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New Stonehenge Visitor Centre opens
A NEW £27m exhibition and visitor centre that aims to transform the experience of seeing the ancient monument ois opening its doors tomorrow.
The centre, situated one-and-a-half miles from Stonehenge at Airman’s Corner, is part of English Heritage’s project to improve facilities.
Visitors can see original objects used in its construction and those connected with Neolithic and Bronze Age people, their lives, their rituals and daily struggles. A 360-degree virtual experience lets visitors ‘stand in the stones’ before they enter the gallery.
Two huge curved screens show a three minute film, based on laser scan images of the stone circle, to transport the viewer back in time, and to experience the summer and winter solstices.
The exhibition also features the skeleton of a 5,500-year-old man buried in a long barrow one-and-a-half miles from Stonehenge, along with a reconstruction of his face, the most advanced of its kind to date.
A special exhibition displays important objects, never seen together before, that tell the story of the changing understanding of Stonehenge over centuries.
This includes two rare 14th century manuscripts, which are among the earliest known drawings of the monument, Roman coins and jewellery, and early surveying equipment.
And in January, specially trained volunteers will embark on building a group of Neolithic houses, complete with furniture and fittings.
These will be the highlight of an outdoor gallery, to open at Easter next year, and they are based on evidence of houses excavated at Durrington Walls, where builders of Stonehenge probably lived.
Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “At last, visitors to Stonehenge will be able to get a sense of the people who built this monument, of their lives, their deaths and their ceremonies. Visitors will, for the first time, learn the astonishing history of the stones and will see objects, many never seen before, that will bring the stones to life.
“Instead of just a stopover or a quick photo opportunity, we want our visitors to step back in time and into the shoes of those who created and used this extraordinary place to marvel at original everyday objects they used, to talk the surrounding landscape as they did, and to sit in the dwellings that they would have built. It makes the real encounter with the stones themselves so much more exciting.”
The centre, which includes a large shop, a cafe and a land train to transport visitors to the stones, was made possible by a £10m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and substantial donations from the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Linbury Trust and the Wolfson Foundation. As part of the project, the A344 road that previously ran alongside the stones has been closed and returned to grass.
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