Hidden beneath Liverpool ONE is the Old Dock, the first commercial wet dock in the world from which Liverpool developed into an international port and multicultural city. The Old Dock can currently be seen through a viewing portal outside John Lewis and twice-weekly tours are also available, however, in order to bring this extremely important and captivating site to as wide an audience as possible, FACT, Liverpool One, and National Museums Liverpool have worked with Open Lab at Newcastle University to develop an augmented-reality website, Layers of the Old Dock, that allows the public to peer through the many layers of this historical site.

The interactive website uses images and text from National Museums Liverpool to uncover the varied strata of Liverpool’s past, including the city’s historical connections with the transatlantic slave trade and childhood migration, as well using photography and recordings from the street that captures the contemporary cultural life of Liverpool ONE.

Simon Bowen of Open Lab at Newcastle University, explains how he and creative collaborator and artist-researcher Tim Shaw developed the idea for the digital artwork: “We became fascinated with the Old Dock after visiting it during a 2015 collaboration with FACT. We wondered how, rather than peering down into a glass porthole in the pavement or joining the tour, we could enable visitors to explore The Old Dock using the technology that they were already carrying – their smartphone or tablet.”

Simon continues: “Instead of simply providing facts about The Old Dock, we wanted to make people curious about the area’s history and to think about what the area means to them today. In Layers of the Old Dock, we have merged visual and audio snippets of Liverpool’s past and present into 360-degree photographs of Liverpool ONE and The Old Dock. We hope that evoking The Old Dock’s many layers encourages visitors to delve deeper by visiting National Museums Liverpool and beyond.”

Layers of the Old Dock has already attracted the attention of some distinguished users when, as part of a Civic Day Out hosted by the Lord Mayor,  the Lord Mayor and Mayors of other boroughs from across the city were able to download and preview the experience.

To explore the work for yourself, head to the public square at the junction of Thomas Steers Way and Customs House Place and visit: www.layers-of.net.

Layers of the Old Dock is a digital artwork created by Simon Bowen and Tim Shaw as part of a collaboration between Newcastle University and FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology. This artwork was sponsored by Liverpool ONE and is inspired by the collections of National Museums Liverpool.