A £4m visitor centre built next to the Leicester car park where Richard III’s skeleton was discovered is opening on Saturday. It aims to cash in on the excitement generated by the discovery of the medieval king’s bones but will it live up to the hype?
“I don’t know what the fuss is about,” says a grey-haired woman standing outside the new attraction. “It’s just some old bones”.
That is one problem the new Richard III attraction in Leicester faces. The other is that it has an identity issue – it is not a museum at all but a visitor centre.
Which is just as well, as it has almost nothing in the way of medieval exhibits and the star attraction – those boring bones – cannot be put on display as they are to be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral next year.
Sarah Levitt, head of arts and museums in Leicester, insists the lack of old stuff is an advantage.
“There is such a lot to say about the story of Richard anyway,” she says.
“We don’t have the skeleton but we do have this brilliant 3D printout of the bones and that is a really good way of people engaging with human remains, without the issues around actually having human remains on display.
“And we have this amazing video about the battle, you really feel like you are with Richard in the charge, it sends a shiver up the spine.”
The city council bought the 150-year-old former Alderman Newton School in December 2012.
While a small temporary exhibition was set up in the nearby Guildhall, feverish design and building work went on among the Gothic arches and beams.
Iain Gordon, director of King Richard III Visitor Centre Trust, said: “Its a huge responsibility to tell this story.