As part of Bath Medical Museum’s new Digital Curation Strategy, we are curating two virtual tours of the former Royal Mineral Water Hospital building, known locally as the Min. The 3D model serves as a living record of the building’s life as a hospital after its foundation in the mid-18th century. Just before the building’s closure in 2019, we commissioned a 360° digital photographic tour of the rooms and corridors. Over time we’ll populate both tours with artwork and object collections, as well as memories and experiences of its staff and patients.
The 1742 Hospital
The museum’s curator and historical adviser has teamed up with creative technologist Dr Lee Scott and Harry Wyatt, an architectural designer and 3D modeller, to construct a digital model of the hospital as it was at the time of opening in 1742. Making use of the building’s original and more recent architectural plans, Harry has completed the exterior and much of the interior of the building and it is now possible to make a virtual visit to some of the rooms in the hospital as they might have looked in the mid 18th century. Inevitably there had to be considerable guesswork when reconstructing the historic interiors because there are only a handful of contemporary illustrations of rooms in 18th century British hospitals and these are mostly of wards. None exist for the Bath hospital’s interiors and even John Wood’s original plans were changed during the building’s construction and the rooms were repurposed several times in the early years. The interiors are therefore largely conjectural, but represent what is known to have been present in the hospital in the mid 18th century.
Visitors can enter the Georgian hospital through the original front door and will find themselves in the lobby which leads onto the corridors and the various rooms. The various rooms and the ward can be navigated in 360°. It is possible to click on several “hotspots” in each of the rooms which will open links to associated artefacts in the museum’s collection. Each room also has a speaker icon which opens an imagined audio recording of a staff member working in the hospital in its early years. The characters are spoken by actors but their dialogue is based on descriptions found in the records of the hospital and give an idea of what life was like there in the 1740s.
There are still a number of rooms and wards to complete in the model, including the kitchen and laundry downstairs and the matron’s and apothecary’s accommodation on the principal floor. We need your help to complete the interior of the Bath General Hospital as it was in the 18th century and which later became better known as the Royal Mineral Water Hospital.
Find out more about the project by reading Harry’s article Preserving the Min: Bringing the Royal Mineral Water Hospital to life.
The 2019 Hospital
Work also continues in preparation to populate the 2019 building interior with videoed interviews of staff, patients, supporters and interested members of the public. We have already completed over 40 short 3 minute films, including comments by The Mayor of Bath, The Chair of the RUH Trust, The Chair of B&NES Council, doctors, nurses, therapists, support staff, researchers, experts from the fields of architecture, heritage, the history of the Spa waters, members of the public and patients, past and present from a wide variety of departments.
You can explore our 3D virtual tour of the hospital as it was in 2019 when still operating as the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases.
We are looking for more volunteers to include camera operators, editors, researchers, archivists, writers and actors as well as more people who are willing to be interviewed as we continue with development of The Min Models project. If you would like to get involved, please email us to let us know how you can contribute.