Roald Amundsen is a Norwegian artic explorer and an international polar hero. He was the first man to ever set foot on the South Pole, and later he led the first undisputed expedition to reach the North Pole. On June the 17th 1928 Amundsen locked the front door of his house and left. He had scrambled together a private rescue mission to save his arch nemesis, Umberto Nobile, an Italian airship designer turned polar explorer, who had crash landed with his crew into the pack ice east of Svalbard. Roald Amundsen never returned from the ice. His house is now a museum, kept as he left it that evening.
The Follo museum, who are in charge of governing the house with its grounds and collection, wanted the world to be able to experience Amundsen’s home, but at the same time they did not want an increase in visitors in the already fragile rooms. The pure inaccessibility of the house, some 45 minutes from Oslo, had naturally shielded it from ever becoming a hotspot for tourists, and through limited opening hours and guided tours, the museum had managed to keep the wear and tear of the building down to a minimum. So how could they make the museum more accessible? For Follo Museum the solution was as beautiful as it was bold.
“This is a fantastic learning experience for the audience, but it also digital conservation”
Together with the immersive technology competence of Glitch Studios, Follo Museum started a three-part project to digitize the museum experience. A high-quality photogrammetry scan of the interior and the exterior of the house, including the grounds, would make up the basis of a VR experience, together with highly detailed scans of private objects from the collection. This would allow VR-visitors to explore a full-size copy of the house while interacting with Amundsen’s personal belongings. The 3D material would then be reused in an immersive web solution allowing you to explore the house through your browser window, supported by in depth articles, historical film clips and parallax storytelling. For the visitors coming to the house, we wanted an App that could enhance their experience by trigging events on their phone, displaying 3D models, videos, audio clips or photos, using GPS coordinates or beacons.
“We are lifting a small Norwegian museum onto a global stage, making it accessible to everyone”.
Photogrammetry for museums
Photogrammetry technology is nothing new to the museums. They have been tinkering with the technology for more than a decade now. Many would even say that museums have been pioneering the technology, but as a practical work tool. It is used for scanning of dig sites, measuring decay in objects over time, and sharing objects digitally in research projects. These scans are often crude, captured on budget hardware, processed to be ‘good enough’ for representation, but never meant to be enjoyed by an audience. Glitch on the other hand is all about creating a quality experience for the end user. When scanning Amundsen’s house, we use the best image sensors in combination with super sharp high-end optics, creating the best possible starting point for our elaborate post process, ending in super sharp photo accurate 3D objects of the highest possible visual quality, which is a highly time consuming process.
“Roald Amundsen would have loved this project. Its adventures and very much in his spirit”
Storytelling in VR
Glitch and museums share the same fundamental truth; we are both storytellers. With the photogrammetry model in place we now had a digital stage that we could bring into VR like a set piece, for Follo museum to fill with their content. As we explored this, we quickly realized that the possibilities were endless. We could treat it as a first-person game, where you are an investigative journalist snooping around, collecting clues, gradually uncovering Amundsen’s story. Or we could make it a multiuser experience, where the museum guide brings groups of VR-users through the house in a live staged event. We ended up in a more traditional direction, letting the user explore the house and the collection, while getting additional in-depth information, like text, historical video clips and photos through a focus-panorama interface. This is a great starting point with a wide and general appeal, allowing the museum and its audience to mature to the idea of a virtual exhibition. The experience will also allow for the museum to exhibit digital objects from other museums with Amundsen related objects in their collection, making it possible to present a complete Roald Amundsen collection under one virtual roof.
Through using high-end photogrammetry to scan Roald Amundsen’s house and his belongings, we are not only doing a digital conservation masterpiece. With the VR experience, the immersive website and the location based AR-app, we are lifting a small Norwegian museum onto a global stage, making it accessible to everyone. For the next phase we will be looking to implement multiuser functionality for the VR experience, allowing the museum to offer remote guided tours for groups. We will keep you posted as this project evolves.