Since Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman’s 1959 big screen production of the Whitechapel murders narrative, London’s notorious killer Jack the Ripper has been a protagonist of different cinematic recreations. And while most of them managed to properly depict the spirit of the 19th century London or the characters of those involved in the murders, none has brought the whole story as close to the audience as the latest project by City of London Police Museum.
Taking a step further from creating a series of pictures to recount the narrative, the museum uses virtual reality to offer an immediate experience of one of the most famous nights in Jack the Ripper’s bloody history. Through a holographic recreation of Catherine Eddowes in her prison cell, visitors can meet one of the canonical five Ripper’s victims face to face. The installation captures her final hours before she left the station in the night that will later become known as “the double event.” On 30th September 1888 at 1 a.m., she was released from prison after being arrested from drunkenness and soon became the murderer’s second victim for the night.
Launched on November 7th 2016, the installation opens a new window into history, enabling visitors to get a glimpse of the 19th century London from the inside of a prisoner’s cell. While this may not be the most desirable perspective on the past one would like to have, the idea of using virtual reality to recreate historic events is certainly an innovative one. Combined with an exhibition of crime-related items that belong to the museum, the virtual reality encounter with Catherine Eddowes represents a unique insight into the dark history of London.
As a part of the exhibition, the museum also displays various weapons confiscated by the London police over the last century. In addition to this, visitors can also take a test to check if they are a “super recognizer,” i.e. a person who can remember faces better than 99% of human population. With these interactive elements, the exhibition takes the history of crime to a new level and gives another example of how technology can be used to revive the past in a refreshingly innovative way.