A virtual tour of Medway Queen

Medway Queen

With neither a large budget or technical facilities, Medway Queen sought to develop a basic virtual tour that could be implemented by a  volunteer. Richard Halton, Medway Queen Preservation Society explains.

Medway Queen is berthed at Gillingham Pier, Kent, and like most museums and exhibitions is closed to all visitors at present. The ship played a part in the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940 and so we are also losing the revenue and increased interest that could have come from the 80th anniversary commemorations. Our answer, at least in part, has been to increase our online presence to try and maintain the momentum that we have built up in previous years.

The result isn’t quite so technically slick as other approaches might be, but it adds historical detail and interest that might not be found otherwise. Our “Virtual Tour” is a series of linked web pages taking the ‘visitor’ from compartment to compartment of the boat in the sequence followed by ‘real’ tours. The associated text stands in for the commentary that a real life guide would have provided.

Our first step was to decide what a tour should cover and in what order. Relatively straightforward for a ship but not much different for a building or even a single room.

Find a logical order to tour the exhibits. At the end of each page you can go back to the previous one or onward to the next. Tours always start at the Medway Queen Visitor Centre so that’s ‘Page 1’. You walk up the access ramp onto the promenade deck (Page 2) and then go below to the main aft saloon (Page 3). and so on until we finally return to the quayside (Page 9). As is traditional at the end of any tour there is the opportunity here to donate in a ‘collecting box’ (our Localgiving page) or to visit the ‘gift shop’ (our existing online store).

Each page has illustrations of how that compartment looks now and, in most cases, a historical view from some period in the ship’s  history. The narrative includes facts relating to that area from various periods, including Dunkirk, of course, which is our focus this year. The lower aft saloon has a gallery of images extracted from the historical display that occupies that space on the ship.

Like most web users we have a web host that provides a drag and drop interface for building pages so setting this up was not a big task. Maybe between one and a half to two days of volunteer time. Volunteer time has a high value but a low cost, especially when they work from home! The text is light, not too detailed but interesting with a dose of humour. Two tips to finish with: check navigation between pages and then check it again. Then get the whole thing proofed by two or three people before it goes public. Include someone not too familiar with the subject in your proofing panel.

Take the virtual tour for yourself on the Medway Queen website.