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Labs
portrait of Nicholas Jarrett

Nicholas Jarrett

Marketing Campaign Manager , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Karin Ryding

Karin Ryding

PhD fellow , IT University of Copenhagen

The GIFT project: Using Artcodes to create monuments for a departed future

Following on from last week’s introduction to the GIFT project, Karin Ryding from IT University Copenhagen introduces you to one of its sub-projects: Artcodes, customisable scannable markers that allow you to blend your physical exhibition with digital content. Artcodes were used at the Museum of Yugoslavia to create a poetic and intimate experience addressing memories, conflict and forgiveness.

main image

Tjentište artcode - Raquel Meyers

2017

CC BY-SA
Artcode based on the Tjentište memorial monument

The Museum of Yugoslavia

The Museum of Yugoslavia is situated in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where the rivers Sava and Danube converge. It is the most visited museum in Serbia with 100,000 visitors yearly. The museum’s main collection contains a wide range of artefacts and stories connected with Josip Broz Tito's life and work. The museum is located on the grounds of the former communist leader’s palace, and houses his tomb as well as his wife’s.

People who grew up in the region of former Yugoslavia occasionally come to the museum to pay their respects to Tito. However, the museum aims to present a broad view of the history of the Yugoslav republics. They wish to encourage critical thinking and dialogue.

The Museum of Yugoslavia in Belgrade, Serbia

Museum of Yugoslavia - Paulina Rajkowska

2017

Serbia

CC BY-SA
The Museum of Yugoslavia in Belgrade, Serbia

Monuments for a departed future

During two days in the spring of 2017, we offered visitors an alternative museum experience, inviting them to a form of ‘effective critical play’ within the museum’s premises. The objective was to make an intimate and poetic experience, which could lead visitors to engage both critically and emotionally with the violent history of the former republic. It was called ‘Monuments for a departed future’.

The theme of the experience was based on the abstract anti-fascist WWII monuments built between 1960 and 1990 – internationally known as the ‘Spomeniks’. During the socialist era, they were popular sites of tourism, as well as school excursions. This shifted radically during the 1990s when the turn to nationalism brought a change in the perception of the monuments, which were now seen as symbols of an ideologically undesired past. This often led to their destruction or abandonment. Precisely because of their conflicted history, the monuments offer rich possibilities for different interpretations and discussions about the history of Yugoslavia. 

While the Museum of Yugoslavia hosted a touring exhibition about the Spomeniks in 2016, they are not represented in the permanent exhibition at the museum. We used image recognition technology called Artcodes to give them a physical presence in the museum today. Visual markers representing the monuments were placed inside the exhibition. These could be scanned with a smartphone, triggering a digital interaction using the Artcodes app.

The Tjentište memorial monument...

Monument for the Battle of Sutjeska in Tjentište - Julian Nyča

22 May 2018

CC BY-SA
The Tjentište memorial monument...
...and its Artcode

Tjentište artcode - Raquel Meyers

2017

CC BY-SA
...and its Artcode

The markers were placed so that they were not always easy to spot, and sometimes even hidden intentionally. The app provided clues on how to find them. The purpose was to introduce a playful activity of searching for the markers inside the museum, but also to let the placement of the markers mirror the fact that many of the monuments are in remote locations, and hidden from public consciousness. Each marker served as an entry point to one of the monuments as well as to a specific theme, for example ‘History and the generational gap’ or ‘Monuments and meaning’.

Examples of the placement of Artcodes in the museum

Artcodes used in the museum - Karin Ryding

2017

Serbia

CC BY-SA
Examples of the placement of Artcodes in the museum

Reflections on a departed future

As part of the interaction, we presented the users with a series of poetic provocations like the one pictured here. Our goal with these was to invite a playful mindset which could trigger visitors’ imagination and evoke emotions, as well as facilitate reflection. The provocations were presented as playful challenges. They would prompt participants to put themselves in a specific state of mind, using their imagination and their bodies to interact with the museum environment. These challenges ranged from the light-hearted to the more emotionally demanding.

Furthermore, for each theme the participants were presented with a question to answer. The purpose was to provoke reflections on the different topics addressed, and to link the experience at the museum with personal life outside of it. After submitting an answer, it was possible to view answers from other participants.

Visitors reflecting on content from ‘Monuments for a departed future’

Users reflecting on the content - Karin Ryding

2017

Serbia

CC BY-SA
Visitors reflecting on content from ‘Monuments for a departed future’

The students who tested ‘Monuments for a departed future’ saw it as a very personal experience. They interpreted the challenges and questions as a way to make a personal and emotional connection with the historical content. One of the students described the experience as an ‘historical/emotional roller-coaster’. In this way, the experience became ‘bigger’– not just about learning history, but to some degree also about connecting with challenging aspects of life such as death, conflict and forgiveness. Using play and imagination was also seen as a way to ‘communicate with the space’ and put participants in an ‘active role’, as well as to challenge them to think for themselves. They saw the questions in the app both as ways to reflect and contribute, but also as concrete reminders that people have very diverse perspectives on things. 

Find out more

Artcodes allow you to create digital narratives using beautiful, machine readable markers. They work in a very similar way to QR codes: they can be scanned by a smartphone to access additional exhibition content, play games, and offer a participatory, interactive experience. Because they are customisable, Artcodes can blend in and match the aesthetics of your exhibition, meaning that visitors can experience a digital narrative without the use of obstructive markers.

Unlike QR codes, Artcodes are handcrafted visual markers that can be designed, drawn and rendered. These markers are easy to draw, and can even be created by the visitors themselves to contribute their own reflections to the exhibition.

ArtCodes have been used to tell stories about musical instruments, unlock the hidden history of a railway line, transform the visitor into a factory production line worker and evoke poetic, playful experiences. To find out more about them and download the app, visit the GIFT project website.

If you’d like to know more about GIFT you can hear the latest news from the project and test some of its tools at Europeana 2019.

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