The Falstad Center - geolocated digital reconstruction
In recent years, cultural heritage museums and memorials globally have adopted new digital technologies, media, and platforms to give the public experiential access to and knowledge of the past. The opportunity technology provides to digitally reconstruct buildings in current day landscapes is of particular value to memorial sites from the Second World war, where physical traces of the camp structure in most cases are minimal. Today, very few of the more than 40 000 Holocaust sites in Europe are recognizable as prison camps. Buildings, barracks, and fences have been burnt down or removed. At the same time, Holocaust sites and prison camps from the Nazi era receive millions of visitors annually, visitors that come to learn, understand, and reflect. In particular, students and younger visitors do not have the detailed understanding of the horrors of the Nazi camp structure, and when faced with a former camp area that today is a park, forest combined with a modern visitor center often struggle to comprehend the context and meaning of the sites visited. Visitors to the Falstad center meet a completely different landscape and building structure than the one that existed during the years it served as an SS prison camp. What was once a double-fenced area with guard towers and barracks is today a beautiful park nearly without remains other than the main building that serves as a modern visitor center. Although the center hosts an exhibition about its history, its outdoor environment effectively prevents visitors from fully comprehending the historical structure of the site. As such, the Falstad memorial faces the challenge confronted by most European sites that were prison, concentration, or extermination camps during the conflicted history of the 20th century: how to communicate and commemorate the Holocaust and Nazi crimes in the absence of physical traces? VR and AR technology make it possible to digitally (re)construct historical buildings and landscapes. Through the European research project, iC-ACCESS (Accessing Campscapes: Inclusive Strategies for Using European Conflicted Heritage), where the Falstad center is an associated partner, the "Falstad digital reconstruction" (FDR) was launched in 2018. FDR uses geolocation to connect the app to the physical landscape at the former SS camp Falstad. Using tablets, the public can access a digitally reconstructed version of the "campscape" as it existed in 1945. The reconstruction is multimodal and includes 3D models of topography and architecture as well as hyperlinks to "information boxes" containing historical sources (text, photo, drawing, video) and short, curated texts and audio material. To navigate in the digital landscape, the user needs to move in the physical landscape. (S)he is free to choose the path and whether, and in what order, to activate the hyperlinks. To address this challenge, the Falstad center has teamed up with the Synthetic, Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems group (SPECS) and its spin-off company Eodyne. They have developed a new approach towards conserving and presenting history in the so-called, Future Memory App (FMA). FMA combines geo-localized digital reconstruction with historical source materials to deliver individualized spatial narratives. Users of the tablet-based outdoor augmented reality landscape guide explore the SS Strafgefangenenlager Falstad as it was in 1945. FMA combines this virtual/augmented reality reconstruction with drawings, photographs, diary fragments, and recorded survivor testimonies. Visitors can now for the first time experience history in context and at the actual locations where events took place. A central consideration behind FMA is to facilitate users to experience and learn about the landscape and its history, driven by their interests, choices, and active participation, while it allows content creators to design a plurality of possible museum experiences customized to different visitor groups. FDR is a kind of "locative narrative" (Hayles 2008, 11). Its ‘locatedness' makes it an innovative communication device in the context of Norwegian as well as European memorial sites. The digital reconstruction is developed by the Falstad center, a Norway memorial and human rights center, in cooperation with Synthetic, Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems group (SPECS) at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC). The FDR is based on a first version digital reconstruction of the Bergen Belsen camp in Germany, also developed by SPECS and IBEC in 2013, but goes further in quantity of content, quality of the graphical representation as well as the spread in user applications. How does the FDR work for a visitor at the Falstad memorial center: The FDR is available for all visitors to the Falstad memorial, students and museum visitors alike. FDR stores a digital reconstruction of all actual buildings at the campsite in 1945, as well as more than 100 information points located in the Falstad landscapes. With prisoners from 15 different nationalities, it has been important for the developers and Falstad to make the app available in several languages: English, Norwegian, German, and Russian. A museum visitor will upon arrival at Falstad be given a 12,9-inch screen Ipad (large version), with brief instructions on how the application works. From then onwards, the visitor navigates in the Falstad landscape in AR mode, allowed to see the historical buildings and relevant content at specific historically correct locations. Authentic pictures of the prisoner barracks, as well as testimonies from survivors in text and video, are made available through the app. However, with its geo-located features, the content cannot be viewed from anywhere, and hence, the visitor is stimulated to navigate in the complete camp area, to learn and reflect. A group of students, normally participating in a 4-hour educational program, is given access to the FDR as part of their introduction to the Falstad history. Rather than being introduced to the history of the site in a traditional teacher/student setting, listening to a narrated presentation, the students are actively engaging in their own learning and can choose their own topics of particular interest. How the FDR is changing the digital representation and use of memorial landscapes Whereas a traditional digital presentation of a landscape in an app can be viewed from anywhere, also outside the memorial premised, the key premise of a geo-located application is that it increases the user experience, the understanding of the historical layers and the knowledge of the Falstad prison camp survivors at the actual spaces in the landscape, viewed in a digitally authentic landscape. This enhances the potential for learning for the visitors, as the content viewed is connected in memory to the spaces in the landscape where the events took place.

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