St Andrews turns modern

Thursday 27 November 2014

St Andrews Cathedral

A new, smart history is to be launched in St Andrews with the creation of a mobile app developed by academics at the town’s university.

The Medieval St Andrews app – which is being made freely available in time for St Andrew’s Day – will be officially launched at the University today (Friday 28 November).

‌The makers behind the app hope that it will develop a new understanding of the buildings and spaces of medieval St Andrews in a creative and innovative way. In one swipe, hundreds of years of the town’s rich history will be brought to life in the innovative app which features 22 important medieval sites, the earliest map of St Andrews and the voice of Sir Sean Connery.

At a special event in St Andrews this morning, Higher History pupils from Dunfermline High School will be given a sneak preview of the app in action. The app will be formally launched in the University’s Lower College Hall at 2pm.

‌The app brings together historic material and archaeological data donated by local and national bodies, as well as the University’s own important archive material and the treasures of its Library.

The interactive experience – which will initially be launched for android devices before being made available in the Apple store by Christmas – allows users to interact with multimedia that layers medieval text with interactive 3D digital reconstructions of the medieval buildings of the town, alongside audio commentary by historians explaining the significance of sites.


Designed by academics working across the University, the app is the result of a multidisciplinary effort involving computer scientists, classicists and historians, all with a collective interest in the medieval history of St Andrews.

The project team was led by Dr Katie Stevenson, a senior lecturer in Late Medieval History and Director of the Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University.

Speaking ahead of the launch event this afternoon she said, “A group of historians were already team-teaching a module about medieval St Andrews, but it wasn’t until we got together with archaeologists, architectural historians and computer scientists that we realised we could pool our expertise, resources and skills to create something significant to help others benefit from our knowledge and research.

“What is particularly special about the app is that at its core is the work of St Andrews’ postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. A computer science postgraduate designed the prototype for the app, our Open Virtual Worlds research group created the 3D visualisations and our historians and art historians have provided the context and audio commentary.

“In addition, our own Special Collections provided invaluable support and we were overwhelmed by the generosity of the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and Historic Scotland in donating so much of the content you can find in the app. It was a genuinely collaborative effort and everyone involved has played a crucial part.”

The app features ‘guest appearances’ by honorary St Andrews alumni Sir Sean Connery and Joanna Lumley. Both feature in selected excerpts on the University’s history and collections; Sir Sean Connery from the specially commissioned 600th anniversary film ‘Ever to Excel’ and Joanna Lumley’s audio commentary on the Museum of the University of St Andrews’ collections.

Users will be able to experience what medieval St Andrews was like with the interactive virtual world, which includes some newly revealed sites uncovered during research for the project. This is combined with text, images, videos and mp3 audio files to give multiple ways with which users can interact with the Middle Ages.

Amongst the 22 key sites are St Andrews Cathedral, St Rule’s Church, Greyfriars and the University’s own St Mary’s College. Brand new, never before seen digital reconstructions of key medieval buildings, including the town’s Tolbooth (removed in the nineteenth century to make way for traffic), the West Port, St Andrews Castle and St Salvator’s Chapel are also embedded into the app.

The project team consists of Dr Katie Stevenson, her fellow historian Professor Michael Brown, Classicist Dr Rebecca Sweetman, computer scientist Dr Alan Miller and postgraduate students and Research Fellows from across the University.

The app was generously supported by the National Library of Scotland – who donated use of the 1580 Geddy map; Historic Scotland, who donated new and previously unknown material on the St Andrews sites; St Andrews Museum and Fife Council’s Archaeology Department, who provided local data for the sites.

Dr Stevenson continued, “This is just the beginning. In 2015 there will be further enhancement to the app, which we hope will see an expansion in the number of sites, as well as the development of themed site trails, which will be contributed by undergraduate students taking the Medieval St Andrews honours course.

“We are also beginning to explore new collaborations and directions beyond St Andrews, as the gaming technologies used in the app becoming increasingly sophisticated modes of creating, exploring and understanding a virtual medieval world.”




The Medieval St Andrews App is available to download on android devices. An IOS version will be available by Christmas.

Further notes:

The app has been partially funded by a University of St Andrews Teaching Development Award, the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account, the St Andrews Community Trust, and the Institute of Scottish Historical Research.


You are invited to the launch of the app on Friday 28 November at 2pm in Lower College Hall, St Salvator’s Quadrangle.  Academics involved in the project will be available for photographs. Between 11:30 and 12:15 Dunfermline High School higher history pupils will be available for photographs testing the app or for a brief walking tour with tablets.  Contact the Press Office if you would like to attend either event.

Stills from the app are available in advance from the Press Office – contacts below.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 or email [email protected]

Ref: St Andrews app 271114

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