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Lanchester Interactive Archive

Lab Contact: Jacqueline Cawston
Team: Cathryn Thompson-Goodwin, Jennifer Shufflebotham, Paul Henderson


Visit the project website at

The Lanchester Collection held at Coventry University library is the biggest source of Lanchester information in the world and with the help of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) we aim to preserve and disseminate the heritage and astonishing achievements of Dr Frederick Lanchester (1868-1946), one of Britain’s greatest engineers and inventors. We will engage people with heritage through the physical archives as well as a truly interactive digital platform, bringing the story to life with augmented reality and games that can be used anywhere, anytime, reaching the wider Coventry community through an interactive outreach programme echoing his legacy and creativity.

Lanchester is referred to as “Britain’s own Leonardo da Vinci” he created the first all-British motor boat, the first all-British 4-wheel petrol car, he produced many designs including turbo-charging, power-steering, 4-wheel drive, hybrid engines and more. Coventry University holds a unique collection of Frederick’s work in notebooks, blueprints, photographs, patents and correspondence that deserves preservation. Lanchester’s heritage remains relatively unknown, we aim to change that.

Bringing the archive to life

The activity has four phases, activated over the three year period of this project as follows:

  • Conservation and Digitisation – Preservation of the archive is necessary to conserve his designs and discoveries for future generations – this first part of the project is now complete and over time the collection is being tagged and uploaded onto the project website, to become more easily available and accessible through digitisation, whilst also preserving them for future generations – the collection can be accessed via
  • Lanchester Interactive Archive Space – The project has created a ‘Lanchester Interactive Archive Space’ within the Lanchester Library, following the first phase which saw the formalisation and realisation of plans for how the space would look and operate. The LIA Space, opened April 2017, will encourage learning through fun, with displays showing highlights of the collection and digital interactive games and resources. Refurbishment works undertaken in the library created a dedicated, glass-fronted space within the library to house the LIA Space. The space is open to the public seven days a week (Mon- Fri 10-5, and Sat/Sun 10-4). Find us via
  • Digital Platform – The website acts as a gateway to the archive and also hosts the digital learning elements, allowing virtual visitors to interact with the games and digital learning material, as well as providing access to the digital archive itself. The digital elements, serious games and augmented reality overlays will allow individuals to interact with the collection, for example: exploring how Lanchester’s inventions actually work through game play. The digital games, along with the augmented reality app, can be found and played or downloaded as appropriate, via the website or on the App Store or GooglePlay, The images that trigger the augmented reality are freely downloadable as individual images on the website, and these resources are free for use for educational or other uses.
  • Outreach – Beginning in 2017, a wide-reaching outreach programme will target schools, community groups and special interest groups, based on the principles of broadening participation and inspiring learning through fun. A series of invention workshops will encourage young people and adults to think about engineering in a new light and to develop new skills. A ‘pop up’ exhibition takes the project out into the community, providing a taster of the collection, the digital archive and the interactive elements of the project. For further information about outreach opportunities see the learning zone area of the website

Technology Application

The interpretation within the Lanchester Discovery Space is a mix of digital content and physical displays, showcasing some of the physical objects from the collection alongside the digital interactive and augmented reality, which will include the following elements:

  • Responsive web portal with parallax timeline
  • Digital collection and searchable database
  • Augmented reality with 3D Assets
  • Interactive Games (Invention Zone section within the web portal)


  1. Project funding, consultant recruitment and delivery planning
    In the first phase (February 2016 to December 2016) the team worked with external consultants and partners to create the key elements of the Discovery Space and Learning Platform.
  2. Project activation, portal testing and outreach planning
    As we moved towards opening the space, the team workied with partners to plan the outreach work, whilst identifying the widest audience for the archive and its contents. The outreach work is previewed in a ‘pop-up’ exhibition, designed to promote the collection, preview some of the work around the artifacts and test the interactivity.
  3. Project delivery and future opportunities
    In 2017 and 2018 the project now is ‘live’, showcasing the work, and enthusing the audiences with the range and depth of the Lanchester legacy.

Research Findings to Date

  • As this first phase develops we are working with research partners to help identify, map and clarify intended research outputs in relation to engagement, specifically around targeting impact to increase STEM awareness in Key Stage 2 settings.

Project Timeline:

Start date

Jan 1st 2016

End date

Dec 31st 2018




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