Historical ‘dress up’ costumes aimed at adult visitors are due to be introduced at 11 English Heritage sites this summer.
The move is in response to research commissioned by the charity and conducted by the University of Kent that found adults have more active imaginations than children.
The study “directly refutes the commonly held belief that we become less imaginative as we get older”, the charity said.
Researchers from the university’s School of Psychology asked more than 470 people aged between four and 81 to imagine how unfamiliar historical objects could have been used.
The answers were assessed based on characteristics including the number of unique responses and how close the guesses were to the object’s actual function.
As age increased, people were more likely to imagine uses that were closer to the actual function of the objects, but they were also more likely to give original answers and to provide more detail.
Meanwhile, adolescents and young adults came up with a larger number of suggestions spanning a wider range of categories than other age groups, suggesting that different age groups have different imaginative strengths, researchers said.
The research “shows that our imaginations continue to grow and change, even throughout adulthood, with the over 60s actually showing the most originality,” said Dr Angela Nyhout, Assistant Professor at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology, who led the research team.
“Adults’ imaginations can be just as vivid as children’s, but what they already know about the world constrains their imagination in some cases and enhances it in others. We just need the freedom of the right environment and opportunity to explore the limits of our imagination, and historical places are a perfect place to do this.”
English Heritage has used these findings to inform its One Extraordinary Summer events programme, for which it will introduce both hands-on history sessions and historical adult dress-up opportunities, with costumes including Roman togas, Medieval chainmail, Victorian suits and Tudor gowns, as well as WWII uniforms.
At Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire, which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, adult visitors will be invited to don vampire capes and accessories.
The 11 sites offering the costume will be Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, Boscobel in Shropshire, Corbridge Roman Town in Northumberland, Dover Castle in Kent, Eltham Palace in London, Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, Osborne on the Isle of Wight, Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, Witley Court in Worcestershire, Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire and Wrest Park in Bedfordshire.