30 years of exhibitionism #9: The Peak Tram Hong Kong

Wed 05 Jun 2024 Opinion

I have been an Interpretive Planner for museums around the world for over 30 years. When I started in 1992, the term was rarely used. Family and friends still ask: “What is it exactly that you do?” So I thought I would look back over my 30 years in museums, zoos, aquaria and heritage sites to pick out some of the favourite exhibits that I have worked on as a way of explaining the process of interpretive planning and what it is. Here we look at the site research that went into the development of immersive waiting experiences for the upgrade of The Peak Tram Hong Kong.

One of the great things about what we do is the privilege of getting behind the scenes of some of the most iconic heritage brands in the world. In 2018, Sarner came to us needing research to underpin their design of immersive experiences in the waiting areas for the 6th generation upgrade of Hong Kong’s historic Peak Tram.

We produced a briefing report for taking the AV production stage forward which provided an outline of the program narratives, gave a direction for the creative approach to the programs and set a framework for further production-based research, storyboarding and scripting.

Bell punch with tickets used by conductors on the Peak Tram


As part of this we conducted some fascinating research visits to the upper engine room of the Peak Tram and had the chance to root around archive stores which hadn’t seen the light of day for some time. We also arranged interviews with former employees and drivers on the Peak Tram who gave invaluable insights into how its operation had changed over time. Their pride in their work, the organisation and of course their affection for the Peak Tram itself was very evident.

We proposed an overarching storyline to anchor themes like social history, historical milestones and technological development to create an animated timeline that allows future updates of the content to remain current. We chose technological, historical and personal ‘Moving Moments’ that put the development of the Peak Tram into the wider context of the lives of Hong Kong people and encourage passengers to feel part of a tradition of memory-making. Whilst sharing aspects of a timeline approach, this narrative concept liberated us from being chronologically comprehensive and freed us to tap into a wider range of visual reference.

The brand-new immersive experience opened to the public in August 2022, marking a new chapter in the history of one of Hong Kong’s most beloved icons.