Opening in July, upstairs in the newly refurbished and renamed Metropolis restaurant (formerly Drapers' Bar) is an exciting exhibition that explores the story of Coventry through its buildings.
Featuring two contributions from Warwick researchers the free exhibition, also called Metropolis, covers the origins of a settlement in the Middle Ages right up to the modern day city. The exhibition’s curators, Sabine Coady Schäbitz and Mark Webb weave medieval and modern stories together in five themes: movement, enterprise, culture, resilience and the future. It celebrates Coventry’s distinct contribution to the history of the built environment in Britain, from industrial premises including workshops and factories, to major religious buildings containing some of the finest decorative art in the country.
Recreating the Past
WMG's Professor Alan Chalmers and his students have recreated a walkthrough of the medieval Weaver's House in Spon Street using 3-D virtual reality technology. It brings to life the work of weaver John Croke and his family making cloth on a wooden loom as it would have been in 1540. The movement and skill of operating the loom was captured using Microsoft Kinect V2 cameras against a green screen before being extracted and put onto a screen with a realistic background created. The addition of candles adds to the complexity of the process but makes the scene a more accurate portrayal of the living and working conditions.
My team and I are really pleased to be a part of this exhibition and especially to demonstrate our new technology that recreates on screen an authentic portrayal of the skills of medieval weaving, an industry that was so vital to the city’s makers reputation and prosperity in the 16th century. We were delighted to be working with charity Medieval Coventry and be funded by the Institute of Engagement's Community Partnership Fund with support and guidance in making the results of our research accessible to the public.
There are plans to take the exhibit on a tour of local schools in 2022 and produce an extended multisensory display in the Herbert Museum's Medieval Gallery that will include other local skills such as dyeing and tanning.
Discovering the City from the Archives
The second contribution comes from many months exploring the film archives to discover the story of the city's architecture. The resulting film researched and curated by Film and Television Studies' PhD student Kat Pearson looks at Coventrians’ relationship with the built environment.
Kat collaborated with The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) on creating a series of short archive films drawing on gems from the MACE collection. Along with Archivist Philip Leach they have brought together items which highlight the relationship between Coventry's communities and its buildings in the latter half of the 20th Century.
This is a topic that I have a personal interest in and researching these films has been an amazing opportunity for me to look at the architecture of Coventry in a new light. The Metropolis exhibition allows us to showcase some wonderful archival films in a public space, and this builds on a project in 2020 to bring archival films to the Foleshill community.
Further information on Kat's work in Foleshill can be found here: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/film/tvhistories/blog/foleshillscreenings
The organisers of this valuable walk through history hope that even if you know Coventry well, you will discover something new and if you are new to the city, the exhibition is only the beginning of discovering the city’s stories and communities.
Metropolis: Coventry’s medieval and modernist ambitions
Opening 9 July (10am-6pm daily)
1st Floor of Metropolis, Earl Street, Coventry CV1 5QP