An Archive-Powered VR Experience

There Exists is a historical VR experience exploring the life of Mary Randall in 1792.

Made with support from the BFI’s Film Fund and StoryFutures Academy, There Exists explores forgotten histories through data, bringing archive material to new audiences with narrative virtual reality storytelling. Using machine learning and historical research to trace the lives of individuals, There Exists brings to life their stories which had remained fragmented and untold until now.

Robot-controlled environment at the British Library Boston Spa site with floor-to-ceiling shelves housing newspaper collections.

Research conducted by the British Library Labs traced the life of Mary Randall, an impoverished mother of seven who was convicted of a petty crime in 1792. Using machine learning as well as traditional archive data collating, we follow Mary's journey from London to Australia on one of the first fleets carrying all-female prisoners alongside ‘free settlers’.

An archival document featuring indecipherable handwritten text suspended in a white, ethereal space among other levitating papers.

Co-written by Gaëlle Mourre and Julie Janson, There Exists examines the early days of contact between the Traditional Owners of the land and British settlers in New South Wales. Collaborating with First Nations creatives and consultants, There Exists includes fresh and diverse perspectives on a centuries old narrative, as without them, the picture of events is incomplete.

Nighttime view of The First Governor's House in New South Wales, featuring a particle VFX effect, with the prominent Emu constellation in the night sky above.

There is a wider installation we are developing for There Exists, which will surround the VR experience, and bring the narrative full-circle, by visualising all of the archive sources that were used to inform its narrative.

We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as Traditional Custodians of Country and First Nations of Australia, the land in which this experience takes place.