Project to explore The Historic Dockyard Chatham’s heritage using sound

Olivia Miller
rochester by Matty Graham

The Centre for Music and Audio Technology (CMAT) has launched a research project to examine the sound environments of The Historic Dockyard Chatham’s past incarnations.

The project, ‘A Sonic Palimpsest: Revisiting Chatham Historic Dockyards’, aims to recreate soundscapes of the past and explore the use of sound in heritage sites. Led by Dr Aki Pasoulas, alongside Dr Brona Martin (both Kent) and Dr Andrew Knight-Hill (University of Greenwich), the research will investigate the role of sound in influencing our experience of spaces and places, using The Historic Dockyard Chatham as a case study.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the project will explore how sound can be utilised within heritage contexts to immerse and engage members of the public, providing alternative interpretations of space and place through aural means and revealing new forms of engagement with significant sites.

A series of outputs will be delivered including a digitised electronic audio archive (from archival recordings held by the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust), music compositions and sound installations, a public project website, interactive projects for secondary school students, publications in academic journals and papers to be presented at conferences.

This investigation will be approached through the development of site-sensitive works, with empirical data collection of audience experience providing critical feedback on theory and practice. The research will run until the end of 2022.

Dr Pasoulas said: ‘This project offers a unique opportunity to rediscover the sounds of The Historic Dockyard Chatham, which has had a rich and evolving heritage over the last 400 years. From sail to steam and nuclear technologies, we will bring to life the lost sounds of human activities and industrial heritage from over the years, for a reimagined perspective.’

Richard Holdsworth, Director of Heritage, Visitor Experience and Learning, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, said: ‘We are looking forward to working with the University of Kent’s Centre for Music and Audio Technology on this research project. The Historic Dockyard Chatham has a wealth of history spanning over 400 years and exploring how sound can be used to bring elements of this back to life for learning and engagement is going to be fascinating.’