Anyone with a mobile device can now explore the rich cultural and historical treasures within the Catholic precinct of East Melbourne and Fitzroy, in Melbourne’s inner city, using a new walking-tour app.

The Catholic Precinct Walking Tour App is a virtual guide and resource for visitors to St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne and other significant sites in the surrounding area, including Albert and Brunswick Streets, and Victoria Parade in Fitzroy. It includes information about key places, people and aspects of Catholic culture, and gives users the ability to view text, images and linked information, and to listen to commentary and other audio files. The app will be officially launched on 27 October by the Most Rev Peter A Comensoli, Archbishop of Melbourne, following the Mass to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the consecration of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Fiona Power, Curator and Educator at the Mary Glowrey Museum in Fitzroy, produced the content and oversaw the development of the app. She worked with designer Mary Ferlin and museum team member Karin Clark to create an app that is intuitive and informative.

‘We wanted a design that made the app engaging and easy for all ages to use,’ Fiona says. ‘We combined colourful graphics with contemporary and heritage photos and easy-to-navigate prompts and information. We hope people will feel confident to explore it, using familiar app features and actions like tapping on the images, links, tabs, and playing audio.’

The app features tours for the general public, primary students and secondary students. It also provides practical information for schools and other groups planning a visit to the area, including contact details for sites, curriculum links, places to eat lunch or grab a coffee, and bathroom locations in the area.

Fiona explains that the area plays a significant part in Mary Glowrey’s life story, which is the focus at the Mary Glowrey Museum. Dr Mary Glowrey lived and worked at hospitals in the precinct in the years before 1920, when she left Australia to begin her medical missionary service in India. The area is also significant for St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, as it includes her birth site in Brunswick Street and the Mary MacKillop Heritage Centre in Albert Street. Both of these women, and countless others over the years, prayed at the historical St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Focussing on the cathedral, Fiona says, ‘The app offers the many visitors to the Cathedral the chance to learn more about it and its physical and cultural context. The area has also long featured educational and health facilities developed by members of the Catholic community, and diocesan historical records.’

Since the Mary Glowrey Museum’s opening in Cathedral Hall on Brunswick Street in 2017, Fiona says its staff have regularly been asked for information about the heritage and current use of other places in the precinct, and for help to navigate between them.

She says, ‘The Catholic precinct isn’t just a setting for this community’s past story but also its present one. Buildings, spaces and facilities are in use today, and are being cared for and enhanced. They represent and reflect aspects of Catholic culture, practice and values. The app is a way of celebrating this.’

The app provides information about prominent people in the Catholic community who contributed to the area or are connected with it. As well as information about Mary MacKillop and Sr Dr Mary Glowrey, it features Archbishop James Goold, the inaugural archbishop of Melbourne, and William Wardell, the architect who designed and constructed St Patrick’s Cathedral.

The app also introduces people to some of the extensive artwork collection located on Australian Catholic University’s Fitzroy campus, as well as architectural features and historical statues at various sites. Fiona says the app team hopes to develop more content on the stories of some of the lesser-known people who have been connected with the precinct.

The app has been developed by the Mary Glowrey Museum team with funding, content and support from the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australian Catholic University and Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools, as well as content and support from Mary MacKillop Heritage Centre, St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne and members of the St Patrick’s Old Collegians Association.

Fiona says the museum team hopes to develop the app further, with help from their partners, to better support the experiences of a range of ages and backgrounds. Currently, the app is particularly useful to individuals or school groups wanting to tour the area at their own leisure, but there is potential to expand and delve deeper into the significant sites and people of the precinct.

The Catholic Precinct Walking Tour App is free and can be downloaded via QR code or on the App Store or Google Play (search for ‘Catholic Precinct Walking Tour’). The app includes a section explaining how to use it and its components.

The app will be officially launched by Archbishop Comensoli on 27 October, following the Mass to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the consecration of St Patrick’s Cathedral, which will commence at 1pm. Fiona Power will speak at the launch and, with a team from the museum, can provide support for people using it for the first time.