LACOCK Abbey planning to take hundreds of visitors back to the dawn of photography in a new virtual reality exhibition this autumn.

In collaboration with the Blain|Southern gallery, the National Trust property is presenting Thresholds, a new virtual reality artwork by internationally acclaimed artist Mat Collishaw.

Using the latest in VR technology, Mr Collishaw is set to re-stage one of the world’s first major exhibitions of photography for contemporary audiences from Saturday, September 16 to Sunday, October 29.

Visitors will be able to travel back in time to 1839, when British scientist William Henry Fox Talbot, who lived at Lacock Abbey, first presented his photographic prints to the public at King Edward’s School in Birmingham.

The experience will be a full immersive portal to the past and visitors will be able to walk freely throughout a digitally-reconstructed room and touch the bespoke vitrines, fixtures and mouldings - even the heat from a coal fire is recreated.

Infrared sensors will track visitors’ movements, creating ghostly avatars that indicate their position and enhance the feeling of travelling through time.

Mr Collishaw has also created a soundscape to accompany the exhibition: the demonstrations of the Chartist protesters who rioted in 1839 on the streets of Birmingham and who can be glimpsed through the digital windows.

Tom Brockington, Senior Visitor Experience Officer at Lacock, said: “When we were approached to be part of Mat’s Thresholds exhibition as a host venue, being the birthplace of photography and William Henry Fox Talbot’s former home, we jumped at the opportunity.

“To bring contemporary art and new technologies to us here at Lacock replicates the kind of boundaries Talbot was pushing in 1839 and we couldn’t be happier seeing it appear before us in the courtyard of the abbey.”

The original 19th-century exhibition in Birmingham, staged by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, celebrated cutting edge technological innovation.

Unfortunately, over the passage of time, Fox Talbot’s original images have faded almost beyond recognition with several of the surviving photographs existing only in light-proof vaults.

Through Thresholds, this exhibition not only re-stages an important historical exhibition but provides a way to view images that have since been lost to the public.

Mr Collishaw said: “I have been looking to work with virtual reality for a number of years and I’m delighted that it has now become a feasible medium for me to use in an artwork.

“VR’s ability to enable visitors to revisit the birth of photography – a medium that has come to saturate our lives – is uncanny and compelling. It’s also quite appropriate as VR is the total 360-degree immersion of the viewer within an image, and is itself one of the many innovations spawned by the invention of photography.”

In creating Thresholds Mr Collishaw has worked with photographic historian Pete James; Paul Tennent from Nottingham University’s Mixed Reality Laboratory; Larry Schaaf, a respected authority on Fox Talbot; architectural historian David Blisset; the team at VMI studios and The Whitewall Company, London.

Mat Collishaw: Thresholds is supported by Colmore Business District, Birmingham City University, King Edward’s School, The Schools of King Edward’s Birmingham, BOM, an Art Fund Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant, and the exhibition’s touring partners.

Mr Collishaw is one of the UK’s most thought-provoking contemporary artists, and the installation will be in place from September 16 to October 29. Tickets are available online at