A 360 degree cinema is being developed so visitors to Stonehenge can experience standing inside the ancient circle.
Access to Stonehenge has been fiercely contested for decades, with campaigners arguing that they should be allowed into the stone circle.
Now, English Heritage has developed a possible solution, a virtual visit in a 360 degree cinema where visitors can “experience” standing in the ancient circle.
It will be the centrepiece of a new £27 million centre at the site and is one of a number of audio visual attractions being built to bring the prehistoric monument to life.
These will include a 32ft “landscape wall”, on to which computer generated images of the countryside around the circle and other ancient earthworks will be projected.
In addition, there will be five “people films”, shown on screens in one of the two vast pods being built to house the visitor centre. These will provide information about the monument and prehistoric items on display
There will also be films exploring the conflicting theories over the establishment and use of the circle.
Outside the centre, replica Neolithic dwellings are being built, where visitors will be able to see how early inhabitants of the sites lived.
The plans for the centre are revealed in a series of tender documents from English Heritage, seeking firms to provide the technological content for the audio visual displays. The documents describe the “immersive 360 degree projected film” as the “most important and high profile piece of audio visual ever undertaken by EH”.
The new auditorium’s 100ft circumference will compare with about 300ft in the actual stone circle.
Robert Campbell, the head of interpretation at the centre, said: “It’s meant to give people a sense of what it is like to stand in the middle of Stonehenge because most people just won’t be able to do that. It won’t feel like you are standing in a computer programme. The idea is to take our visitors back in time.”
The virtual visits may not win over all campaigners including Pagans and Druids who want open access to Stonehenge, which was created about 5,000 years ago.
When it was first opened to the public, it was possible to walk among and even climb on the stones. However, they were roped off in 1977 due to problems with erosion.
Visitors are now kept a short distance away, although English Heritage does permit access during the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox. Some access visits early in the morning or late in the evening can also be booked.
Stonehenge receives one million visitors a year and is a World Heritage Site. The multi-million project is being built 1.5 miles from the stones.
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