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25 Apr 2012

Restored Cutty Sark unveiled by The Queen
BY Tom Walker

The Queen has today (25 April) officially reopened the restored Cutty Sark to the public in Greenwich, London.

The historic clipper was severely damaged by fire in 2007, but has since been fully restored thanks to a £50m redevelopment project that has taken five years to complete.

The Heritage Lottery Fund contributed a total of around £23m towards the conservation, while the Greater London Authority, Greenwich Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have also invested in the scheme.

As part of the works, the entire vessel has been elevated to a height of 3m (9.8ft) so visitors can see it from underneath, as well as climb aboard.

Other improvements to the visitor experience include the opening up of the ship's dry berth and the introduction of interactive exhibits. Inside, the main visitor route takes visitors into the lower hold of the ship.

Richard Doughty, chief executive of the Cutty Sark Trust, said: "Here we're looking at Cutty Sark the trader, getting people to understand that this was a Victorian cargo ship and it was built for the China tea trade,"

"That space is quite dark and atmospheric. Lights slosh around the inside walls and visitors walk on and beneath tea chests. They go through a forest of screens projecting facts and films as they progress down through the ship."

A children's trail delivers the same messages, but in different ways so younger visitors can also enjoy the experience.

Living History performers in costume bring the ship to life and a smartphone app using augmented reality allows guests to create a souvenir of their visit.

"Digital media really brings the stories to life," Doughty said. "For example, a magic mirror in the master salon shows the reflections of people that aren't here now, but were once. These include a war merchant and a lady from the 1950s touching up her hair and make up when the ship first opened in Greenwich. These are fun ways of engaging with the public."

Other facilities include a glass canopy which covers the dry dock and provides a 1,000sq m space for special events.

Following its official opening as a visitor attraction, the ship will come under the operational management of Royal Museums Greenwich.

The Queen originally opened the 19th-century tea clipper exhibit on 25 June 1957.

To read more on the development, click here.

Also, look out for an interview with Richard Doughty in the next issue of Attractions Management - Issue Q2 2012 - which is out in mid-May.

Image: National Maritime Museum, London

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