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Keeper of Paintings: AR trail launches at The National Gallery

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A new augmented reality (AR) trail that helps children learn about the great works of art in the UK’s National Gallery has launched with the help of Brunel Design School.

The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception is a free mobile-based experience that uses AR technology to encourage children to explore the Gallery and engage with the paintings.

Young visitors are asked to help guide a fictitious Keeper of Paintings to find a lost ‘Palette of Perception’ – a magical object with special gems that gives them ‘powers.’ As they move through the Gallery responding to the app’s story, a new digital world is revealed where visitors can solve puzzles, find hidden secrets, and collect the gems connected to the paintings.

The Keeper of Paintings was commissioned by the National Gallery and StoryFutures, Royal Holloway as part of StoryFutures China, a research and development project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). StoryFutures China is led by Brunel Design School, Brunel University London.

The team worked alongside a dedicated Children’s Advisory Group and school children from Folkestone, Kent, who were consulted throughout the development and have helped devise and test the app. The experience was created and developed by London-based immersive experience agency Arcade.

It is designed to showcase innovative uses of immersive storytelling in the museums and galleries sector – to promote the transnational creative industries collaboration with China under the AHRC’s UK-China Research-Industry Creative Partnerships and the Creative Industries Clusters programmes.

"The Keeper of Paintings offers an incredibly fun way for children and their families to enjoy the art of painting,” said Dr Vanja Garaj, Director of Research for Brunel Design School and the Principal Investigator for StoryFutures China.

“The experience is a wonderful display of how the latest immersive tech can be used to intertwine creatively entertainment and education and it is a great pleasure to see it being launched.’

Lawrence Chiles, Head of Digital at the National Gallery, London, said: ‘It’s fantastic that we are able to launch our first dedicated app for children that creates a new perspective on the paintings at the National Gallery. It’s a rich experience and it’s been such a rewarding process to co-design it with the children that have been involved.’

Launched in 2020, StoryFutures China seeks to bring cultural organisations together in the UK and China to research, prototype and develop immersive storytelling experiences that both enhance visitor’s experiences on site, as well as taking experiences to the audience, wherever they are in the world. 

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