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The Templars in Public History

Professor Helen Nicholson’s research on the Knights Templar and on the proceedings against them in the British Isles (1308–12) extends public and academic understandings of a group whose involvement in the medieval crusades is well-known, but around whom myths and inaccuracies persist. Popular representations on screen, as seen in The Da Vinci Code, have influenced perceptions of the Templars’ historical significance. Prof. Nicholson’s research and her collaborations with museum and heritage organizations have helped to challenge these misconceptions and inform professional practice, allowing heritage organizations to understand and re-present Templar properties in public history contexts. The most recent example of the contribution Nicholson’s research has made is her work with Heritage Lincolnshire to bring to life Temple Bruer, a scheduled monument and one of the few Knights Templar sites left in England. Her research on the trial of the Templars helped designers to create a computer-generated reconstruction and animated fly-through of key buildings, allowing visitors to explore visual renderings of Temple Bruer in the fourteenth century. Speaking about Nicholson’s contribution, the former director of Heritage Lincolnshire explained how her advisory role allowed “for the inclusion of detail at a level that would otherwise have relied almost entirely on conjecture. The community benefit of the project has been considerable”. Nicholson’s research has influenced the work of individuals, authors, archaeologists and museum practitioners, producing new interpretations and cultural artefacts on the Templars among diverse public audiences worldwide.