English Heritage urges visitors to connect with history through their senses

This summer, English Heritage is encouraging our visitors to explore England’s historic sites using the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, in a bid to help people connect more deeply with the past.

Throughout the centuries, the properties in our care have been homes, workplaces and places of worship for many thousands of people. We’re inviting people to use their senses to connect with the past and experience the very same things that they did. In today’s world, we’re constantly overstimulated and it can be difficult to stop and connect with our environment. We hope our visitors will be inspired to take time to focus on the sensations around them and, in doing so, form a deeper understanding of the lives of those who went before.

To provide inspiration to our visitors, we have reintroduced the much-loved ‘Ministry of Works’ signs to its historic sites around the country. Often censorious in the past, the new signs are a playful update on the original. They caution visitors not to miss out on sensory experiences, such as removing their shoes and standing where history happened or appreciating memorable views that have remained unchanged for centuries.

We have also created a guide outlining the ‘50 best ways to explore with your senses’
Collated by English Heritage historians, the list is designed to transport visitors back in time to enjoy the same sensory experiences as those who have gone before.
It includes suggestions of ways to connect to history through the senses such as:
o Feeling the chill of ancient stones
o Tasting heritage produce grown in historic kitchen gardens
o Looking out from the vantage points of historic figures
o Sniffing out onsite animals
o Listening to the clink of gardening tools, unchanged over centuries

There will be gardener-led tours at 12 English Heritage sites throughout June, highlighting the sensory aspect of our historic gardens and explaining how using all of one’s senses can allow the visitor to better appreciate the past.

Tours are included in the standard admissions price (and free for English Heritage members) but must be pre-booked via the English Heritage website.

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