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Bringing History to Life: An Augmented Reality Exhibition

Updated: Feb 3

What happens when a filmmaker and a historian get the assignment to create an innovative narrative: an augmented reality (AR) exhibition at the iconic Stevenskerk. This event was made possible by Radboud University, which was granted the keys to the 750-year-old church, enabling them to organize this innovative project.

A Unique Collaboration

The exhibition was the brainchild of a historian Joost Rosendaal and filmmaker Danny Vermeulen who collaborated to create an immersive AR experience. Their goal was simple yet ambitious: to bring to life the stories of youth during wartime, a narrative often overlooked and difficult to visualise in an exposition.

The Exhibition: A Blend of History and Technology

The exhibit focused on two main narratives. The first was about Albert and Theo, an unlikely friendship between an indigenous soldier, an American paratrooper, and a local boy from Nijmegen, Theo Smulders. The second part of the exhibition added another layer to this narrative by showcasing wartime logbooks from Nijmegen Central, spanning September 1944 to May 1945.

Augmented Reality: A Gateway to the Past

The real question was how to transform these written accounts, with their mix of elegant and hurried handwriting, into a living, breathing experience. The answer lay in augmented reality. By integrating AR, the exhibition transformed these static texts into dynamic, interactive stories, allowing visitors to engage with history in a completely new way.

The producers used actors to play out parts of the story, a blend of audio elements to discover, and 3D models and virtual guides.

One visitor described the experience as "terrifically unique," particularly impressed by the virtual bunker and the innovative use of a projector in the AR setup. Another remarked on the lifelike quality the AR brought to the exhibition, stating it was like walking through history and seeing through the eyes of those who lived it.

Educational Impact and Future Possibilities

A history student, in their second year, noted the innovative use of physical objects, like a film projector, which added depth to the AR experience. These elements enhanced the storytelling and played a significant role in making history more accessible and engaging, especially for younger generations.

To make the exhibition accessible to everyone, the producers used Wintor AR tours to create the AR exposition and got iPads that visitors could borrow.

Video about the exhibition at the church (Dutch)

Conclusion: Inspiration For Future Exhibitions

The success of the AR exhibition at Stevenskerk has opened up new avenues for future projects. It proves the power of technology in transforming how we interact with our past. The blending of historical narratives with AR has not only brought history closer to the public but has also set a new standard for how we can preserve and share our heritage.



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