Exhibition brings past back to life

Technology is bringing the history of Ancient Egypt alive, in a new interactive exhibition by Iziko Museums of South Africa.

The exhibition, created in partnership with Friends of Design - Academy of Digital Arts, opened to the public at the Iziko Slave Lodge this month.

The student-driven project demonstrates how new technologies can successfully augment the museum experience, explains Iziko spokesperson Melody Kleinsmith.

“Kemet: Life in Ancient Egypt” is an exploration of the past and how it shaped and impacts society today, she says.

“The exhibition brings the past back to life. It tells us about people of that time – their prejudices, perceptions, hobbies, their fear of death and their ability to create for survival. Kemet investigates various themes relating to writing systems, science and technology, beliefs and religion, recreation and adornment, as well as professions in ancient Egyptian times.

“From hieroglyphs, a mummified bird and a so-called ‘soul house’, to artefacts from everyday life, this exhibition demonstrates how the elaborate preparations that ancient Egyptians made for the afterlife provides clues to their lives on earth – and to what extent their lives share commonalities with people today, and how ancient concepts and practices shaped our modern world.”

The revamped displays now include a downloadable smartphone app which uses the phone’s camera to add elements of interactivity to these displays/scenes, explains Kleinsmith.

This will show museum visitors extra information about a display, add animated digital elements such as narration or a rotating 3D image of an object, and display photos and videos linked to an object. The app also displays animated “characters” using a tool or performing a task.

Andrew Barclay, game designer, lecturer and education content developer, currently lecturing i Game Design Theory at the Friends of Design, approached Iziko Museum’s curator Esther Esmyol and initiated a discussion about how to use the museum’s Egyptian collection as the foundation for the development of an augmented reality game, explains Kleinsmith.

“As part of the Game Graphics and Multimedia Design course (a one-year course offered at Friends of Design - Academy of Digital Arts), a real-world design project was simulated from concept design process, formulating and presenting project proposals, research, development, production as well as testing of a prototype product.”

The project, created by students at the Academy of Digital Arts, is aimed at creating real-world application and skills development. It also aims to explore new ways for the museum to educate and entertain
visitors.

“Technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality can support education in many ways. The traditional way of museums showing highly interesting historic exhibits and educating has to be upgraded and changed accordingly. With augmented reality elements that are interactive, showing animated scenes of historic eras, inviting visitors to explore and discover, a whole new exciting layer can be added to the modern museum experience,” Kleinsmith says.

“Ideally this could make the content more relatable, spark the interest of younger generations, and help to widen their horizons through museum exhibits,” she says.

V For more information, visit www.iziko.org.za/calendar/event/kemet-life-in-ancient-egypt.

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