English Heritage have introduced a new section to their website called “Free Sites Unlocked“, which provides audio tours for mp3 download. The tours are for their free sites (hence the imaginative name), adding a new dimension to unstaffed sites where the only information is via traditional interpretation panels, which can only incorporate a limited amount of information.
Of the 400 sites that English Heritage looks after, more than 240 are unstaffed and open to the public at all reasonable times. Free Sites Unlocked is a new English Heritage project seeking to improve the interpretation of these free sites. We are also improving our webpages by providing more information on the history of our sites and suggestions for further reading.
Although at the time of writing, there are only guides for
three nine sites (including Baconsthorpe Castle, Maiden Castle, and Netley Abbey), this is a great move by EH. With so many people owning an mp3-capable device, from cheap mp3 players to iPods and mobile phones, and with the penetration of broadband into the majority of households, there is great potential for this medium.
EH say that they are also updating information about their unstaffed properties online. Personally, I’d love to see some social networking techniques being used to help visitors to those sites help build up this information by submitting text, photos and videos to augment ‘official’ information as well. But if English Heritage keep having their funding cut year on year, that might be wishful thinking.