While our tablet application is aimed at outdoor use by small groups with different but parallel interests and routes, our room application aims at a more central use, in larger groups, indoors. Since 2012 we have been developing versions of such an application from a non-interactive sequence to an immersive interactive installation. Central is a virtual reconstruction of the now disappeared Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in a way that makes it possible to interpret a large variety of historical content in context of space as well as time period. Like the tablet application but in characteristically different ways, the room application explores the effect of immersion, interaction, and the dynamics of group sessions in the context of Holocaust education. In fact, our next step is to explore the combination of mobile and room application, and find how each can aggregate their relative strength: tablets for individual and outdoor use, and a room to both distribute and gather, present and compare historical content in a larger overview.
A first version: “Here, Space of Memory” (2012)
As part of the activities that commemorated the 60 years existence of the Bergen-Belsen memorial, we developed an installation at the entrance square of the Belsen memorial site. Visitors entering and leaving the historical site or documentation center could visit a simple rectangular space with an immersive introduction on the historical site, where but very little remains of the camp can be found to help bind history to its landscape. The twelve-minute sequence included a flight through the former concentration camp, historical audio, images and documents, as well as excerpts from interviews with surviving former prisoners. The installation as well as its placing were regarded positive and helpful by visitors and memorial colleagues alike. The installation ran well over a year longer than originally planned, until spring 2014. On this dedicated page you can read more about it.
The Wiener Library installation (2015)
After having been introduced to our projects, the Wiener Library invited us to take on one half of their indoor exhibition space in the center of London. Between April and October 2015 visitors could explore – now off-site – the virtual reconstruction Belsen camp in its state of 1944 and 1945, as well as find historical content placed in the environment, and watch an animated flight through the camp underscored with the historical radio broadcast of Richard Dimbleby, who reported his first impressions of the camp at its liberation in April 1945. A big step forward from the 2012 version, this installation implemented en interactive setup: a large semi-circular panorama controlled by a large touchscreen interface. It served to give an introduction to the camp on one side of the ground floor space, while on the other side an exhibition on the Jewish Relief units focused on the period right after liberation of the camp.
And a next generation …
Currently, we’ve started to work on the next version, this time inside the Bergen-Belsen’s documentation center. The location, a seminar room placed very close to the permanent indoor exhibition of the memorial, is often used for group introductions and school class visits, but can also function as an open extension of the exhibition. Without revealing too much :), we aim to offer a comprehensive yet immersive topographical overview of the historical site, and create a central interaction platform to present and discuss content from archive and exhibition. Also the tablets will be bound-in, functioning as as individual ‘satellites’ to explore individual interests.