Written by: Andrea Shockling Friday, March 1st, 2013 .
The newly renovated Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium has a unique way for visitors to interact with its exhibits about World War I: patrons receive a special poppy bracelet to wear throughout the museum. Inside the poppy, an iconic symbol of the First World War, is a special microchip designed by Ocular BVBA to control video projections, interactive touchscreens and language. Flanders Fields Museum examines the consequences of the Great War by telling individual stories. By presenting these with the latest in museum technology, old and young visitors alike can reconnect with their history in an exciting and innovative way.
Four main exhibit areas in Flanders Field Museum are loaded with interactive projections and sounds that respond to the poppy bracelets to enhance storytelling. But if you’re picturing standard screens and text boxes, think way bigger and way more out of the box. Using the bracelets to access the technology was only part of the solution to a bigger obstacle. Nicolas Vanden Avenne, Managing Director at Ocular BVBA explains, “Every projection surface in this museum is either curved or has a rather unusual shape for projection, which made this a technical challenge.” The first exhibit, Belle Epoque, covers the period of time leading up to the war and features a large curved wooden structure. Video footage and photos are triggered by the bracelets and projected onto the surface. In the First Battle exhibit, projections from the ceiling highlight a three dimensional scale model map. This gives visitors a bird’s eye point of view of the battlefield in a far more impressive way than still photographs and captions.
Part of the renovation of the Flanders Field Museum also included opening up the bell tower to visitors so they can see the surrounding area and former battlefields for themselves. Combining the cutting edge bracelet microchip and projection technology with a physical museum experience gives the public a more complete sense of the war’s impact on the region.
By far the most technically complicated, the Third Battle exhibit uses four projectors on a curved screen and ceiling with first hand narration about one of the bloodiest battles in the Great War. Visitors enter personal information such as age and country of origin when they pick up their poppy bracelets, so the narratives throughout the museum weave together a story for each person individually. Obviously, much of the content at Flanders Field Museum is moving and in some cases even disturbing. The poppy bracelets add an intimacy to the experience, encouraging visitors to move at their own pace and discover the story on their own. As Anders Løkke, museum Marketing Director says, “The exhibit areas are pushing the boundaries of how projection can be used to engage, inform and tell the story of the First World War.
While Ocular BVBA provided the systems integration for the bracelet and museum exhibits, Norwegian firm projectiondesign® handled the actual hardware. projectiondesign®is an award-winning innovator in the field of specialty projections for entertainment design. Technology in museums can be a hot button issue, but in the case of Flanders Field Museum, relying so heavily on integrated technology as part of the museum experience was a risk worth taking. The microchip poppy bracelet and projections don’t replace authentic artifacts, they enhance them. And interactive installations uniquely present contemporary visitors with the human side of the war. Ocular BVBA and projectiondesign® worked very closely with the museum to ensure the technical demands of the projector setup were in line with the experiential needs of the public.
If you’re wondering about the poppy bracelets themselves, they can be taken home with a modest donation or returned for reuse after your visit. We expect many museumgoers choose to keep this unique piece of jewelry to remember their day at the Flanders Field Museum.
Image sources: inflandersfields.be, upperendtravel.com, projectiondesign.com, youtube.com