My team and I are really pleased to be a part of this exhibition and especially to demonstrate our new technology that recreates on screen an authentic portrayal of the skills of medieval weaving, an industry that was so vital to the city’s makers reputation and prosperity in the 16th century.

"We were delighted to be working with charity Medieval Coventry and be funded by the Institute of Engagement’s Community Partnership Fund with support and guidance in making the results of our research accessible to the public."

There are plans to take the exhibit on a tour of local schools in 2022 and produce an extended multisensory display in the Herbert Museum’s Medieval Gallery that will include other local skills such as dyeing and tanning.

This isn’t the only contribution the University is making for the exhibition, as after many months exploring the film archives to discover the story of the city’s architecture, Film Television Studies PhD candidate Kat Pearson looks at Coventrians’ relationship with the built environment in her film.

Kat collaborated with The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) on creating a series of short archive films drawing on gems from the MACE collection. Along with Archivist Philip Leach they have brought together items which highlight the relationship between Coventry’s communities and its buildings in the latter half of the 20th Century.

PhD researcher Kat Pearson from the Department of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick comments:

"This is a topic that I have a personal interest in and researching these films has been an amazing opportunity for me to look at the architecture of Coventry in a new light. The Metropolis exhibition allows us to showcase some wonderful archival films in a public space, and this builds on a project in 2020 to bring archival films to the Foleshill community."

Exhibition details:

Metropolis: Coventry’s medieval and modernist ambitions
Free (10am-6pm daily)
1st Floor of Metropolis, Earl Street, Coventry CV1 5QP


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