VIRTUAL visitors enjoyed a new-look Oxford Open Doors as they explored the city’s history like never before.

Social distancing restrictions meant Oxford Preservation Trust were unable to open up dozens of attractions to the public like usual, instead bringing them into people’s homes.

More than 30 talks, tours and videos were available online on Saturday and Sunday, from an exhibition of the Bodleian Library’s collection to the traditional concert at the Sheldonian Theatre.

Although the in-person activities continued, including walks around the city and booked events, the success of the digital programme meant it could provide a blueprint for future years.

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Oxford Preservation Trust director Debbie Dance said: “We don't know if we will be able to bring back Oxford Open Doors as before, but we take lots of positives from this year’s event which we can use for the future.

“You can join up history a little bit more and we’re so excited about doing some of this next year.

“We’re so keen to encourage a wider audience and virtual events are something a younger audience thinks of naturally.

“Maybe this has caused us to take a breath and do things in a different way.

“Oxford Open Doors will never be the same again.”

Oxford Mail:

The virtual events went live at 10am on Saturday and were available until 6pm on Sunday, showcasing popular attractions like the Painted Room in Cornmarket.

All in-person events were carefully planned with strict distancing regulations in place, with Oxford Botanic Garden, Lady Margaret Hall and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies among those opening their grounds.

Oxford Mail:

These proved as popular as ever, but Ms Dance explained that the new programme meant a new demographic tried out Open Doors for the first time.

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She said: “The challenges that this year posed were the very inspiration for trying something new.

“We have such wonderful partners in the university and the colleges, and with support from Historic England we have been delighted by the virtual programme we have brought together.

“Our activities online and outside have allowed us to engage younger and more diverse audiences than ever before.”