Originally Published: 2017
Category: Culture and Consumer Behaviour
Technology is offering new ways to preserve history, changing the way we learn from, experience, and remember the past in the process.
We preserve the past in different ways — photographs, videos, written accounts. Today, technology like 3D imagery, drones, virtual and augmented reality, and cutting-edge design are offering new ways to make sure that we can access and even experience the past with the present. Through the preserved past, we will access, experience, and learn from our shared past more easily, and with a new level of immersion, insight and connection.
At museums like the Acropolis Museum in Greece, technology brings architectural and sculptural remains to life through augmented reality, the Dali Museum in Florida put on the “Dreams of Dali” exhibit, which allowed visitors to use virtual reality headsets to step inside the artist’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus.
In one of the most creative uses of the preserved past, a project by two researchers from the University of Southern California called New Dimensions in Testimony asked a Holocaust survivor to answer 2,000 questions about his experience. Using 50 cameras to capture a 3D recording, the researchers created a hologram with his likeness that people could have an actual conversation with through natural language processing software. Like this, technology is connecting the past with the kind of first-hand, sensory experience that only the present could offer before now.
Similarly, the concept of cataloging today’s experiences and works of art (think virtual tours of hotel rooms and first-class airline seats, or preserving archeology in danger of being destroyed by mass tourism and extremist groups) through immersive virtual reality recordings is a product of our desire to preserve visual history for tomorrow.
Even brands are getting in on the action. Through their own storytelling initiatives focused on retelling and preserving the past. Soy sauce brand Kikkoman created a 24-minute documentary on the history of its soy sauce, Harley Davidson has launched a miniseries on The Discovery Channel, and Delta Airlines is working with Story Corps to interview customers and employees.
Preservation groups continue to take advantage of technological advancements to create “virtual curations” of artifacts, track and prevent deterioration, preserve fragile papers, and organize 3D libraries of the world’s cultural heritage sites before they are damaged or lost to natural disasters, war, or the passing of time.
- Augmented Reality Tours Take Tourism by Storm: The Museum of London has launched an app that allows users to walk through the streets of London and see paintings and works of art overlaid over actual buildings and locations through their mobile phone. The “Paris, Then and Now” app does the same.
- Cataloguing Experiences for the Future Past: The Hilton, Best Western, Marriott and Starwood hotel lines are all offering virtual experiences where consumers can see into rooms and check out amenities. United and Lufthansa are both using VR to show off their cabins.
- Using Storytelling to Leverage History, Backstory: former Coca Cola executive Rebecca Messina said that she came up with “some of the best stories” she created at Coke through looking through the company’s archives.
- The Rise of Forensic Architecture: This emerging field is led by 24 year-old Israeli professor Eyal Weizman out of Goldsmiths at the University of London, and focuses on recreating history through assembling and analyzing people’s accounts of history. Similarly, the Factume Arte project asks 100 people to take 100 photos every day to record data and preserve cultural heritage.