The last time I went to the Palace of Westminster was as a trainee reporter in 1987. I saw Prime Minister’s question time, during which Mein Fürher Thatcher slugged it out with Kinnockio. A House of Commons official led our party to the press gallery through a maze of oak-panelled, bust-lined corridors dripping with history. The temptation to sneak off on a one- man tour was great. Now, 14 years on, my wish has been granted – thanks to the virtual-tour title, Explore Parliament.
Every detail is covered in amazing depth, both visually and historically: ceilings and floors, stained-glass windows, oils, murals, and statues all yield information, which is accessed by a single click on that object.
Many of these items offer audio clips, with an actor speaking a famous quote from, say, Oliver Cromwell. Such in-depth exploring starts outside the Palace, with the surrounding buildings and statues.
One’s journey through Parliament is nicely editable. You can record and save your own tours, or select a tour by topic. These include a host of categories, including Civil War Period, American Revolution, and Portraits of Women.
The panoramic photography is a treat, even though file-size restrictions mean pictures can’t withstand close-zooming. But, it’s good enough to give a real flavour of the place – from the gilt splendour of the House of Lords, to the more-functional committee rooms.
This title is designed with schools in mind, as, from September, courses in Citizenship become part of the National Curriculum. Explore Parliament – with its detailed breakdown of the parliamentary process and its history – can be used as a teaching tool.
This Explore title is available in tourism and Scholastic editions. The former is aimed at visitors who, like me, can’t experience every detail of this world-renowned landmark. The key difference between the two is that, in the scholastic editions, tours are editable. But you don’t need to be a tourist or educator to enjoy these titles – they allow anyone to enjoy a VIP tour of our seat of government.