Creating a virtual museum – How photogrammetry brought Roald Amundsen’s home back to life

About Follo Museum

The Follo museum is responsible for the curation and caretaking of the Roald Amundsen’s estate and collection. Roald Amundsen was a world renowned Polar explorer whos various historic expeditons and private life are captured and preserved at his estate located just outside of Oslo.

Roald Amundsen in 1899
On June the 17th 1928 Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian artic explorer famous for being the first man ever to set foot on the South Pole and lead the first undisputed expedition to reach the North Pole, locked the front door of his house and left – he would never return.
Roald Amundsen and Helmer Hanssen make observations at the South Pole, 1911
© National Library of Norway

In 1928, Roald Amundsen planned 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 in the pack ice North of Svalbard. Roald Amundsen and his crew disappeared during the mission and very little evidence was ever recovered to piece together what happened.

Famous for not only being the first person to reach the South Pole, but also the first to make a ship voyage through the Northwest Passage, Roald Amundsen’s life was a rich tapestry of adventures with artefacts and items collected during these many voyages and displayed in his house.

His house was turned into a museum in 1935 and preserved as he left it nearly 100 years ago. In 2003 Follo Museum took over the building and since then a dedicated a team of researchers and academics to recreating his legacy.

Increasing access to the inaccessible

The Follo museum wanted the world to be able to experience Amundsen’s home and learn about his life story, however they faced several challenges; the house is located in a remote area 45 minutes drive outside of Oslo, with limited opening hours. Due to its age, any increase in visitor traffic would put the house and its content at a greater risk of damage and wear and tear. So how could they make the house more accessible? For the Follo Museum the solution was as beautiful as it was bold.

Capturing history

Together with the immersive technology competence of Glitch Studios, Follo Museum started a three-part project to digitize their museum experience. Starting with a high-quality photogrammetry scan of the interior and the exterior of the house, this would make up the basis for a virtual reality experience, together with highly detailed scans of private objects from the collection.

The 3D scans would then be reused in an immersive web solution allowing you to explore the house supported by in depth articles, historical film clips and parallax storytelling. For the visitors coming to the house, we also built an App that could enhance their experience by triggering events on their phone, displaying 3D models, videos, audio clips or photos.

Finally the scans would act as a preservation initiative, safe guarding Roald Amundsen’s house and collection digitally for the future.

The 3D scans would then be reused in an immersive web solution allowing you to explore the house supported by in depth articles, historical film clips and parallax storytelling. For the visitors coming to the house, we developed 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.

Photogrammetry for museums

With more than a decade of tinkering with scanning technologies, photogrammetry is nothing new for museums who have been pioneering the technology as a practical work tool. It is used for scanning of dig sites, measuring decay in objects over time, and sharing artifacts digitally in research projects, however these scans are often crude, captured on budget hardware and processed to be representative rather than presentable for the general public.

As photogrammetry experts, Glitch wanted to raise the bar of what was possible for Follo museum. Using the best image sensors on medium-format cameras in combination with high end optics we began the painstakingly detailed process of scanning each part of the house and its content over a six month process in early 2020.

After processing the scans, our 3D modelling team worked on cleaning and optimizing each room until they were ready to be implemented into both virtual reality and web

Key features

Photogrammetry scanned interior & exterior of house

 

Dozens of items & objects photogrammetry scanned

 

Immersive VR experience

 

Interactive website

 

Tour Guide app of house & grounds

Digitizing the house

With interiors and objects completed, in sumer 2020 we started work on the house exteior. Scanning of the entire house came with a set of challenges that needed to be carefully planned before work began. Lighting conditions due to weather needed to be just right, and working closely with a drone operator our photogrammetry specialist needed to mount the drone with a heavy weight camera system, taking thousands of photos of the house exterior in a full day shoot.

“Museums are storytellers – at Glitch we understand this intimately”
– Tobias Barvik – Director at Glitch Studios

Storytelling in VR

With the photogrammetry scans completed we now had a digital stage that could be brought into VR like a theatre set piece for us to tell Amundsen’s story. The VR experience was designed to give the user freedom to explore the house, inviting them to interact with dozens of objects while getting in depth information about each supported with historical photos and videos. Through a well designed UX interface the user could transition between exploring the house undisturbed as it was in 1928 to browsing its various content in a museum display-like interface.

Explore Roald Amundsen’s house on your desktop PC or mobile

The Amundsen house web project focused on translating all the photogrammetry objects, house interiors and exterior into an engaging web experience.

Using new web technology we were able to recreate the virtual reality experience into an immersive web experience inviting visitors to explore all the 3D scans. The web page allowed users to discover Amundsen’s life through dramatized, rich media stories in parallax format.

The website is much more than a virtual journey through Amundsen’s house – it is the go to portal to explore any kind of resource connected to his life. The website has a long-term vision to become a hub where users can search for any kind of content from any related collection.

For the visitors coming to the house itself outside of Oslo, an App was created and deployed to the various stores for free, allowing guests the opportunity to enhance their visit through their phone by triggering 3D models, videos and photos at different points around the house. This meant even visitors arriving on days the house was closed still had a rich and engaging visit exploring Amundsen’s life and home through their own personal digital tour guide.

Accessing a global audience

Using high-end photogrammetry scanning of Roald Amundsen’s house and his belongings, Glitch embarked not only on a digital conservation project with the Follo Museum, but coupled with the virtual reality experience, immersive website and tour app, we lifted a small Norwegian museum onto the global stage making it accessible to everyone.

Download Roald Amundsen’s House