670,000 m2 turned into a museum – without any construction
How can large historical sites that have been dismantled and remodeled over the years become more tangible at a reasonable cost? How can images that have been detached and fallen out of time be re-localised? We have developed an augmented reality application that solves this important challenge spot on.
Making the invisible visible
Due to its demolition and conversion, the Sachsenhausen Memorial no longer provides visitors with an accurate impression of what it looked like during the Nazi era. The visitors are confronted with the uncommented emptiness of the grounds.
Our ZEITSCHICHTEN prototype enables them to decipher the past and uncover the unseen. Using the augmented reality application, parts of the site can be visited through time portals and the buildings of the respective historical period can be explored. An off-screen voice explains the purpose and historical motivations behind the remodeling of the topography.
Historical documents in particular are enormously valorised by the way they are integrated. While they are otherwise presented in an environment detached from space and time, in ZEITSCHICHTEN they are located in and around the building sketches – precisely at the places where they were created.
This temporal and spatial re-localisation helps viewers to better comprehend the contemporary documents: Under what circumstances did the inmates make the drawings? With what communicative intention did the perpetrators stage propaganda photos? At the place of origin, these are not academic questions. Here they live and breathe history.
Is it a gadget or a new medium?
Our prototype holds a lot of potential. This is also shown by the interviews conducted by the client SPUR.lab: “73% [of users] stated that the virtual visualization of historical structures and documents […] helped them to better understand the history of the place. “* Wow.
But what would these figures look like if we had also integrated videos, historical film and sound recordings or complete audio guides instead of just photos and sketches of the buildings? What would a tour for visitors from Norway look like? What would it be like for those specifically interested in the relationship between the industry and the Nazi regime?
Other places of remembrance can also benefit from our pioneering work: “Since many of the German concentration camp memorials such as Dachau, Neuengamme or Buchenwald have a similar topography and history of subsequent use and conversion, the transferability of ZEITSCHICHTEN is very obvious here.”* Since SPUR.lab has put the code open source, the first barrier to further use has already been overcome.
* Source: “SPUR.lab, An Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory”, Brandenburgische Gesellschaft für Kultur und Geschichte, 2023