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The Paston collection set to be brought into the 21st century

The Pastons are returning to Norfolk. Chairman Rob Knee as John Paston 3 receiving the HLF letter of approval outside a 3D reconstruction  model of 15th century Paston Hall. Photo by Peter Stibbons, 3D Imagery by James Mindham

The Pastons are returning to Norfolk. Chairman Rob Knee as John Paston 3 receiving the HLF letter of approval outside a 3D reconstruction model of 15th century Paston Hall. Photo by Peter Stibbons, 3D Imagery by James Mindham

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The history of Norfolk’s most prominent family between the 15th and 17th centuries will be brought to life in 3D and online, thanks to a £374,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The 600 Paston Footprints project, led by Dr Rob Knee of the Paston Heritage Society and Dr Karen Smyth of UEA. will range from digitally augmented reality to opening up access to ancient documents.

It will work with communities in Norfolk to produce the first-ever lasting, visible and accessible legacy of the Paston family’s amazing, rags to riches story.

Over a three-year period, the project will engage with 11 key centres connected with the family in Norfolk. These are Paston, Bacton, North Walsham, Gresham, Mannington, Oxnead, Hellesdon, Blofield, Mautby/Caister, Norwich and Dereham.

And project leaders will work alongside community groups, schools, walkers, churches, museums and the owners of key sites, to provide resources, information boards, events, activities, workshops, podcasts, booklets, and maps of heritage trails and cycle routes.

The grant will also enable state-of-the-art 3D digital reconstructions of Paston properties and to develop a website providing a comprehensive resource on the Paston story.

The site will also provide digitised versions of the two 17th century collections totalling over 1,000 letters.

And there will be free opportunities for the public to work alongside archivists at The Norfolk Record Office, St Peter Hungate Medieval Museum in Norwich, Community Action Norfolk, The Norfolk Heraldry Society, professional dramatists, artists and writers, the Paston Heritage Society and UEA academics.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “The Paston Letters are a truly fascinating record of a local family’s extraordinary journey from peasantry to aristocracy.

“I’m delighted that money raised by National Lottery players can support UEA and the Paston Heritage Society to make this collection accessible through digitisation and an immersive programme of events, particularly ahead of the 600th anniversary next year.”

The 600th anniversary of the writing of the first of the world-famous medieval Paston Letters, the earliest collection of family letters in the world, will be celebrated with a festival, including performances, workshops, exhibits and alternative story-telling formats.

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