Strong Water: an interactive exploration on the history of the Dutch Waterline

The newly opened Waterline Museum located at Fort Vechten tells the impressive story of over 300 years of an old Dutch Defense system: the Dutch Waterline. For this newly build museum exhibition designer Platvorm and gamedeveloper IJsfontein designed and developed the permanent exhibition "Strong water." The New Dutch Waterline was a military line of defence which was established as a protective ring approximately 85 km long and 3–5 km wide around the Dutch cities of Muiden, Utrecht, Vreeswijk and Gorinchem. The New Dutch Waterline’s primary element of defence was water. This was thanks to an ingenious water management system comprising sluices, flood canals, and existing waterways and dikes. A seemingly shallow layer of water, about 40 cm deep, was enough to make the land treacherous and difficult to pass for soldiers, vehicles and horses. At the same time, it was too shallow to navigate by ship. In total, the Waterline could be completely inundated within only three weeks. Weak points along the natural defence line were strengthened with forts, bunkers and group shelters. Fort Vechten is one of these forts. The exhibition has become an interactive exploration on the operation and the history of the Old and New Dutch Waterline. The experience uses a wide variety of communication means. Not only objects, exhibition design, text, image and illustration but also soundscapes, interactives, games, hands on activity, movies, animations, projection mapping on felt sculptures and a virtual reality parachute jump over the Netherlands. Innovative technology such as the Oculus Rift was used to create an engaging experience which appeals to both young and old. An overview of the exhibition Interactive drawing board At first on an interactive drawing board, visitors are challenged to draw the water line. If you do, the paper comes to life. Your drawing and the answers you provide are part of an animation that explains where the waterline really was and why. Waterline simulation game In the waterline simulation game several visitors can put their gained knowledge into practice. Never in the history of the Waterline it has completely been used as a defense. In the simulation game, this is possible! You can use the knowledge you gained at the drawing table to fight the enemy. You get troops, forts and water to defend your country. Using artificial intelligence we developed a truly engaging and challenges strategic game. Players experience how to keep the enemy away by placing forts and additional troops and turning real valves open to fill the waterline with exactly the right amount of water. Be careful! If, the water is to high, the enemy will cross the water with boats and you lose. Felt images come to life Platvorm developed large felt sculptures of known and unknown figures in the history of the Waterline. IJsfontein brought them to life with projection mapping of their faces. They actually look at the visitors and talk to them. Each character comes from a different time and has a different perspective on history, from ruler to worker, from soldier to victim. The stories they tell also vary per visitor, thanks to a Rfid activation system. The visitors have saved on the system if they live within or outside of the area of the Waterline. The characters reflect on that in their stories. Would the visitor have been protected or not by the Dutch water defense line? And what was the impact of that. The surprisingly realistic and esthetic projections and lively stories full of character get the visitors hooked. The characters also invite the visitors to interact with some of the objects, like an ice saw. These personal touches make the story more relevant for the visitors. 8 meter wide film On a semi-circular wall is an eight-meter-long film about the unknown story of the Netherlands during World War I projected. Under art and video direction of IJsfontein a movie was made about the life of the common soldier during the war. We used rare and extraordinary archive material based on diaries and letters from soldiers and their families. Unique original film material was digitally enhanced and is shown in the impressive film. Also old photographs were enhanced in 3D to make you experience them like film. The specially composed music of Erik Henze is a wonderful support for the experience. The Grand Finale: experience the waterline from the air with the Oculus Rift In a specially designed moving chair with your legs dangling in the air you put on the Oculus Rift glasses. You will start in the waterline museum, but a virtual version of it. Be careful, because you're not standing still. Slowly you float out of the building and go higher and higher into the sky until you have a complete overview of the Waterline. Then gravity is turned on and you suddenly fall down while the story of the waterline is told and you can see how the waterline influenced the landscape of the Netherlands. You see it and you feel it thanks to the moving chair. Fortunately the parachute opens. Only will you land without crashing? A unique virtual reality experience and the only way to really grasp the size and impact of this defense system!

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