In the course of "Hidden Trecento", a comprehensive conservation project undertaken by the Croatian Conservation Institute (Hrvatski restauratorski zavod), the prerequisite research unexpectedly resulted in findings of considerable relevance for art-history. The process leading to these insights was illuminated in an educational video. Produced over a period of five months (March - July 2017), the video addresses experts and the general public alike, with key information and never shying away from touching on details most museum visitors and enthusiasts are rarely confronted with. Utilizing 3D animation and motion graphics software, it purposely avoids any likeness to overly familiar and often humourless slide-shows. While the accessibility of the end product through YouTube and social networks was planned from the very beginning, its live "premiere" quickly became a project with a life of its own, introducing "The Cube", a small but striking pavilion, in the very heart of Dubrovnik's historical centre. "The Cube's" position and size conform to strict parameters: to be prominent without being imposing, unavoidable but not obstructing. To achieve this balance, an accurate interactive 3D simulation was developed during the planning stage of the project, as well as an augmented-reality smartphone application allowing the authors to anticipate in the structure's challenging visual and functional interaction with the location. Although both tools, along with various mock-ups and renderings, proved valuable in numerous fundraising presentations, their primary function was to help when making decision about different execution options and shape ideas into concrete plans. The project team included employees of the Croatian Conservation Institute Katarina Alamat Kusijanović (project leader), Mara Kolić Pustić, Antonio Blašković, Nađa Lučić, Josip Ivanković, Ljubo Gamulin and Goran Tomljenović, as well as external associate Elio Karamatić.
The two medieval polyptychs from Dubrovnik's nearby islands are eminent examples of Croatia's valuable national heritage that put the history of the region's artistic expression into the international context. They were initially attributed to local masters of the 15th century, but this thesis was later revised when the polyptychs were dated a century earlier, and placed in the context of Venetian painting. After conservation, it was concluded that the recent discovery should be presented to the public. This is reflected in the chosen presentation method of the "Hidden Trecento" project - a portable, lightweight structure raised on the arguably busiest location of the Dubrovnik's pedestrian area, while the displayed video strived to present scholarly content as a more captivating narrative without compromising the underlying facts and conclusions. When the Cube was first assembled in the Dubrovnik Department for Conservation (Croatian Conservation Institute) it proved that the object's size allowed it to function indoors, it was clear from the outset that this would collide with the idea of reaching the general public. Instead of relying on posters in front of a museum's door to awaken the desired interest, the installation brought a compelling story to the public, making it exceedingly accessible in a manner that's both casual and immersive.
Two polyptychs from mid–15th century, one from the island of Koločep (1434), and another from the island of Lopud (1452), are described as a late echo of the Venetian Trecento, namely that of Trecento's giant Paolo Veneziano. Based on this, a theory about the enduring Trecento tradition in Dubrovnik paintings arose, proposing the so–called belated form of artistic expression purportedly present among local artists as late as the 1450s. Research conducted during recent conservation has challenged the existing attribution, giving rise to a thesis about the existence of a thus far unknown workshop in Dubrovnik in the second half of the 14th century. The reaction of academic circles to these findings gradually brought about the awareness of their importance, and subsequently prompted the conception of a video project as a way of sharing the project’s history with a wider audience. Unobtrusiveness is the defining feature and one of central requirements of contemporary conservation, to the point of occasionally promoting effective invisibility of the work as a measure of its success. A proportionally augmented awareness-raising endeavour may need to venture outside of museums and laboratories; this premise constitutes the basis of the "Hidden Trecento" project, transforming the installation from an intriguing container to an emphatic statement. Consequently, the largely academic subject matter is conveyed to the general audience in an immediate and unorthodox way. It has been said that museums are places of enhanced perception. While easily confirmed, this effect is demonstrably eroded by familiarity and amplified by tangible separation from the surroundings through mere physical distance or, more frequently and efficiently, through enclosure. It was therefore an easy choice to show the video inside a specially constructed structure that would, following the said reasoning, both capture and prime one's attention, in a way a plasma screen against the wall of one of the palaces never could. "The Cube’s" geometrically uniform shape of utter simplicity serves the same basic purpose. Austere images of saints from the restored panels, printed on its outer shell, are the only enticing feature. Rather than seduce, the object captivates with only its presence and the content it offers. It stands visibly angled, the sides and edges of "the Cube" not parallel to the elaborate façades of the surrounding buildings; the structure never infiltrates, it readily accepts its own guest status. The entrance is turned away from the Old Town's main street and its incessant stream of visitors, nudging the curious passers-by to walk around it, inspect the medieval saints and look for a way in. It is easily found and conceived to eliminate Schwellenangst. A curtain, already partly pulled apart instead of a visible door, along with a faint sound of a hymn spilling out, invites and welcomes, without queues or entrance fees, for anyone interested to learn the story of the two mysterious altarpieces. A novel approach in presentation is perfectly summed up in a witty metaphor of a chance encounter with an eminent professor in cargo shorts and flip-flops, which is far from impossible during the summer in Dubrovnik. Taking a break in the shade with a beer in hand, he tells you of the recent focus of his interest drinks, a story involving modern chemistry, medieval plague epidemic and geometry used by harpsichord restorers. A spontaneous lecture takes place, far from the university's auditorium, its complexity taking nothing away from its perspicuity. The casual circumstances devoid of pomp and graveness allow you to enjoy a privilege without ever experiencing it as one. The vision was materialized into a solution that seemed relatively simple only in the very beginning, quickly bringing vagaries of an uncharted territory. Following a prolonged planning stage, the manufacture of the installation structure began. It was subject to a number of constraints, as well as technical and conceptual difficulties solved on-the-fly. A softwood skeleton covered with aluminium plates produced the foldable framework eventually approved by the city as a standard-complying temporary structure. The assembly of the Cube, carried out in a single day, turned out to be an inadvertent tourist attraction, occasionally including respectfully declining help offered by eager volunteers. Posing for holiday snapshots with power tools was generally tolerated as it implied a short break in the early summer heat. Continuous looping of the video was fully automated and the exhibition ran its course without glitches, proving reliably resistant to summer showers if not to decorations by ubiquitous pigeons. According to the reactions of the locals, typically sensitive about Dubrovnik’s Old Town, the goal of a discrete and unassuming intervention was achieved, and rather than competing, "The Cube" complemented the ancient buildings that surrounded it.