Geneva 1850: A Revolutionary Journey is the product of a collaboration between the Museum of Art and History and the Switzerland-based Artanim Foundation, a leading centre worldwide for research on virtual reality. The project began in 2017, when the Magnin Model was digitised and recreated virtually. The data collected from the remarkably precise and accurate physical model kept at the Museum of Art and History have made it possible to bring 19th-century Geneva back to life. Once they have donned their HP ZVR Backpack virtual reality gear, which combines images and sounds, aided by scents, vibrations and objects, visitors find themselves catapulted through space and time.
Approximately 15 minutes long, Geneva 1850 is open to all by reservation. In groups of four, visitors don their virtual reality headset and motion sensors before they enter the experience.
Impersonating period costume-clad avatars, users are brought back in the midst of the Fazy Revolution, at a time when the city was on the brink of modernity. They arrive in the city in the early days of October 1846, just days before the city’s people rose up in insurrection. Using a number of haptic objects (keys, maps of the city, lamps, etc.), visitors can interact with their surroundings, their fellow travellers and the characters they encounter around the city.
In addition to taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city, discovering its architectural heritage and the different atmospheres of each area, visitors are also invited to witness the social unrest of the time. The city’s prominent political figures, who were planning the revolution, appear during the visit at the offices of a local newspaper. The rest of the visit is made on foot, at night - the perfect time to hear all the gossip. At daybreak, as visitors near the edge of the lake, a popular uprising forces them to jump into a balloon to escape the cannon fire.
Virtual reality-based technology, which has been rapidly growing fast in recent years, will probably prove to be one of the most significant new developments for the media and cultural entertainment industries in the near future. The launch of the Geneva 1850 experience, based on the 3D data collected through the digitisation of the Magnin model presented in the attic of Maison Tavel, illustrate the kind of systems and products that will soon begin to transform museums and the way they interact with their public. It not only calls into question the way people relate to culture today, but it also offers an alternative to explore new experiences for museum-goers.
As the oldest residence in Calvin’s city, Maison Tavel was the perfect location for this first version of Geneva 1850: A Revolutionary Journey. The historical re-enactment it depicts ideally complements the institution’s other public outreach initiatives.
The VR Journey is still open until July 14th 2019 - if you are near Geneva, don't miss this extraordinary experience.
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