Bringing history to life through virtual reality in Polish open-air museum

To promote the region’s folk culture and heritage, the Upper Silesian Ethnographic Park in Chorzów, Poland, used virtual and augmented reality to bring history to life with an interactive application that serves as a virtual reality guide throughout the museum.

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The application being used on one of the museum’s tablets. ©Antoni Kreis, 2018 The application being used on one of the museum’s tablets. ©Antoni Kreis, 2018

" It is quite rare for a museum to develop a project that is so technologically advanced! At the same time, it is accessible by everyone. It’s easy to use by both children and grown-ups. "

Łukasz Lipka, CEO Itsilesia, Project Co-Developer

Museums protect and promote the material and immaterial culture of a region. The evolving expectations of visitors have required a shift away from classic, static forms of presentation. With the help of the European Regional Development Fund, the open-air museum, called the Górnośląski Park Etnograficzny in Polish, turned to technology to keep visitors interested and informed.

The park acquired 15 mobile tablets for visitors to use the application, presenting regional heritage in a new way, adapted to modern expectations. The application has made visiting the museum more interactive and attractive to children and adults. By modernising its ethnographic resources, the museum has turned visitors into active participants, rather than passive observers.

A walk through history

Visitors can also download and launch the application on their own mobile devices. Once activated, it uses the device’s camera to overlay information onto the exhibition. Each element of an exhibit is presented with dynamic information and archival photos.

Using augmented reality, the application can run short videos and animated scenes at certain exhibits. For instance, in one of the cottages in the museum garden, a family is depicted performing everyday activities that would have been typical in an Upper Silesian village a century ago. The integration of augmented reality into the museum’s historical exhibition seamlessly links the virtual with the real world.

The incorporation of playful and interactive elements in the application has made the museum more attractive for younger visitors. The immersive environment, which is similar to that of a simulation game, has expanded the museum’s learning experience significantly.

Digitising Silesian culture and heritage

As part of the project’s goal to conserve and promote its regional history, the museum digitised a collection of close to 400 documents relating to the Silesian culture and heritage. This digital collection has been made available online and was incorporated into the application for public use. One year after its launch, over 20 000 downloads from this digital library had been made.

 

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Upper-Silesian Ethnographic Park in Chorzów – Development of an interactive mobile application for presenting regional ethnic culture” is EUR 165 921, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 113 997 through the “Śląskie Voivodeship” Regional Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Information and communication technologies”.